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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 10999

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (MaranoaSecond Deputy Speaker) (12:47): I rise to make a contribution on this carbon tax legislation, the bundle of bills. I have to say that, when the government introduced these bills last week with two to three weeks for the parliament to consider them, it really was a disgrace. I must also say that the effect this carbon tax will have across this nation, in all corners of the nation, will be dramatic. No-one will escape the effect of these pieces of legislation if they pass this House and the upper House. I say 'if' they pass this House because they can pass the lower House only with the support of some of the six members who sit on the crossbenches.

The introduction of these bills represents also a very significant breach of the trust of the Australian people, because these bills will forever change our nation, yet the people of Australia have been denied an opportunity which is their fundamental right, I believe, in a democracy: to have their say. When this Prime Minister went to the people at the last election, it was a contest of ideas and minds. The voters of Australia value their vote and they made their decision based on what either side of this parliament had to say in the lead-up to that election. Of course, the Prime Minister said quite clearly that there would be no carbon tax under a government that she led. That statement, I think, meant that the government we have today was elected on the basis that there would be no carbon tax under a government that was led by Julia Gillard. Since that time, of course—since the announcement by this Prime Minister—my office has been absolutely inundated with people concerned about the effect that this will have on their business, their farming operation or their family wherever they live.

Mr Deputy Speaker, let me give you and the House a bit of an overview of the constituency that I represent, the seat of Maranoa. It represents over 42 per cent of the land area of Queensland and it is one of the powerhouses of this nation. It is certainly a powerhouse in Queensland. It is one of the electorates that are resource rich, and of course the expansion of the resource sector in my electorate is well documented and is happening as I speak in the House today. The growth of the resource sector, the coal seam methane gas, the coal developments and the associated industries that go with that—small businesses—means that there are growth opportunities, job opportunities and small business opportunities as a result of the expansion of the resource sector. But, of course, there is also our traditional base. Since our early pioneers established farming and pastoral interests out in Maranoa, those interests have been a base—and they will always be a base—of the electorate of Maranoa. Whether it is cotton, beef, grain, olives, fruit, wool, vegetables or stone fruit—you name it—it is also a food bowl as well as a growing energy hub in Queensland.

One of the things about Maranoa that do have an impact when it comes to the cost of transport wherever you look is the tyranny of distance, which is a factor in everyone's day-to-day life. The electorate is a regional and rural electorate; that is no secret, and it is no secret also that regional Australia will be one of the areas hardest hit by this carbon tax. The tyranny of distance—whether it is when businesses have to send their product to their market or when they have to bring in goods to farms or small businesses—requires transport, and the transport sector is going to be hit by this carbon tax. Access Economics has found that a $26 a tonne price on carbon will cost more than 126,000 jobs in regional Australia. How can anyone in this place support legislation that Access Economics says will cost 126,000 Australians their jobs? Deloitte predicts that there will be a loss of 21,000 Queensland jobs, with separate Queensland Treasury modelling predicting 12,000 jobs will be lost in Queensland. How the Premier of Queensland, who is the federal president of the Labor Party, can support a carbon tax as she leads to the next election and say, 'I'm supporting a carbon tax and I know it's going to cost Queenslanders 12,000 jobs,' on her own Treasury's modelling, is beyond me.

Another industry in my electorate is electricity generation. I have three coal fired power stations, Tarong, Millmerran and Kogan Creek, in my electorate. These are large, baseload power stations. There are also a number of gas fired power stations and we are soon going to see a very large solar thermal power station established just near Chinchilla. The workers in those power stations and in that industry and also those working in the coal and the gas industries in my electorate are worried. They went to the last election thinking that if they voted for the government, for Labor, there would not be a carbon tax under a government led by the now Prime Minister.

As I travel my electorate, from east to west and north to south, people are not only worried about the future for their families or their businesses, they are now becoming angry at this government. What they want is an election. In numbers of calls to my office and from what I hear when I meet people in the street, people are saying: 'How can we have an election, because we want a say on this? We want to have our say on whether we should have a carbon tax and this bundle of bills.' They want their say, and that is their democratic right. They value their vote. They believe we live in a democracy. Today under the electoral cycle, in the information provided by the parties and anyone wanting to represent a constituency, people read and are well informed. They are worried about this legislation and what it will mean to their families and their jobs, particularly their jobs.

