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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 10970


WYATT ROY (Longman) (10:51): I rise to voice my strong opposition to the Labor government's carbon tax. There is no denying that climate change is a significant challenge facing Australia—indeed, facing the world. It is a challenge that deserves a response. I note that the members opposite are trying to detract from this response. They are trying to mislead the Australian people by making this debate one based on ideology rather than a policy debate seeking pragmatic and commonsense solutions. Let me make something clear: there is no dispute about the goal of reducing carbon emissions by five per cent by 2020. What is up for debate is the best way for us to achieve this reduction in emissions, and what is important in this debate is the cost to our economy: the personal cost to jobs, to families and to small businesses—the forgotten Australians that the Labor Party has walked away from, the forgotten Australians that the Labor Party lied to when the Prime Minister said before the last election, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' It is important that we find methods of reducing emissions without attacking our way of life and the intrinsic economic advantages that we as a resource-rich nation enjoy.

The best way to reduce carbon emissions is not with a carbon tax which is going to hurt families, small businesses and Australia's economy and fail to effectively reduce Australia's emissions. The best way to achieve this reduction in emissions is through a direct action plan—a direct action plan which will not be another cost to families, not force rises in the cost of electricity and not be another great big new tax on business; a plan which is costed and capped and funded; a plan which is not going to be an uncontrolled burden on the economy for years to come.

Let me outline what a pragmatic, common-sense policy looks like, delivered by a Liberal administration. When Campbell Newman was Lord Mayor of Brisbane—and I remind members that Brisbane City Council is a local government with a budget bigger than the Tasmanian state government's—Brisbane City Council became Australia's largest purchaser of green power. Impressively, Brisbane City Council buildings run 100 per cent on renewable energy. Council purchased 500 new buses, which all run on Biogreen Diesel, which is cleaner than gas; that is one bus going into service every three days. Brisbane City Council planted two million trees. All of these environmental gains were made through direct action by a Liberal administration. That is what direct action looks like. All of these measures were good for the economy, good for business, good for lifestyle and good for the environment, and all were achieved without a new tax.

Recently I held a series of listening posts in my electorate specifically to hear the concerns and opinions of those in my community about the carbon tax. 'Concern' is not strong enough to accurately represent the emotion of many of the individuals who made the effort to visit me at one of my many listening posts. People are angry. They are angry that their voice has been ignored by the Prime Minister and the Labor government. They are angry that they were lied to by the Prime Minister before the last election, and they are angry that now they are being afflicted with a tax that they do not want, and a tax that they did not have a say on, all for no real environmental benefit. Indeed, the government's own modelling shows that emissions will not decrease in Australia. From 2012 to 2020, emissions will rise from 578 million tonnes to 612 million tonnes per year.

I have spoken in this place before about the challenges my community faces, and the cost of living is always one of the first issues which is raised with me when I am out in my community. It comes as no surprise then that, in the context of this carbon tax debate, the rising cost of living has been on the minds of countless locals. Members of my community are wondering how they will keep up with the rising tide of the cost of living brought about by this new tax. At one of my recent listening posts, I had a young mum tell me that she was afraid to go to her letterbox because there just might be another electricity bill there. How is she, and the many like her, expected to cope with the rising cost of her electricity, her transport, her groceries, her rent, her water bills and her rates? The fear she expressed to me is justified. Based on the Labor government's own modelling, families will be hit with at least a $515 increase in their costs. This means a 10 per cent rise in electricity and a nine per cent rise in gas. And that $500-odd increase comes on top of a 50 per cent increase in electricity, a 46 per cent rise in water rates and a 20 per cent rise in rent since 2007.

The list of rising costs facing members of my community goes on. These costs, coupled with an extra tax, are pressures that families should not have to face. In introducing this new tax, the Labor Party has forgotten the challenges facing Australians and walked away from the very people they once claimed to represent. This Labor government is trying to impose a new tax which is going to hurt Australians. Then, at the height of insulting the people of Australia, this Labor government is dangling the promise of a handout. Well, I suggest that the Australian people deserve better. They deserve honesty. The Australian people are not fools. They know that you only compensate once you inflict pain, and the best thing that the government can do is: leave them alone. Do not invade their lives and inflict pain in the first place.

Recently I held a community forum in my electorate about the carbon tax with my friend and colleague the Leader of the Opposition. I was impressed by the quality of the questions, ideas and comments that people from my local community were able to contribute. The locals in my community do not want the political spin that this Labor government is serving up in the form of a carbon tax. They want to feel confident that their government is going to do the right thing by them—that it is not going to impose a tax which will see their household costs continue to go up and up and up. They want a government that makes their lives easier, not harder.

One of the attendees at the forum, Neil from Burpengary, asked, 'What will farmers do in the face of rising operating costs?' Farmers' profit margins are already slim and they are incapable of passing on their costs. My electorate is home to about 70 per cent of Queensland's strawberry farms, as well as to many other primary producers. I think Neil asked a valid question, and one which deserves a response from those members opposite. Are these farmers, these small business owners, expected to absorb the costs caused by this carbon tax—costs which they are unable to pass on and will not be compensated for?

