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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10034


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (11:45): I am pleased to rise to speak on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills or the carbon tax package of legislation. I begin by saying that in 2007 and 2008 I was a supporter of an emissions trading scheme. The Howard government proposed a policy in favour of an emissions trading scheme based on the Shergold report. Throughout 2008 and then into 2009, when the debate occurred over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, while the opposition at the time had serious concerns about the CPRS and attempted to make it better and assist the government to introduce an emissions trading scheme that was not able to be done for a number of reasons. Many of those reasons were because, in the negotiations that the opposition had at the time, the government, instead of accepting the good faith of the opposition and working with the opposition in order to bring about an emissions trading scheme, turned it into a political issue and used it to bludgeon the opposition on a daily basis.

We have seen already the precedent that this government establishes when it wants opposition support. It does not come to the opposition and say, 'Can we work together?' Even when the opposition offers to get the government out of a bind of their own making what we do not see is the government attempting to work with the opposition. What we instead see is the government abusing, hectoring and bludgeoning the opposition as though that will achieve the outcome that it is seeking. And so we saw that with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. When the member for Wentworth was Leader of the Opposition and did attempt to bring about an outcome that would see an emissions trading scheme he essentially had sand kicked in his face by the then Prime Minister, the now foreign minister, and the attempt to work together with the government was stymied by them in not negotiating in good faith.

Then of course the world changed at Copenhagen at the end of 2009 when all the goodwill that countries like Australia had invested in the Copenhagen process of bringing about a world response to climate change faltered on the rocks of the Copenhagen conference. China was one of the leading nations at the Copenhagen conference to ensure that there was not a world agreement to move forward and try to bring about action on climate change.

I support action on climate change. I believe that climate change is occurring and I believe that it is a mixture of natural impacts that occur whatever human beings do and of human beings playing a part in bringing about some change to the climate. I do believe that we should act on climate change and I did support an attempt to do that between 2007 and 2009. But the Copenhagen conference dramatically changed the world outlook on action on climate change.

The government responded in two ways. Firstly, they pretended that the Copenhagen conference had been a tremendous success and that they were going to plough on with their Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Secondly, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education convinced Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister, to abandon the CPRS. They did that for base political reasons because they believed that they were losing politically on the issue. Having done that the government dumped the then Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, and during the election campaign the Prime Minister deceived the Australian people in a bald-faced way by telling them that she would never countenance a carbon tax in any government she led. After the election the Prime Minister ditched that promise to the Australian people and that is the hole in the heart of this Prime Minister's stewardship of this government. That is one of the reasons that the Australian people have utterly lost faith in this government and in the authority of the Prime Minister.

Now we see the government trying to introduce a carbon tax which will do tremendous damage to the Australian economy. It will obviously export our emissions to overseas countries. It will export jobs to those same countries. It will not produce any environmental benefits. In fact, emissions will increase. It is a great big new tax built on a deceit during the election campaign which will push up the cost of living of every Australian whether they are a family or an individual and, of course, it will push up the prices for every business. I support the direct action plan of the coalition to address climate change. It is a 'no regrets' policy. What that means is that, even if you do not believe that climate change is happening, even if you do not believe the government should take action on climate change, because it is a hologram, these are still good policies and good changes that will benefit the environment and ensure that the Australian government is playing its part in ensuring that we have a better environment in the future and better environmental practices.

The direct action plan of the coalition achieves exactly the same target as the government's plan: a five per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. It does it without any cost to families, it does it without any new taxes and it does it without raising electricity prices—which of course the government will raise through its carbon tax. I can make that claim because every one of the $3.2 billion that has been allocated over the next four years for the coalition's direct action plan is funded out of savings which we announced at the last federal election.

There are no new taxes to pay for this policy, no new increases in prices, no imposts on business, no exporting of jobs and no exporting of emissions. And it is a 'no regrets' policy, which means that it is a good policy in spite of any views about climate change. There are no new taxes, yet the government keep making the claim that we will add an impost to Australian households. That is a complete fabrication from a desperate government prepared to say and do anything to try and convince the Australian people that they are not one of the most incompetent and inept governments in Australian history—'Please don't vote us out, because the opposition is worse.' The government are now at the point where they are trying to argue that, even though they admit they have made many mistakes and cost the Australian people many hard-earned dollars through wasted taxes—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Sturt has been given a great deal of latitude on these bills, but we are actually dealing with the clean energy bills and I would bring him back to the bills before us.

