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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10117


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (17:07): I rise to speak today in defence of Australian jobs, Australian families and Australian small businesses—especially those jobs, families and businesses in the Sutherland shire of my electorate of Cook. The Leader of the Opposition astutely concluded his remarks today by describing these clean energy bills as one of the longest political suicide notes by a government in our history. There is a reason for his observation. The government have spoken about the judgment of history. That judgment will not be kind to this government. But what they do not want to do is enable these bills to be judged by the Australian people, and they have sought to thwart and deny that judgment at every opportunity.

The Prime Minister and this government misled the Australian people before the last election. The Prime Minister declared there would be no carbon tax under the government she leads. Having broken this pledge, forming her government on her deceit, she has compounded the insult by vilifying those who now seek to hold her to account. That is not just those in the opposition; it is the millions of Australians across the country she and her colleagues have demonised as an ignorant mob. Her ministers have arrogantly claimed in this place that those who sought to oppose this government were of no consequence.

This government will ultimately have to keep a date with the Australian people when they will be judged for their deceit, their incompetence, their arrogance and their hypocrisy. For most Australians, that day cannot come soon enough. The solution most Australians want, whether it is on the carbon tax, illegal boat arrivals, reckless spending or Labor's simple inability to get anything right, is an election solution.

The impact of this carbon tax will be far reaching. It will tax everything that moves and breathes. However, if they believe these measures will cool the globe—while mortgaging Australia's future in the process—they are simply dreaming. As Senator Joyce has remarked:

… if taxes cooled the planet, the place would already be an icebox.

Lincoln said:

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.

His singular reference to gender was not intended to exclude our Prime Minister from this wisdom. This tax is more than a broken promise. It is another fundamental betrayal of trust by a government that simply cannot be trusted.

The majority of shire families will be worse off under Labor's carbon tax. On the government's own figures, those who will be greatest hit in the shire will be Labor's forgotten families, especially those where one parent stays at home to care for their children. They are the biggest losers under this government's bad tax. The government's own figures show that single-income families earning $65,000 or more, with one child, will be worse off. For single-income families with two children, the pain begins at $80,000. For two-income families, the pain begins at $105,000 per household. The average income of a person in such a family is less than the average annual national earnings for a person—less than $10,000 than those same average earnings annually for a person in New South Wales, let alone Sydney, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the world today. These impacts will be felt more severely in Sydney than anywhere else because of our already high costs of living.

Neither the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, the Assistant Treasurer nor even the minister at the table, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, understand the daily life and costs of living that Sydneysiders must already bear. We are struggling with rising rents, rising electricity prices and increased costs of living across the board. This is a government that is completely oblivious to the challenges faced by Sydneysiders on a daily basis, and this tax is a prime example of the way that this government simply does not get it in terms of what is happening in Sydney—whether it is in the plains of Western Sydney, the Blue Mountains or the Sutherland shire in my own electorate of Cook. In the shire, the 2006 census revealed that the median household income for families with children was between $104,000 and $130,000 a year. Five years on, average weekly earnings have leapt by 20 per cent. This means the majority of shire families will be beyond the reach of Labor's compensation package.

But it is not only families who stand to be hurt by this tax. A constituent recently, last month, wrote to me and stated:

Single people get absolutely no tax breaks or benefits. Yet our incomes are chipped away through ordinary tax increases, carbon taxes, flood and Medicare levies and insurance premium increases. I feel that single people are being discriminated against in all of these government decisions.

The carbon tax comes on top of yet another broken Labor promise—their budget assault on more than 100,000 Cook residents covered by private health insurance, with Labor's plan to cut access to the private health insurance rebate. The flood tax, costing around $250, kicked in this financial year. From 1 July, residents of New South Wales are already facing an average 17 per cent leap in the price of power before this government introduces its carbon tax. This tax will increase also electricity prices by a further 10 per cent in the first year under the carbon tax, which will also see gas prices go up by nine per cent, on their own figures. This toxic tax will also cost local businesses and threaten jobs.

In my electorate there are around 400 manufacturing businesses that employ one or more people. One of those businesses is shire engineering and tool-making business C A Rich Patternmakers and Toolmakers in Taren Point, run by Stephen Rich. Stephen's father, Charles, started this business in the 1950s with his wife, Gwendolin, who did the books for many years as well as raising their family. They are like so many other entrepreneurial small business people who set up businesses in the shire at that time. These businesses have driven generations of prosperity and opportunity for themselves, their employees and our shire. Their business is more than just a job; it is their passion, their obsession and their legacy. This carbon tax will put at risk generations of hard work by these families to create a viable business and generate local employment. These family businesses have already had to weather the tough financial climate and fight increasing competition from overseas. The last thing they need in the shire and elsewhere in this country is a carbon tax to add to the pressures they face.

Like so many engineering and light manufacturing businesses, C A Rich are carbon rich in their production. This carbon tax will hit almost everything that moves on their factory floor, whether it is the electricity they need to keep the machines running, the heavy steel, aluminium or other metal material inputs they work with or the transport costs of shifting this around to and from their suppliers and to their clients. They will be hit from every single angle imaginable.

In additional to manufacturing, the carbon tax will also strike our local transport, freight, maritime logistics, aviation, utilities and construction sector. In my electorate, there are around 11½ thousand of these businesses. Manufacturing, transportation, construction and utilities account for more than one-third of the jobs of Cook residents. Thousands of shire residents are employed in these sectors, especially in and around the airport.

