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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 10977


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (11:21): I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills. The speech of the member for Adelaide was interesting, because it is our responsibility as members of this House to debate issues when they impact significantly on all Australians, families and individuals. There must always be the opportunity to look at the elements that are constructive within legislation but also the elements that have flow-on, consequential outcomes that we do not plan for. What disturbs me is the number of bills that have been introduced into this House and rammed through this parliament. I do not think that there would be too many members of this House who have read each of the bills thoroughly. If it were the case that the coalition had force-fed its members with a set of fact sheets in order to deliver speeches, it would not be dissimilar to the case of government members. It would be an interesting test to see how many members have read every one of the bills thoroughly and understood them.

Mr Champion: How many people read Work Choices? How many people read that? No, you don't want to talk about that.

Mr WYATT: We are talking about the carbon tax, not Work Choices. Work Choices is dead and buried. But prior to the 2010 federal election the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, stated the following, clearly and concisely, as an election promise to Australians: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Prior to the 2010 federal election Treasurer Wayne Swan stated the following as an election promise, again clearly and concisely:

No, it's not possible that we're bringing in the carbon tax. That is an hysterically inaccurate claim being made by the coalition.

Isn't it interesting to hear members of the government now using that as the antithesis for our debating the points of concern around this legislation? The Labor Party under Julia Gillard's leadership was elected in August 2010 on the basis of the promise not to introduce a carbon tax, but in February 2011 Prime Minister Gillard announced that a carbon tax would be introduced in Australia by June 2012, despite her very plain pre-election promise not to do so.

In a speech at an AiG luncheon on 6 February 2008, former Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, stated:

The introduction of a carbon price ahead of effective international action can lead to perverse incentives for such industries to relocate or source production offshore. There is no point in imposing a carbon price domestically which results in emissions and production transferring internationally for no environmental gain.

Time and time again we have heard references to the government's own documents that showed we will not get the emission reductions that they purport to be able to achieve. Senator Wong admitted that imposing a carbon tax would encourage or force industries to go offshore, losing Australia's valuable resources and creating unemployment. The government's former climate change minister also admitted to the Australian newspaper on 23 February 2009 that a carbon tax:

… is a recipe for abrupt and unpredictable changes, as the government would need to adjust the tax frequently to try to meet the emissions reduction target, each time subjecting these adjustments to the inherent uncertainties embedded in the political process.

She went on to say:

A carbon tax does not guarantee emissions reductions.

Her admissions prove that the government has known for some time that a carbon tax is not really the way to guarantee the reduction of emissions. Therefore, in my mind it has only one other purpose, and that is to raise revenue for the government. It is more than obvious that the carbon tax is really a scam to fleece the Australian public of billions of dollars, with no guarantee that the emissions will be reduced because of it.

When I read through the Clean Energy Bill—and I read it from cover to cover and found it fascinating—I found some areas I would like to debate in the future. The objects of the act are to give effect to Australia's obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a document which sets out the premise for carbon emission reductions in UN member nations, and the Kyoto protocol. When you read through it, it is a very interesting document. Having it enshrined in domestic legislation means it now applies within Australia. The bill puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions in a way that encourages investment in clean energy and supports jobs, competitiveness in the economy and Australia's economic growth, while reducing pollution.

The United Nations framework is fascinating, because it talks about the parties to this convention. It says:

Noting that there are many uncertainties in predictions of climate change, particularly with regard to the timing, magnitude and regional patterns thereof …

…   …   …

The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects.

That mitigation would apply equally to a number of other factors. Instead of ramming through legislation without proper debate that would allow its examination to occur—

Mr Champion: It was 20 years ago.

Mr WYATT: It does not matter whether it was 20 years ago or not. You have an obligation to the constituents in your electorate to be open and honest with them. The convention goes on to say:

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty—

and this is interesting—

should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures …

It is fascinating that you have a scientific argument but you say that 'in the times of uncertainty' you are prepared to proceed and not hear the opposing views. In the science field there are many on both sides who have the logic of argument for the basis of why there should or should not be a carbon tax. People who challenge the views of those who are proponents are called either 'flat earthers', like Al Gore did in the lead-up to his election campaign and certainly in his current role of creating a fear campaign around the globe, or 'climate deniers', as members of government would say when people raise issues. It is scary within a democracy that we try to shut down debate because a philosophical position of a government prevails over the top of further debate within our society.

Mr Champion: Read some more emails! See who is trying to shut down the debate!

Mr WYATT: I do not have to read any more. It is important that you also do some reading. The convention continues:

… taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.

It also says:

Take climate change considerations into account, to the extent feasible, in their relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions, and employ appropriate methods, for example impact assessments, formulated and determined nationally, with a view to minimizing adverse effects on the economy, on public health and on the quality of the environment, of projects or measures undertaken by them to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

Our solution? The Labor-Greens government has no mandate to introduce the carbon tax legislation, and the coalition will oppose carbon tax legislation every step of the way. Our position is clear: we will vote against the carbon tax legislation to ensure that the measured debate that needs to occur happens.