For the benefit of the House I will read what one of my constituents emailed to me recently. Paul is from Crows Nest, in the very east of the electorate. It is very near the Tarong power station, but I do not know where he works. In his email he said:

When it comes to the carbon tax fiasco, I used to be, and I say used to be, a Labor supporter. But now with the recent events over the past 12 months, I can no longer support the Labor movement. I am totally disgusted with the push for the carbon tax that will hurt my family who is already struggling to pay the bills, the mortgage and put food on the table. I have been told by my employer that if this tax goes through, that I would LOSE my job along with others because they will not be able to afford to pay the tax and keep the current workforce.

That is from a person who emailed my office and said he is a Labor supporter, and I respect people like that. But he is concerned for his family. He is concerned as to how he is going to pay his mortgage—and what is so precious in every family is the family home. Being able to own their own bit of Australia, their family home and their backyard, is very precious to them. He is so concerned that, as a supporter of the other side of the House in the past, he is prepared to email my office and tell me his story and his concern.

A resident of Stanthorpe, Ian, has also written to me. He said:

As a resident of Stanthorpe and an Australian tax payer, I urge you to strongly come out and force Julia Gillard to not bring in this new tax. We, like many other families are struggling to survive as it is with out any further rises in the cost of living. Every time we turn around, power, fuel and food are going up. All this government can think of is how to waste our tax dollars.

Once again, this is from a family. I will talk about small businesses in a minute, but this is another family concerned about their future, concerned about how they are going to pay the bills and put food on the table and pay the mortgage.

Among some of the most vocal opponents of the carbon tax in the Maranoa electorate have been small business owners. I received this letter from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland:

A carbon tax will flow through the economy, affecting the price of all goods and services and increasing costs for all businesses including those without a direct carbon price liability. Trade exposed and small and medium-sized businesses have limited ability to pass these costs on to customers and are at even greater risk of business competitiveness and viability. Given the importance of coal mining and minerals processing in this state, Queensland businesses face an even greater impact from the introduction of a carbon price. These industries are key employers in regional and rural areas in Queensland, directly and indirectly supporting a large number of local and medium-sized businesses.

This letter is on behalf of many chambers of commerce in my electorate. Those listed as signatories are: the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland; the Border Rivers Chamber of Commerce, based in Goondiwindi; Commerce Roma, in my home town; the Charleville and District Chamber of Commerce, in a pastoral zone in western Queensland; the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce; the South-West Chamber of Commerce; the St George and District Chamber of Commerce, the Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce; and the Wandoan District Chamber of Commerce.

Transport businesses in my electorate have written to me. One of them is Frasers Livestock Transport, which is based in Warwick but has other offices and transport centres in Roma, Longreach and Cloncurry, and mainly moves livestock. Ross Fraser is one of the partners and I will precis what he said to me rather than quote him. Ross said that if this tax was $40 a tonne—and we know this is a $23-a-tonne tax bill as presented to us, but we know it will rise under this government, as they know how to put up taxes and spend but not how to save and manage the economy—then it will cost their business $600,000 a year. Not only will it cost his business $600,000 a year but he will have to pass that cost on to his customers and they will pay the bill. This tax is such a retrograde tax because it cascades at each point. It will impact through the economy. Ross went on to say that they employ 110 people and their wages bill is $150,000 a week. This is a small business in a regional town in my electorate. So concerned are they about their future that they said they will have to pass it on if the industries can afford it, absorb it or cut back on their operations. Warwick is also home to the Big W distribution point where Wickham Freight Lines put 100 trucks a day on the road distributing supermarket goods across Queensland, New South Wales and into Victoria.

I will relate a similar story about Crisps Coaches in Warwick. Russell Crisp told the Warwick Daily News, the local newspaper, that he believed the tax would have a negative impact on his customers. Crisps Coaches in Warwick is a bus company that is not subsidised by a local authority in a capital city. It operates whether there is one passenger on board or 50 or board. It runs a magnificent service in Warwick. I often see its coaches down here. Its coaches bring schoolchildren down here to Parliament House. Russell Crisp said the tax will impact on his business because of the cost of fuel. He wants to know, as so many of my other small businesses want to know, whether he is one of the big polluters this government is talking about. We do not know. We cannot find out who they are. Who are the big polluters? We on this side believe those that are considered big polluters by the government are great big job creators in this economy.

There is a whole lot more I would like to say, about the Kyoto protocol and how we as a government were able to meet our obligations, as many have done for years, through a direct action plan. We will continue to propose what can be done to reduce carbon emissions through a direct action plan and without an impact on jobs and businesses across the nation and particularly across my own electorate of Maranoa.