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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 623


Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (12:41): I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and related bills. Like a lot of Australia, my electorate of Calare has farmers of wheat, cattle and sheep. People there do various types of horticulture very well. There is cold storage. Calare also has power generation, timber growing and processing, and dairy farming. We have any number of small businesses—some 13,000, I think—including hairdressers, coffee shops, restaurants and grain processors. Every one of these enterprises, particularly the small businesses, has suffered because of the carbon tax. I just heard the member for Lingiari say that, faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, Labor would always do something. In this case, Labor decided to make a hard job harder, and I mean seriously harder. A hairdresser or a coffee shop with a $10,000 electricity bill, which is maybe around what it is, had to pay another $1,000 a year because Labor wanted to lead the world. It wanted to lead the world, when the world was not willing to follow. It wanted to lead the world to make its own country less competitive, both domestically against imports and overseas against competitors. We are talking not just an odd bob or two; we are talking very serious reality, at a time when Australian manufacturing and food processing is struggling like never before—partly, it is true, not just because of the carbon tax but because of everything the previous government did over the last six years to make the costs of doing business more expensive. But the most obvious, the most drastic and the most immediate and unavoidable was without doubt the carbon tax.

I can quote endlessly on the costs of it. I will touch on a couple. I know two people in my electorate in the town of Manildra who are canola processors. The thing that the previous Rudd-Gillard governments never understood is that a small percentage of turnover can be a huge percentage of profit. The carbon tax wasn't even based on profit; it was based on turnover, it was based on emissions. It had no relevance to whether you were making a quid or not, and if you were not making a quid you were in serious trouble. If you are not making a quid, every job you support, your town and your whole system is in chaos. That is what they created without the knowledge or the understanding of what they were doing—except their Prime Minister could stand on the world stage and say, 'We are leaders.' Leaders of what? Not leaders of anything successful, not leaders of anything that was measurable, not leaders of anything. We all believe in dealing with pollution. I fail to see why we do not call it 'pollution'; it is always 'carbon emissions', not 'pollution'. I believe totally in being sensible about pollution. I have never been, nor am I ever likely to be, called a greenie. However, I have bores on my country—

Government members interjecting

Mr JOHN COBB: No, I won't ever be called a greenie. But I have gone to the expense in a couple of cases of replacing diesel powered generation to lift that water to solar. Because it is good for the environment? Well, yes, that is in the back of my mind, but mainly because it is more efficient. It is more expensive to put in but once you put it in it works well. That is the type of thing that we as a government will encourage. We will encourage business, farmers, manufacturers to do the right thing rather than belt them over the head and say, 'We'll send you broke if you don't do it; we'll probably send you broke anyway!'

The member for Lingiari also spoke about the choices of parliament. I think what he neglected to mention is that the Australian voter, the Australian nation has already made a choice and that choice is to get rid of the carbon tax, not simply replace it. The previous Prime Minister said, 'Oh, we are getting rid of it.' He neglected to tell the truth, the whole truth, which is that they were not getting rid of it; they were still going to increase the cost on carbon up to some $30-odd in the very near future.

I know with some people it is a Holy Grail to talk about those things which you cannot hold, to talk about those things which they do not feel particularly affected by. It would seem I am still on the wrong side of the House, but I guess that is an accident of numbers. The people on the other side of the House seem very rarely to be actually dealing with reality in terms of productivity because of what they do. By and large they seem to be staffers of previous ministers—highly educated university students in industrial law or some such, who are then foisted on unions to tell the union what is good for them. It was a government that purported to be a socialist government looking after the welfare of workers and others which foisted the carbon tax on people. And it is not just business, small business or otherwise, affected by this; it is everyday people. It is people in their homes, their families—it is everybody. When your country is not making money then it is very hard for those working in it to make money and it is very hard for them to pay their bills. I find it incredible that the member for Lingiari is still talking about, 'We'd rather do something than nothing,' simply to say that we are doing something.

