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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10048


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (12:46): The Constitution of Australia requires in section 52 that the parliament shall make laws for the 'good government of the Commonwealth'. This legislation is not good government, it is not good law and it is not good for the people of Australia. It is an incredible piece of national self-harm, a massive new tax that will add to the cost of all that we do, a new tax that will cost Australian jobs as industry relocates to other parts of the world that do not have a tax like this. It is a massive new tax that seeks to destroy our competitive advantage by artificially raising the price of electricity. It is bureaucratic, it is concocted, it is illogical, it is negative, it is dishonest, it is inconsistent and it is structurally unsound. It will do nothing for the environment in Australia, and indeed it will increase global emissions. With all the overblown rhetoric that we have heard about this scheme and about the legislation before the House, it cannot possibly achieve its objectives.

Is it any wonder that the public are bewildered? They see this as a gigantic scandal, a fraud being perpetrated on the Australian people. They are asking: 'How could our government do such a thing? How can a government that is interested in the welfare of the people do such a thing? Why do they want to hurt us so much? Why won't they listen when we cry out for sensible policies?' This is a monumental piece of government incompetence. It will be a $9 billion tax in the first year and collect well over $30 billion in the first three years, but it still leaves behind it a $4.7 billion black hole, and that is without the compensation that will have to be paid to close down coal fired power stations. This is simply illogical. US Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner put it correctly when he described what Australia was doing as 'unilateral economic disarmament'. It simply makes no sense.

It is a tax that is based on two broken promises by the Prime Minister. At her very first media conference after the coup that removed the member for Griffith, the member for Lalor said that she had convinced her predecessor to dump his carbon pollution reduction scheme because he did not have community consensus:

I came to that decision because I fundamentally believe that if you are going to restructure our economy so that we can deal with a carbon price and deal with all the transformations in our economy that requires, then you need community consensus to do so.

You must have community consensus. There clearly is no community consensus in favour of the carbon tax. There is very strong consensus in opposition to the carbon tax. The Prime Minister has broken her promise to develop community consensus before taking action to implement a carbon pollution reduction scheme or a carbon tax.

The second broken promise is even more profound, and it rings in the ears of every Australian every day when they are talking about this issue. Infamously, before the 2010 election, she said:

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

She later went on in a pathetic way to say she did not really mean to mislead. If she did not mean to mislead, why didn't she correct the statements that were in the media before the election instead of waiting until after the event, when she was trying to negotiate to get the keys to the Lodge, to walk away from that commitment? It was a fundamental breach of trust.

The chairman of the company produced a prospectus and asked the shareholders to invest in the company. The prospectus included a promise that there would be no carbon tax. As soon as the share offer was over, the prospectus was changed and revised. The prospectus was false. If our Prime Minister were a company director, she would be heading for a long term in jail. But she is the Prime Minister and she is not in jail; in fact, she is still in the Lodge. But she still fundamentally misled the shareholders of the company. I know some of the other company directors are now plotting to get themselves a new chairman, but it is not just the chairman who is to blame; it is the whole company. As I see members opposite standing in this House to defend this legislation—members who have refused to speak out in their own electorates even though they know this legislation is going to devastate local industry, who have already seen factories close with the threat of this legislation but refuse to speak out—they are just as culpable now as the chairman of their board. How could anyone believe any of them ever again?

They identified themselves with the promise; they have now identified themselves with the breaking of the promise. Is it any wonder that public respect is at an all-time low for this government and its Prime Minister?

My greatest concern, my deepest regret, is the damage that this is doing to our democracy as a whole. The public respect for our parliament is in decline. Lasting damage is being done to the profession of members of parliament. When members' word is not their bond, when they make promises to the people before the election and then walk away from them as though nothing had ever happened, is it any wonder that the public are upset and disgusted with the performance of this government?

We know why it has all happened. The Prime Minister was so keen to get the keys to the Lodge that she was prepared to make any compromise. She was prepared to cave in for the carbon-pricing ambitions of the Greens. The Independent members for Lyne and New England are just as culpable as the Greens in driving this extremist and pointless agenda. I recall the infamous press conference where the Greens and the Independents took over the Prime Minister's courtyard and grinned at the Australian public as they announced the ditching of Labor's no-carbon-tax promise and the harshest carbon tax anywhere in the world. The member for Lyne certainly wanted a new carbon tax, as he made it abundantly clear in his own recent remarks. He had said previously, 'Let the market rip, let the science fly.' He also made that clear when discussing the CPRS bills. He said the Prime Minister's plan did not go anywhere far enough. The member for New England rejected the CPRS bills because they did not go far enough. He said a five per cent reduction was nonsensical and he wanted an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050, but more of that shortly.