I particularly make the point that Caltex, Qantas and Virgin will feature in Labor's list of dangerous big polluters who they say will and should be taxed. The global aviation industry is incredibly competitive and it is not a level playing field. Any impost at all within the group structure of these airlines impedes the ability of these businesses to profit and, as a result, employ—especially locally here in Australia. Qantas estimates the carbon tax will cost it approximately $100 million to $115 million in 2012-13 and Virgin has put the cost to its operations at $45 million—and there is no compensation. Caltex directly employs 500 people at its operation in Kurnell and a further 500 contractors, though contractor numbers can increase significantly during major maintenance programs that occur at the plant. There is no doubt these bills will not assist the ongoing viability of Caltex's operations at Kurnell, which are already vulnerable.

When interviewed on Lateline Business recently, Caltex CEO and MD Julian Segal noted Caltex had already initiated a review of the ongoing role of their refineries, including their operations at Kurnell and, more specifically, the two catalytic crackers. Energy analyst Mark Samter said in the same report that Caltex refineries may now be converted to import terminals. At a time when such marginal decisions are in play, the blindside hit of the carbon tax can only make operations more marginal and potentially tip the balance against local jobs.

But it is not just local families, residents and businesses in the shire who will be hit. I recently attended Civic Disability Services, who for more than 50 years have provided care and a sense of purpose for those with disabilities in the shire. They do a fantastic job and have managed to do it on commercial terms, despite the pressures of an increasingly tough economic climate. Civic Disability Services employ more than 100 people, the vast majority of those with disabilities, doing meaningful work so they can better support themselves. But here is the issue: after paying to employ people with disabilities, their second biggest cost, they told me, is their power bill. The Gillard government's carbon tax means a 10 per cent hike in those bills in the first year alone, and after that the prices will only go up. Civic Disability Services are able to provide meaningful employment and purpose to the lives of people with disabilities in the shire because they can provide a commercial and competitive service to real commercial clients, who expect high standards at an affordable cost. Every time Civic flicks the switch and turns on the lights, let alone powers up a machine on the factory floor, Labor's carbon tax will make the services they provide to their customers, including international contracts, less competitive. Yet Labor is offering no compensation for not-for-profit organisations like Civic for the cost impacts of the carbon tax. There are many other not-for-profit organisations like Civic in the shire, and they will all feel the pinch. Many will be forced to pass the carbon tax costs on to the very people they serve through increased fees, reduced services or simply walking away. These businesses should be encouraged and rewarded for the continued standard of care and commitment to their community, not taxed mindlessly.

Finally, there is the issue of simply how you could trust the Labor government, the most incompetent we have seen, to implement such a massive change—a $9 billion new tax. The government have not been able to deliver any major program without excessive waste, bungling or catastrophe, be it the roof batts, the NBN, the BER or, particularly, my own portfolio area, border protection, where costs have blown out from less than $100 million a year to more than $1 billion a year.

This carbon tax is also an egregious intrusion of big government into our economy and our society. Australians are not whingers, but there comes a point when businesses, families and single people within our community are pushed beyond their limit. There will be repercussions for a government without a mandate trying to ram through this legislation, and it will be fatal for them.

These measures are all pain and no environmental gain. Under this package, our domestic carbon emissions in 2020 will actually be higher than they are now. Two-thirds of the abatement will have to be bought offshore from foreign carbon traders at a cost of $3.5 billion, rising to $57 billion in 2050, or 1½ per cent of GDP—a scheme which the Australian Crime Commission has highlighted will involve $5 billion in fraud.

And we will be out there on our own. The Productivity Commission found that there was no other country seeking to impose an economy wide carbon price. The government seems to have developed complete amnesia about the collapse of the carbon price agenda at Copenhagen. The European ETS raises only about $500 million a year, or $1 per person. Labor's carbon tax in this country will raise $9 billion, or around $400 for every Australian. In the United States, where I visited earlier this year, it was very clear based on my own inquiries with congressional members from both sides of the aisle that a cap-and-trade system is not on the agenda anytime soon, and certainly not before 2020. At least the United States have worked out that a carbon tax or even an ETS in the current economic climate is economic lunacy. In Canada, they have equally made the sensible decision, not just in economic policy but in a democratic sense as well, where the government has listened to the Canadian people and walked away from these policies. While the Labor government cites China as emissions reductions leader, the truth is that its emissions will increase by 500 per cent by 2020.

The coalition have fiercely opposed this tax from day one and we will continue to fight this tax, here and everywhere we can, for Australian jobs, small businesses and families, and particularly my own community and the shire. I particularly want to commend the Leader of the Opposition for being the people's champion on this issue, ably supported by the member for Flinders and my many other colleagues, including the member for Indi, who is at table with me today. The coalition is the only force standing in the way of this toxic tax. We are energised by the support of the Australian people in this endeavour and we will not let them down. If the Prime Minister in her arrogance persists in ignoring the voice of Australians and imposes this odious tax, then let it be on her head. History will indeed judge her and it will not be kind. When the time comes for the Australian people to have the opportunity to act on this issue, an opportunity that this Prime Minister and this government have denied them time and again, their judgment will be absolutely resounding.