I want to reflect on my father's comments. He always said to me the Labor Party looks after the working man and the working family.

Mr Champion: He was right. You should have listened.

Mr WYATT: He was right in that era and in that period. What I see now are members on the other side who are not prepared to stand up for the families within their electorates and defend them against a tax that has a cascading flow-on effect. Maybe in the past they did, but the Gillard government does not, and it has demonstrated that in this debate.

The carbon tax will mean $9 billion in a new tax year and a 10 per cent hike in electricity bills in the first year alone. I have people in my electorate who will feel the impact of that measure whereby they will not use that electricity. There will be a nine per cent hike in gas bills in the first year alone, higher marginal tax rates for low- and middle-income earners and a $4.3 billion hit on the budget bottom line. Who pays for this? Not members of the government but individuals and families of Australia.

I also want to express my concern that the tax cuts and cash grants are inevitably subject to the vagaries of annual budgets and, therefore, are always at risk. Additionally, I am more a supporter of direct action to improve engineering and procedure practices of pollution sources as more reliable and permanent methods of producing solutions. Some of my constituents—I have had a lot—stop me in the street. I have never had this experience of people walking up in droves, saying, 'Get rid of this tax.' I want to cite three of my constituents.

I would love to know how I can help stop this Carbon Tax.

Another:

I wish to register my disagreement with the carbon tax, which I do not believe our current government has a mandate to introduce. I have emailed the Prime Minister my concern along the same lines … Please voice my concern against this tax.

Another:

I will be ineligible for any type of compensation under the proposed new carbon tax scheme. I am already struggling to pay ever-increasing electricity bills. I cannot afford solar panels or other expensive green gadgets to cut energy consumption. I have a heart condition that requires me to use air conditioning in summer, but I will no longer be able to afford it—

thanks to this government.

This is Business Voice now. I have been talking to small businesses.

The worst thing about it is that there are no proven facts that is going to change anything. I am keen to help the environment but not to be the only country in the world that is taking these steps. Costs are high enough running a business. We have a lot of staff here and we want to move on past the GFC, not go backwards.

That is from Michael Roberts, the Centre Manager of Pirtek Fluid Transfer Solutions in Midland. Another group says:

We are a group of hardworking people who believe the carbon tax is a tax on both businesses and the people in them. We do not want bigger Government to re-distribute wealth in the name of the environment. We feel this tax is a front to fund an ideology, with no material benefit to the environment. We run a flourishing recycling business which we formed and funded to assist the environment, and we did not ask others to pay for it, based on our ideologies. Care of the environment is a science not a religion.

That is from Damien Cole of the Damien Cole Group in South Guildford. Another says:

I do not like to be negative and I've always believed in attacking the job and not the person. I travel over sea's several times a year mostly to China and India. I tell myself these places are humanity out of control and the planet cannot sustain this grow, more and more people relying on less and less people to grow their food. I believe all of us need to be accountable for the life we live.

This applies to carbon emissions and the Gillard Government proposal is fundamentally flawed by just penalizing a few big companies and cooking the books to show how it will financially viable for everyone. I believe we all should be accountable for the carbon emissions not just a few big companies. If everyone is accountable for reducing carbon emissions then it is logical that one simple law effecting everyone will change everyone's outlook, which will automatically control the big polluters.

If we are not all held accountable there will always be an excuse why it's someone else's problem. If Australia set a simple effective template on carbon control for everyone to embrace, then the worlds big countries and polluters will hopefully follow.

That was John Power, the Managing Director of Equipment Search Proprietary Limited at Maddington. Another says:

The Carbon Tax will just be used by the Prime Minister to redistribute money to people three months before the election to buy votes. It will have no positive impact on the environment, but the companies affected will just pass on their costs and many smaller businesses will take advantage of this and increase their prices. All this for no real impact on the environment.

That is Ian Lavington, Managing Director at Hydraulic Resource at Bellevue. Jarrod Hewitt at Stihl Shop Midland also registers his opposition to the carbon tax this morning.

When I visit shopping centres and people in the streets, they all say there is a need for debate. They cannot comprehend how this government is so keen to ram this legislation through the House. What I see, fundamentally, is cascading taxes in the way in which we pour champagne into a stack of glasses and watch the flow-on effect of the champagne from that top glass down to the others. I have within my electorate families who will suffer under this taxing regime. They already struggle now.

I do not think there is any member in government who would go without food at any time on any day or have to relinquish the opportunity of buying medications and the necessities of life like I see families do in my electorate. I will continue to champion and advocate for families who will be affected by this tax. I will continue to debate it as long as I need to in order to protect their interests and give them the quality of life that they richly deserve. (Time expired)