The reality is that the government ditched their promises and their commitments because they were so desperate they were prepared to trade off anything to get the keys to the Lodge. But then there was the so-called Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. It just had Greens, Labor members and Independents. You were not even allowed to be on the committee unless you were fundamentally committed to Labor's version of the carbon tax. You were not even allowed to participate in the process unless you were determined to deliver on exactly what the Greens and the Independents wanted. This tax is just like that committee—a camel—full of anomalies. Everybody got their little piece. There was no consultation with the community. There has been no attempt to address the issues. They were not listening when people raised genuine concerns, and so we end up with a scheme that lacks public support. In spite of what the member for Lyne just said, the public do not understand it. The government have not attempted to explain it to the Australian people. If any scientist or economist had different views to those associated with the gospel on climate change, they were simply excluded from the process, ridiculed and not treated with any respect.

The government spent taxpayers' money on television advertisements, and now on a 20-page booklet, about the carbon tax. There are actually only three pages out of that 20 that even talk about the carbon tax. The rest are about taxation changes, many of which are not relevant to the purpose of the carbon tax, which is supposed to be to reduce CO2emissions.

The starting price of $23 per tonne is precisely the level set down by the Greens in January 2010, 13 months before the so-called Multi-Party Climate Change Committee was even established. The concept of a built-in growth mechanism over the fixed period is precisely the mechanism put forward by the Greens in January 2010. The transition to a floating price and full emissions trading by 2015 is a mirror reflection of the transition process favoured by the Greens in January 2010. The quasi-independent body to advise the government on rolling caps for the trading era beginning in 2015 is precisely the format sought by the Greens and by the member for Lyne. The whole Multi-Party Climate Change Committee was also a facade. The agenda had already been laid down by the Greens, and the government was prepared to pay the ransom price just to get the keys to the Lodge.

This legislation is dishonest, counter-productive and deceitful. It will be a massive blow to the Australian economy, which this government has already brought to its knees with its mismanagement and its waste. It will make no difference whatsoever to the Australian climate. It will actually result in increased global emissions, as factories and industries leave Australia and go to countries where there are no rules like ours.

Prices will increase across the board. Treasury has estimated 10 per cent more for electricity and nine per cent more for gas. Car manufacturers estimate an increase of around $400 for the price of a new car—that is, of course, if we are left with a car industry in Australia at all, as manufacturers move to places where you can make your cars without paying this tax. Builders have told us to expect $6,000 more for the price of a new home. Groceries are estimated to go up between three and five per cent. Bus and train fares will rise. From 2014, all road transport costs will rise with the planned reduction in the fuel tax credit. Our export industries, including agriculture, will be hit with the extra cost burden that our competitors simply do not pay. Steelmakers are unable to compete and the government has included in this package of legislation compensation for the steel industry, even though they are saying that the recent closures have got nothing to do with the carbon tax. The reality is that decisions are already being made by Australian industry on the basis that this tax is ahead of them and gives them another good reason to relocate elsewhere. Coalmines with high levels of methane emissions will close. The cost of building roads will go up by an estimated five per cent, meaning that we will have less money available for the vital infrastructure we need across the country. Even taking a load of rubbish to the dump will cost more because the operators of the land fill will be responsible for methane emissions. It just goes on and on. All this is supposed to be something that Australia is going to do by itself to save the planet—to save the polar bear, the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray Darling Basin. Australia, accounting for 1.4 per cent of the total global emissions, is somehow or other going to change the climate of the world on our own. Even Professor Flannery says that is rubbish and that it will take a thousand years to make the slightest difference to our temperature, and no difference at all if, in fact, the rest of the world does not follow the nonsense in the direction that Australia is following.

We were told we had to do this so that we could catch up with the rest of the world, but in practice there is no other country that is proposing a tax of this nature. There is no carbon scheme anywhere in the world that comes close to what is happening here. The Americans are walking away from a cap-and-trade scheme and the Chicago Carbon Exchange has actually closed. They talk about reductions in China, but in the time that we will reduce our emissions—our very small emissions by global standards—by five per cent the biggest emitter in the world, China, is going to increase theirs by 496 per cent! What we are doing is complete nonsense.

Also in relation to what China is supposed to be doing—closing down coal-fired power stations—for every one gigawatt they close down they are opening up 10 gigawatts of new. We have to close 90 per cent of our power stations in Australia but we are going to double our coal exports so that other people will in fact use our coal to achieve the same objective. This is the biggest carbon tax in the world, and the government has no mandate to deliver it—no authority; they have lost their legitimacy. It will do nothing for the environment, and this legislation should be rejected. (Time expired)