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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 10984


Mr VASTA (Bonner) (11:51): I rise today to speak on the Clean Energy Future package of bills otherwise known as the carbon tax legislation. Labor's proposed carbon tax is neither logical nor fair. After all, what could possibly be logical or fair about yet another massive new tax which has dubious impacts on the very thing it is trying to mitigate—Australia's carbon emissions? The fact that we are even debating this piece of legislation in the House, when the Prime Minister herself declared, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' is laughable. But I cannot find it in myself to laugh when the Labor Prime Minister of this country shamefully broke her election promise to my constituents. When reflecting on Labor's horrendous financial record and abject policy failures, it is little wonder that the people of Australia are genuinely scared that Labor wants to rush through some of the most structurally complex tax changes this country has ever seen. Labor knows this tax is not good for Australia. Labor knows that this tax is not the answer to climate change and that they are trying to avoid scrutiny by rushing through ill-conceived, reactionary legislation in this House.

I want to make it clear from the onset that this debate is not about being a climate change sceptic or believer. For the record I think that we can all agree that there is an overconsumption of resources on this planet that cannot be sustained in the long term. Rather I believe that this debate is about whether or not a massive new tax is really in Australia's best interest, especially when considering Labor's own admission that this carbon tax will actually see carbon emissions continue to rise. Penny Wong, as the Labor climate change minister, admitted:

A Carbon Tax does not guarantee emissions reductions.

I want to thank Penny for her honesty.

The carbon tax has been introduced by a government in turmoil, with no handle on reality of what the people of Australia want or need. This tax has been introduced by a Labor government who knows that a referendum on this matter would have shown decisively that the people and businesses of Australia do not want this tax and, more importantly, simply cannot afford this tax. How do I know this to be true? Because poll after poll has proven unequivocally that this is the case.

In my home state of Queensland, which will be one of the hardest-hit states by Labor's carbon tax, businesses and individuals are deeply concerned. For example, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland recently undertook a survey of over 750 Queensland businesses in order to gauge an understanding of how Queensland businesses feel they will be affected by Labor's carbon tax. The results are staggering but certainly not surprising. Nearly 90 per cent of Queensland businesses—I am going to have to repeat that, 90 per cent—believe that a carbon pricing mechanism or carbon tax will have a negative impact on their business.

This is not some insignificant survey to be easily dismissed. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland is the peak business organisation in Queensland, representing the interests of 25,000 businesses and 135 chambers of commerce across the state. Their findings are in black and white. There is virtually no support by Queensland businesses for Labor's carbon pricing mechanism. The survey also reports the Queensland businesses are deeply concerned that a carbon tax will profoundly increase the cost of running their businesses, that resulting higher electricity costs will make them uncompetitive in an international market, and that they will be unable to maintain current employment levels. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland summarised their report succinctly:

... the reality is that a price on carbon is little more than a multi billion dollar new tax that would decrease Queensland and Australian businesses competitiveness and the incentive to invest and provide jobs.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the Visy recycling centre at my electorate of Bonner. The plant at Murarrie is one of Australia's largest recycling companies, undertaking very important work. For every tonne of carbon emissions this plant produces it saves 1.6 tonnes. So although this plant does emit carbon, net emissions are reduced because of its work. Despite its highly significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions, the Brisbane Visy plant will become one of the many victims of this government's perverse environmental policy. By taxing this plant, emissions will not decrease but it will be severely strained financially and in doing so this tax will no doubt place jobs in my electorate in jeopardy. Visy employs around 200 people. Future expansion at this vital facility has now been put in jeopardy by Labor's tax. I believe the government policy should be to encourage the expansion of recycling operations, not hinder the good work that plants like this do in reducing emissions. Visy is just one of the many examples I could give you in my electorate. So much for Labor's assurances that only the big polluters will play.