Mr PYNE: I am talking about the carbon tax and the fact that the government are so desperate to try and hang on to power that they are prepared to pretend that figures that they have pulled out of the air actually reflect fact. But I hear your admonition, Madam Deputy Speaker, and because of my longstanding respect for you—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You are too kind, Member for Sturt!

Mr PYNE: I will move on to the direct action plan of the coalition. The direct action plan of the coalition has a number of elements. It establishes an emissions reduction fund. The funds that we have allocated to addressing climate change will be placed in that emissions reduction fund, and there will be a proper process by which the best ideas, the best projects and programs from around Australia, will vie for the funds out of the emissions reduction fund—ideas like capturing carbon in soil, planting trees on non-prime agricultural land, cleaning up waste coalmine gas, cleaning up landfill gas, promoting energy efficiency and converting some of the older, dirtier, coal fired power stations to gas. This would achieve exactly the same reduction in emissions, of five per cent, that the government claims it will do through its own policy.

One of my most serious objections to the government's carbon tax legislation is that it will very seriously impact on Australian households, individuals and families at a time when they can least afford it. Households are struggling with the rising cost of living, and yet the government's response to the rising cost of living is to slap a new tax, the carbon tax, on the Australian people through this legislation, which will push up cost-of-living pressures even more.

The South Australian Council of Social Service's annual Cost of Living survey shows that since 2001 food prices have gone up 13.2 per cent, utilities have risen 33.4 per cent, health costs have gone up 22.8 per cent and rental costs have gone up 8.4 per cent above inflation. In Adelaide, utility prices have skyrocketed, with a 37 per cent increase in electricity in August this year, a 14 per cent rise in gas prices and a 30 per cent increase in water prices.

One of the roles of any government is to do no harm to the Australian people. Yet this carbon tax does direct harm to the Australian people through increasing prices at a time when they can least afford it. Now is the time for the government to be reducing pressure on households, families and individuals across Australia. Now is the time for the government to find measures that reduce the footprint of government in the Australian society, reduce regulation and reduce red tape, not create new programs which require more bureaucrats, more regulation, more red tape and more spending.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

Mr PYNE: We know that the member opposite, the member for Sydney, has been in favour of every spending proposal that has ever come across her desk as a minister or as a member. As a leading member of the Left, she has never even thought of any possibility of saving taxpayers' money because, as far as she is concerned, it is her money. The member for Sydney regards the taxpayers' money as her money.

This carbon tax will also cost jobs. It will export jobs overseas. Every government in Australia along the eastern seaboard and Western Australia have done their own analysis of what the carbon tax means, and it is not good news for those people who need their jobs to be able to pay their mortgages or school fees, or just to pay their grocery bills.

The Deloitte Access Economics report that was commissioned by the Bligh government—which, last time I looked, was a Labor government—predicts that Queensland's gross state product would be 2.76 per cent lower by 2020 and 4.11 per cent lower by 2050 than it would be without a carbon price. It predicts the loss of 21,000 Queensland jobs and a net loss in the economic value of the state's generation companies of $640 million, meaning higher electricity prices. The Victorian government commissioned an analysis, which found that 23,000 jobs that would have been created will not be created across Victoria by 2015 as a result of the carbon tax and that the Victorian economy would be $2.8 billion worse off in 2015 and $3 billion worse off in 2030. In New South Wales, analysis commissioned by the Labor government and released by the O'Farrell government found that 31,000 jobs will be lost in New South Wales by 2030 and 18½ thousand in the Hunter Valley alone. In Western Australia, the Western Australian Treasury has shown that over half of all Western Australia households will be worse off because of a carbon tax.

In the closing minute of my speech on the carbon tax legislation, I want to deal very briefly with the issue of the government hypocrisy in even being prepared to come into this House and introduce this legislation. I do not need to remind Australian people of the Prime Minister's promise:

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

They certainly have that indelibly printed on their minds. Then there was the Treasurer's promise:

We have made our position very clear. We have ruled it out.

But someone obviously did not tell the Minister for Finance and Deregulation that they were going to go ahead with a carbon tax, because during 2009 and 2010 she said things like, 'A carbon tax does not guarantee emissions reductions,' and, 'A carbon tax is not the silver bullet some people might think.' We know that she cannot have any environmental certainty with a carbon tax when she says:

I have been very upfront about why I think a carbon tax isn't the most sensible thing for Australia.

I could not agree with her more. (Time expired)