The prospect for farmers, families and small businesses under this carbon tax is not an optimistic one. I am discouraged to think what the impact will be for many small businesses in my community whose overheads are already high and whose margins are low. I recently visited Atlas Heavy Engineering in Narangba with the shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, to hear their concerns about the impact of the carbon tax on their future. It is very concerning when a business such as Atlas Heavy Engineering, which employs over 65 locals, cannot be certain about exactly how the carbon tax will affect their prosperity and ongoing operations. Atlas is a great local business and electricity is its second highest cost. The general manager of Atlas, Mr Rex Vegt, said to me he is concerned because he just does not know how much this tax will cost Atlas. Atlas Heavy Engineering relies on two main resources, steel and electricity, both of which will be hit hard under the carbon tax. We know that the costs of these resources are going to up and up and up under this Labor government. Rex went on to point out that Atlas is a medium-sized business with a direct connection to the mining boom, a strong position compared to that of local small businesses, which will be hit hard under the carbon tax. While he was rightly worried about the business, he really feels for the small business owner and questions how they can possibly get ahead in an already difficult climate. This is a good question, one which has been frequently repeated by many of the small business owners in my electorate since the announcement of the Labor-Green government's carbon tax.

I have said in this place before that the economy in my community is dependent on small business, retail, tourism and light industry, all of which are dependent on confidence in the marketplace—confidence which is under attack by this Labor government. This tax is generating nothing but uncertainty. The only certainty is that the costs for businesses are going to go up and up and up. In introducing this, the Labor Party has again attacked what should be the engine room of the economy—small business. I have a simple challenge for those members opposite: go out into their communities and find one, just one, small business that will tell them that this carbon tax is going to make it easier for them to run their business; just one that will say it is going to make it easier for them to reduce their overheads and to employ people.

Madam Deputy Speaker, let me tell you another story of a local small business, Rangeland Quality Meats. Like many other small businesses, this butcher will be hit multiple times under the carbon tax: once in transporting stock from farm to abattoir, again in transporting meat from abattoir to store, and yet again with the refrigeration cost in store. The burden on small business in my electorate is enough. The last thing they need is more cost increases brought about by an unnecessary tax that will be completely ineffective for the environment. For many small businesses, a carbon tax will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

In light of all of this, why is the government seeking to impose an economy-wide carbon tax? The Productivity Commission highlighted that 'no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse emissions or has in place an economy-wide ETS'. It is imperative that we as a nation consider what introducing this tax will do to our economy and our competitive advantage when compared with the rest of the world. This is a notion that was not lost on Penny Wong when she was climate change minister. As the minister said:

The introduction of a carbon tax ahead of effective international action can lead to perverse incentives for such industries to relocate or source production offshore—

Dr Leigh: Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I know the member thinks respect is for other people but I ask that you ask him to refer to members here and in the other place by their official titles.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs D'Ath ): Noted, thank you. The member for Longman can ensure that he refers to members by their correct title.

WYATT ROY: I referred to the minister as the former climate change minister. She went on to say:

… and there is no point in imposing a carbon price domestically which results in emissions and production transferring internationally for no environmental gain.

These are not my words but the words of a current Labor government minister. If the Labor Party thought that this was such a good policy, why did they mislead the Australian people at the last election? The Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister is recorded as saying:

… certainly what we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax … We certainly reject that.

Well, under this carbon tax Australia will be at a competitive disadvantage to the world. Those causing the most pollution—China, India and the United States—have no plans to introduce economy-wide carbon taxes. Let us put this into perspective. Even if the carbon tax were 100 per cent effective, China's increase in emissions until 2020, just the increase alone, would be 100 times larger than the maximum amount that we could hope to reduce our emissions by. Members opposite have held up the European Union's emissions trading scheme as an example of what can be achieved. Yet the Australian Crime Commission has revealed that the European scheme has been rorted to the tune of $5 billion. That is not a model we need to emulate.

The Labor Party is embarking on a process that is more about wealth redistribution than environmentalism. The coalition has a plan, a direct action plan which is fully funded, which will not increase the burden on households, which is not going to unfairly increase the operating costs of small businesses and which will have a significant practical benefit for the environment. It is a plan that is costed and capped at $3.2 billion over the first four years.

We in the coalition are a party of action, of forward thinking and of practical solutions. Our solution is not to tax everyday Australians but to effectively and efficiently implement strategies which will deliver practical environmental action. Our plan will give Australians the chance to play their own part in positive change through direct action. It is a plan which will invest in solar renewable energies, green armies, an additional 20 million urban trees, soil carbon to replenish the land, cleaning up our dirtiest power stations and incentives for industries to reduce their emissions. Direct action will use incentives rather than penalties, funding the most cost efficient projects, staying within the government's means.

In opposing the Labor government's carbon tax, we on this side of the House are standing up for the locals in my electorate. We are standing up for those small businesses that will bear the brunt of this unfair tax. We are standing up for those families whose everyday costs are going to rise with this tax. In conclusion, I encourage those members opposite to also stand up for their communities and vote against this unfair carbon tax.