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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 616


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (12:11): Madam Speaker, before I begin my contribution in this debate I would like to say how delighted I am to see you in the chair with your election as Speaker. We are finally returning to dignity and decorum in this House as a result of your stewardship in the chair.

I am delighted to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 because on 7 September this year a marvellous thing happened in this country: we had a change of government. It was one of the more significant changes of government since the Second World War. It is a rare event for a total and emphatic change of government to happen in the history of Australia, but on 7 September the Australian people spoke. They decided that those that were then the government—the Labor Party, led by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government—were no longer fit to govern and they chose the coalition led by Tony Abbott. And one of the major commitments we gave in opposition was that we were going to withdraw this destroying, economy-wide tax, the carbon tax. That was our commitment and everyone knew it. We were elected on that basis and as a result I believe there is a mandate.

Let us just have a look at why we ended up in the position we were in, this shambolic state of a carbon tax in this country—and it is shambolic, and I will address that in a moment. First of all, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said it was the greatest moral challenge of our time to implement a carbon tax. Unlike the accusation that comes from those on the other side, I am not a climate change denier. I believe that the climate is evolving and changing and I do believe that man has had an influence on this world and leaves his footprint. It is up to us all to do our best to make sure that we repair that footprint and minimise its effect. That can be done, and you can see that all over the place. The ozone layer, for example, was being depleted until we were able to get companies to take chlorofluorocarbons out of sprays and put in hydrofluorocarbons. As a result, the ozone layer is closing up again. You can repair the damage that is done to our world.

As I said, Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister, trumpeted this issue as his cause celebre. He went to Copenhagen with great fanfare, and a massive amount of bureaucrats in tow, and was going to lead the world on climate change. However, when the Chinese in particular objected to his policy in this area and it was defeated, unfortunately for the Chinese the Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister at the time, in not too good a language, described them as rodent fornicators and took a great set against them. What happened after that? It became unpalatable and Julia Gillard, the member for Lalor, then said to the Prime Minister 'dump this tax'. So, leading up to the 2010 election, the Labor Party dumped this tax. So much for something that was the greatest moral challenge of our time—they dumped the tax! Leading into the election on many occasions—and dare I bring them to our attention here—there was Wayne Swan, for example, saying:

We're not introducing a carbon tax, that's an hysterically inaccurate claim being made by the Opposition—

on Meet the Press on 15 August 2010. There was Kevin Rudd saying:

The Government has decided to terminate the carbon tax to help cost-of-living pressures for families and to reduce costs for small business.

And of course there was a classic one of Julia Gillard saying before the election:

There will be no carbon tax under the government that I lead.

And they repeated it and they repeated it ad infinitum. Then what happened? They ended up with a minority government in this place in 2010. They horse-traded with the devil in terms of the Greens and they ended up with a hung parliament. What did they do? They broke their promise to the Australian people and said they would then bring in a carbon tax, and they brought in a carbon tax with the help of the crossbenchers and the Greens.

The difference between us and them is that we are going to keep our promise, and we are going to repeal this economy-wide job-destroying carbon tax. The difference between our real action and their policy is that real action actually does things on the ground and makes a difference. Just putting a tax on carbon is a revenue-raising measure. It does not stop the prolific use of carbon production. If it did, it would have to be so high that it would change the way we use our cars and the way we heat our homes. In Western Australia, for example, Western Power said quite clearly that the trigger point for them to change would be $90 a tonne. The fact that we have the highest carbon tax in the world is one thing, but it is not $90 a tonne—not yet. That is where it is heading if we allow this legislation to continue.

But a tax does not change the way people use their electricity and their energy. It does add a massive amount to their electricity bills and, as I said, it has a flow-on effect in the economy, in business and industry in terms of the way that it impacts on the cost of production—the truck that has to deliver the goods—and of course, dare I say, the coolant, which I will refer to a little further on as well.

During this campaign in my electorate along came the then industry minister Simon Crean to talk to my local residents, citizens and businesses and to sell to them the glorious benefits of the carbon tax. Thank goodness I was there with a couple of like-minded people, because those in the audience were aghast. There was the minister of the Crown trying to sell them the part about how good a carbon tax was going to be for them. Eventually he was soundly rejected and almost shown the door.

In my electorate the largest employer is Alcoa, and Alcoa has two large mines there and two production plants. Sixty per cent of Alcoa's world income comes from my electorate. They pointed out to the minister at the time, Simon Crean, that in 2012 Alcoa announced plans to review the viability of their Point Henry aluminium smelter in Victoria due to the carbon tax—though the large proportion of the alumina that eventually comes from bauxite comes from my electorate. They said that previously the Aluminium Council had calculated that the carbon tax would impose a cost on Australian aluminium producers of at least $60 a tonne.