This is not just businesses who are filled with trepidation about this tax. In my seat of Bonner my office has been inundated with constituents who have literally begged me to fight against the imposition of this tax. Bonner is a snapshot of middle Australia. The demographics range from young professionals, growing families and a higher than average number of retired or semiretired people. This translates to precisely the demographic which will be adversely affected most by this toxic carbon tax. My constituency is already labouring under the yoke of consecutive budget deficits and crippling government debt. Families are working overtime to meet the increasing costs of living alongside higher mortgage repayments. Overwhelmingly, the response of my constituents in Bonner, since talk of this carbon tax has emerged, is that the Labor government is out of touch with everyday people. Only a government who is out of touch with the realities of working families would inflict a tax which would see a blow of $515 a year to the family budget. Bear in mind that this is just the first year alone. It can only go up from there and continue to go up. After all, as Labor has admitted, if the carbon tax doesn't hurt, it won't work. The kind of people that it will hurt the most are the people of Bonner.

The carbon tax's assault on households' bottom line does not stop there. The Australian Food and Grocery Council already estimate that the carbon tax will add $120 a year to household grocery bills, three times Labor's estimate of $40. Families in Cannon Hill can expect to see prices rise for household necessities, rise due to the costs that will be passed on from the manufacture. National electricity prices have soared by about 50 per cent since 2007 alone. This outrageous tax will also see electricity prices rise by at least another 10 per cent. How can working families who are already under tremendous pressure cope with this? The reality is that the Labor government wants to make the cost of electricity so expensive that people will not be able to warm their homes in winter or cool them in summer. Gas prices have already increased by 30 per cent since 2007. The carbon tax will see gas prices rise by an extra nine per cent. Bonner residents will not escape paying for this tax.

This is a prime example of how the legislation will work: changing consumer behaviour by hiking up the price of goods and services so we use them less and so reduce emissions. As I have said, this tax is not fair and it is not logical. Forget homely comforts. Labor believes that you are not entitled to them. The simple fact is that this tax raises $9 billion a year which will ultimately be paid by consumers.

That brings us to the crux of the matter. Labor's carbon tax fails to take into account basic business principles. It is a fact that those forced to pay the carbon tax will simply pass the extra costs down the supply chain, ending up in a grocery store in Wynnum and at a local fuel station in Carindale. It is simple economics. Not so for the Labor government. This is a government that does not understand how to run the Australian economy, a government that has already plunged Australia into historic debt levels. There are numerous unanswered questions floating around about the carbon tax, but I suggest the most important question that Labor must answer is: why us? Why Australia? Where is the sense in Australia, who only contributes 1.4 per cent of total global carbon emissions, leading the way when the rest of the world has overwhelmingly rejected the Australian model of a deep, punitive carbon tax? If the three largest emitters in the world—China, India and the United States—are not about to adopt a carbon tax or an equivalent system, it can be likened to Australia buying shout after shout of drinks at the pub with no-one else paying for a round. Our efforts would be futile unless the major emitters take comparable action to reduce their emissions. The failed Copenhagen negotiations demonstrate that there is no international agreement and such an agreement may never be possible.

We need not look further than China to put the matter into stark perspective. Between 2005 and 2020, Chinese carbon emissions will increase by 496 per cent while Australia reduces its emissions by five per cent. Playing on a seesaw in a playground is no fun when the person on the other end weighs 90 times as much as you do. Labor's carbon tax will be the harshest in the world but will achieve no tangible environmental benefits. There are far more effective ways of reducing Australia's emissions without compromising Australia's future. I fully support the coalition's direct action plan, which is costed, capped and fully funded. Our plan ensures that the government lives within its means. It will not hurt the hip pocket of Australian families or cost Australian jobs.

In conclusion, this tax is a proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. It masquerades as a panacea for the environment when it is really an unwarranted tax which will devastate jobs, ruin industries and ravage our economy. The Prime Minister of this country has no mandate to impose this tax. She broke her promise and, in doing so, she wilfully betrayed the Australian people by denying them their right to have their say on the carbon tax. Households and businesses in Bonner will be amongst the hardest hit by Labor's carbon tax, which will literally increase the cost of everything regardless of the false promises made by Labor to the people of Bonner. The reality is that every community group, every business, every family and every individual will pay and continue to pay the carbon tax as industry and business pass the cost on to consumers. I want the manufacturers, retailers, business individuals and families who have raised serious concerns with me about the impact of this tax to know that I have listened to them, and that is why today I speak against the imposition of a carbon tax.