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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 635

Mr BUCHHOLZ (WrightGovernment Whip) (13:39): I am cognisant of the time as we will be adjourning this debate soon, but in the time allowed for me I want to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and related bills. Our government was elected with a mandate to scrap the carbon tax, and we are a government that will follow through on what we say. Our mandate is evident in this very room I stand in today, the national parliament. If you look around this chamber, you can see that our numbers run beyond the halfway limit and over onto the other side. In contrast, the numbers on the other of the House from the Australian Labor Party, outside their front bench, are flat out getting past the first aisle.

Our centrepiece at the last election could not have been mistaken: it was, simply, to repeal the carbon tax. So why is it that we have speaker after speaker come into this House and blatantly move against the will of the Australian people? I know there are those out there who hold the same position and are supporting a carbon tax. But what are the foundations of democracy if we do not go to an election and allow the people of Australia to have their choice, to have their say, to let their voice be heard? In trying to draw a conclusion, when the Australian public have spoken so overwhelmingly for repulsion of this carbon tax, one only needs to look at the model for how the Australian Labor Party listen to their people. It was not too long ago that a vote for the leader of the Australian Labor Party was given to their membership. There were two worthy candidates: Albanese and Shorten. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I should be referring to their names properly, but those were the names they ran under as candidates. The votes were 18,000 to one candidate and 12,000 to the other candidate, and here is a party that elects the bloke that got 12,000. That is clear evidence that the voice of the majority is not heard, that the voice of the Australian majority is of no consequence. However, on this side of the House we advocate that we are the voice of the silent majority. And in this case, on the repulsion of the carbon tax, the voice of the silent majority is overwhelming; it is deafening.

Why do we feel so strongly about ditching the carbon tax? There are economic reasons and there are environmental reasons, which I would like to indulge in speaking about. We feel strongly about the reduction of the costs associated with carbon tax, which has hit businesses and households hard. At a time when we were coming out of the GFC, when we should have been putting in measures to stimulate our economy, we spent as a parliament billions and billions and billions of dollars trying to stimulate our country while hamstringing businesses, ball and shackle, with extra costs, with extra burdens in their business, with extra compliance. No-one in this nation escaped the extra costs that were passed on, whether they were pensioners, households, small business or anyone who had electricity. No-one escaped the additional costs of this toxic tax. And evidence suggests that the carbon tax is not in fact reducing our emissions. The government's own modelling suggests that emissions have risen and will continue to do so under this tax. For those in history who will go back and read Hansard, to make that statement clearer, government used the resources of Treasury and departments through the Public Service to model the future reduction of carbon as a key performance indicator to measure the success of this carbon tax.

One of the ironies is that with that tax coming in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere was not going to reduce; it was actually going to go up. The modelling does not show the savings—and our previous speaker made some points that there had been some reductions. They are correct—there had been some reductions under the carbon tax—but our question is: is it the most effective way for carbon to be reduced in our atmosphere? And on that same modelling the carbon tax per tonne was set to go through the roof—$56 per tonne. $56 into the future was what our carbon tonnage cost was going to be under that same modelling.

There is a national and international consensus from industry leaders that the carbon tax experiment has failed for a number of reasons, none more so than Labor's mismanagement of its own policy. I just want to pick up on that word 'mismanagement'. One does not have to look far beyond any portfolio that the previous government presided over, such as the NBN with their continual blow-outs—and I think there was a back-of-the-envelope calculation where the cost for the NBN was supposed to start in around $5 billion and now is pushing $90 billion. There is the way that the budget was managed, which was an absolute disgrace. It will take us many years to try to bring some type of integrity back to the budget. Just put it into perspective when it comes to mismanagement of portfolios: for the current debt that we have at $300 billion, if we were to go back into history and find Australia's largest surplus, given that the Australian economy is very cyclical and has its ups and its downs, as a government, to pay down that $300 billion of debt we would have to emulate that surplus for 18 consecutive years.

The previous speaker also spoke on this bill about making the tough decisions so that we did not leave a legacy for our children. She spoke about making the hard decisions now so that we did not burden our children. I tell you that they had no problem with leaving all of our children enormous debt. It is so hypocritical to come to this House and talk about looking after a future generation with reference to the environment when all the opposition has done is shackled my daughter, my nieces and my nephews with debt and deficit. The Australian government is abolishing the carbon tax to reduce the cost for businesses and households. The carbon tax has been a hit of nearly $9 billion a year on the economy.