It is very obvious that Australia has made a decision. It is very obvious that our government will follow through on our commitment to stand by that decision and to get rid of a tax which from day one was designed, amongst other things, to redistribute money. I always felt that one of the greatest comments that the previous Prime Minister of Great Britain once said when she said, 'Socialism works quite well until such time as you run out of other people's money to spend.' I think that is, without doubt, the basic difference between the two sides of this House—one wants to redistribute what already exists, whereas we, on the other hand, want a much bigger pie for everybody to share in. The carbon tax is guaranteed to reduce the pie and certainly to redistribute what it produces.

I could talk about what the previous two prime ministers said they would do, didn't do and one thing and another, but I think that is pretty much consigned to history. They said they would do one thing and did another. I guess that was the story of the last six years. But when the carbon tax is gone it is quite obvious that the average household in Australia will be considerably better off and the cost of living on households will be eased.

I remember the previous government talking vigorously about how they were going to make reparations to householders for the extra costs of the carbon tax—

Mr Dreyfus: It is called 'assistance'—

Mr JOHN COBB: You were better off when you were the Attorney-General rather than the guy who is pretending to be! 'Assistance', yes, well, they certainly needed it. They talked about assistance for households—fine, I am happy to do that. When you take with one hand you certainly need to give something back with the other. They made it possible for the bigger businesses to get government money to change the way they did things.

I said at the start that there are something like 13,000 small businesses in the seat of Calare. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians but not one cent goes to the biggest employer in Australia—small business—who, without exception, unless they did not use electricity or did not use gas or did not use trains or transport, did not receive one red cent. They were hurt deliberately, although it was probably ignorance—even the shadow Attorney-General would probably agree that there was some ignorance involved here because, when it comes to businesses, there is an awful lot of ignorance on that side.

Small businesses were hurt more than anyone with absolutely no outlet to improve what they did, without any reparations for the damage done to them. We are very proud of what we do in Calare. I always say that we are that part of Australia where we do not talk about what we do, where we do not shuffle paper and do not have huge law firms like the ones I am sure the shadow Attorney-General is involved with. We are not involved in those things that actually do not produce money. In Calare we grow things; we mine things; we make things and generate power.

Regional Australia has been and is hit far worse than any other part of Australia. Why? I will give one good reason: on the coast of Australia temperatures do not vary a great deal. Inland, they certainly do. In Calare, where it can get damn cold, they vary a lot. You can be in the middle of a 40-degree heatwave in the summer and it can be minus five in the winter, so we use a lot more air conditioning. We use a lot more heating than they do in Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane.

Therefore, it costs us one heck of a lot more to pay for the carbon tax, which was designed by a government that thought the GFC was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Why is that? I do not suppose they actually wanted the world to be in chaos but what did it do? It created an excuse to borrow billions—hundreds of millions—of dollars to use on social programs.

I can imagine being in the Labor Party cabinet. 'Hey, boys! Did you realise the world is in so much chaos that we can borrow money and spend it on all those things we always wanted to do, which we've always pretended to be responsible about, but now we don't have to be.' And by God, they were not. Then came the point: 'We've got to be the leaders in cutting world pollution or carbon emissions so let's put in one of those things that the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain said we were going to do anyway—let's make Margaret Thatcher's words come true. Yep, we are a socialist government. It worked quite well and we've run out of money so we will bring in a carbon tax—that will bring in a bit more—and at the same time we'll be world leaders in doing nothing.' Because it has done nothing.

I guess a lot of what I have said applies to most of Australia but, whether it is western New South Wales or Queensland or wherever it might be, regional Australia has borne the brunt of this. Regional Australians are the ones who fire up the power stations. We are the ones who produce things like canola. All grain processing has become as dear as hell because it does use a lot of energy. However, it is very hard to have bread or anything else without it. It is a fact of life. So we will keep doing what we do but we are going to do it with a government that is going to kick this act right out of the football field.