Let us put this into context. Australia only has a handful of aluminium smelters and aluminium refining plants, yet China has a hundred. We were going to be put at a complete disadvantage to the Chinese, who are one of our competitors in this area, because they do not have a carbon tax. Indonesia has smelters, and they do not have a carbon tax. So we were going to be made uncompetitive with our near neighbours in terms of production of aluminium.

It is even better than that. Alcoa pointed out to the then Minister Crean that the Western Australian refineries of Alcoa had half their greenhouse gas footprint in the region. In fact in WA alone Alcoa had reduced its emissions per tonne of product by more than 20 per cent since 1990 levels without a carbon tax. So it was all about incentive, initiatives—not a tax.

I have potentially the largest gold mine in Australia in my electorate, the new Boddington gold mine. The mine manager, Tony Esplin, in April last year pointed out the crippling effects that Labor's carbon tax would have on his mining industry given that the Greens were wanting to put a tax on gold—and remember who was in bed with the Greens, the Labor Party. So you would have had the double whammy of a carbon tax and mining tax if the Greens had got their way. Thank goodness the election happened the way it did on 7 September this year.

Within my electorate also at a local level, councils were very concerned. Some of them were contemplating not leaving their streetlights on at night because of the extra cost of the generation of electricity. So there was the issue of who was going to be paying the extra costs—was it going to be the ratepayers? The Labor Party certainly did not have a plan for small businesses in the carbon tax compensation.

So the Labor Party comes into this place and opposes this bill, unlike us. When they took government in 2007 and Work Choices was the mandate that they believed they had, we walked away from Work Choices. But no, not those on the opposite side. They have not learned the lesson that they are now the opposition. They will come to grips with it eventually. It is a very depressing time to be on the other side. But the longer they sit there, the more they will eventually realise that opposing this is opposing the will of the people in the electorate. It is opposing the people who want to pay less for their electricity. It affects people's lifestyles in terms of the costs of doing business. In a very good article today by Nick Cater, the author of The Lucky Culture and the Rise of an Australian Ruling Class, he points out that George Wright said:

'I would say we are in the right side of history,' he continued. 'We are in the right side of science, we are in the right side of economics and on the right side of preserving for the long term our living standards.'

He goes on to say:

The important thing to note is that the party is on the wrong side of the electorate …

They have not quite got it yet; they are on the wrong side of the electorate, and obviously that means they are on the wrong side of parliament. He then goes on to say:

Having failed to make a persuasive case to put a price on carbon from government at two elections, Labor will now try to make the case from opposition and see how things go.

What a joke! They are going to try to influence this legislation from that side. Unfortunately, they do not win anymore. It is not a hung parliament. He continues:

Averting the coming climate catastrophe is, of course, a laudable ambition but Labor should surely have registered by now that tree hugging is a middle-class luxury the workers' party can ill afford.

I really want you to hear what the article says next. Maybe it is relevant because it quotes a former member. The article states:

It is heresy to talk like that these days—

that is in relation to Tasmania and the Wilderness Society that Labor fought along with the Greens and the rest of the bib-and-brace and hairy legged comrades in Tasmania. The article continues:

It is heresy to talk like that these days, but at the time, wise heads could see the insanity of it all. "A Labor government knowingly put South Tasmanian blue-collar workers—living in an area which already had unemployment rates between 20 and 24 per cent—out of work to appease bourgeois Left and middle-class trendoids in the gentrified suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne," wrote former Labor finance minister Peter Walsh.

That is the member for Brand's father-in-law. So they still have not learnt. Their elder statesmen are still trying to counsel them. We have these examples of why they might want to learn and not oppose our removal of this crippling tax in the Australian economy. We said we were going to do it before the election and we are going to do it.

I will conclude by saying that not only is my electorate determined that we do this and carry out our promise but the Business Council of Australia also is. There is an article in the Financial Review today by Jennifer Westacott. I cannot read it all so I might seek leave to table it at the end of my speech. She states amongst other things:

Australia's carbon tax is one of the highest in the world and is making our important industries less competitive every day it stays in place.

Every day it stays in place we are less competitive. I have pointed out the smelting comparisons between our near Asian neighbours and us. The article continues:

This is especially so for those industries which have to compete globally against companies that pay no carbon price or a much lower one.

In my final few moments I want to make sure the parliament understands what she says next. She wrote:

Parliament can finally put politics to one side on this critical economic issue and take the first step towards that competitive environment and policy stability by removing the carbon tax. The second step is to focus debate on ensuring direct action is workable and meets the important principles for reducing emissions while maintaining a strong economy.

What we are seeking is an approach to reducing carbon emissions that works for business and the economy as well as the environment, and which is developed in the context of a comprehensive energy policy that ensures secure and reliable energy and preserves our competitive advantages.

Now what is the matter with that? The Labor Party do not want that to happen. They want us to still pay one of the highest carbon taxes in the world and disadvantage not only our businesses and jobs but people trying to heat or air-condition their homes. They should get out of the way and let this government get on to the business it was elected to do.