The previous speaker said that our Direct Action policy would cost $1,200 more. We need not go back too far to look at the budget figures. This was a government that could not hit the side of a barn with a forecast, so how the jingoes do you think that they can rattle up a $1,200 estimate as to our cost on the Direct Action plan? They could not hit the side of a barn with a forecast, so for any number that they bring into this chamber and try to advocate down to the $100, these blokes were predominantly out by about by $20 billion on every single budget! The only common denominator was that it was a downward trend. So do not profess to come into this chamber and advocate that you are the authority on estimating a $1,200 cost to our budget.

We will not leave the problem to our future generations. The government will make the tough decisions, as we will with the NBN, and we will fix that as well. We are already fixing our border security problems. There has been a drastic decrease in arrivals in boats, because we are committed to fixing our nation. The removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will leave the average cost of living for households around $550 lower than they would otherwise have been according to Treasury's modelling. Now I have just spoken about the previous government's capacity to forecast. You need to look at our historical track record when it comes to delivering from an economic perspective. If we say that it is going to deliver $550, take that to the bank.

It is estimated that retail electricity should come down around nine per cent and be seven per cent lower on gas prices. Most of the gas and energy companies line-item the carbon tax as a component on your electricity bill. We will require every energy body to regulate and make sure that that reduction happens. It is there because of the carbon tax. We will repeal the carbon tax and the cost will come down. As a result, household average electricity bills would be around $200 lower and household average gas bills would be around $70 lower.

Before the election in my electorate, we sent out a survey to every member asking them what their major issues were. We communicated with our electorates and we asked them: if they had a magic wand what things would they want us as a government to fix? Two overwhelming issues were our common denominator: one was to reduce the cost of living—cost-of-living pressures in my electorate of Wright in Queensland were biting, and pensioners, businesses, mums and dads and families were doing it tough. The second issue outside the cost of living—and the two issues are related—was to remove the carbon tax.

I would not say that my electorate is different from most electorates in the nation. I am on the public record saying that my electorate of Wright would be a bellwether seat for the opinion of the nation. There is a wide cross-section of families. The horticultural area has people that supply vegetables to feed the eastern seaboard of Australia, and that has enormous export potential as well. In the campaign throughout my electorate, the issue of skyrocketing household bills was raised with me time and time again. Mums and dads approached me to express their struggles in living from pay cheque to pay cheque. That is not the way we run a country, to have people struggling. Winston Churchill once said with reference to a struggling nation:

You cannot tax a country into prosperity.

Trying to tax the nation into prosperity, he said:

… is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

But what we saw from the previous government was constant tax, tax and tax. The people I represent in my electorate—and I am the voice for the silent majority of them—clearly said to me, 'Get rid of the carbon tax and ease our cost-of-living pressures.'

Australia is a wealthy country. Our standards of living are high and our remuneration rates are some of the highest in the world, yet in my electorate families and elderly citizens are fighting to make ends meet because of this toxic tax. We in this parliament have been elected to repeal the carbon tax. I will not rest until we do so.

There is indisputable evidence that proves that the carbon tax has directly increased the cost of inputs for business. As I said earlier, no-one has been able to escape the cost of this toxic tax. These increased costs reduce Australia's competitiveness with other countries without a carbon tax. Because these costs are inevitably passed on through the economy, the carbon tax essentially weakens Australia's entire economy.

In my area I have producers who sell food and vegetables in the international market. They have an extra carbon tax on top of their cost of operations. When they compete to sell their product in the global market they are at an unfair advantage. They are clearly disadvantaged because of the shackles that we put around their business. How is that fair? We all believe in free trade but, by crikey, is this true free trade? We put free trade agreements in place with nations so that we can become more competitive and grow our slice of the pie as a nation. There are two ways we are going to turn the ship around: one is to increase our slice of the pie, increase our sales, and the other one is to cut some of our expenditure and, by crikey, there is a lot of expenditure we can cut. There is a lot of waste and fat that was introduced by the mismanagement of the last government that we will have to work hard to tidy up.

The Australian Industry Group surveyed 485 businesses. They released the results of that survey this year. Manufacturing businesses reported that their total energy input costs increased by an average of 14.5 per cent as a direct result of the carbon tax. How is it that 70 per cent of businesses get it wrong and the previous government got it right? Some 70 per cent of the businesses surveyed indicated that their cost of production has gone up. Something is wrong. Are we listening? (Time expired)