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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10124


Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (17:36): I do not think we need to dig too hard to find why that address by the member for Throsby could possibly go down as the most passionless, unconvincing address in this parliament, certainly in the almost 10 years that I have been here. As a member representing a manufacturing electorate he knows, in his heart of hearts—as do all the other members on the other side, including the member for Corangamite, and as do the senators who represent Victoria and New South Wales—that manufacturing regions are suffering. I am sure those members do their job and speak to those who run large manufacturing businesses and small manufacturing businesses and speak to the union members who work in manufacturing enterprises, so they know what everyone else in this country knows: a carbon tax is going to have a negative impact on our manufacturing sector. Why? Because it will make the cost of making things in Australia more expensive and, effectively, it will give a leg-up to imports that compete with our manufactured goods.

That is one aspect of why the member for Throsby would be so downcast and passionless while perhaps doing his duty by his party. Perhaps it is time for him and others on the government benches to think about their duty to Australia and what they could do in the national interest. The Prime Minister has talked much about the national interest in the last few days. Perhaps some on the other side could think about the national interest in deliberating on how they will vote on these bills.

In trying to encapsulate what is fundamentally wrong with the government's approach I was given some great insights and guidance by some of the comments that Morris Iemma, former Labor premier of New South Wales, has said. I will indulge myself and the House by reading some of his comments because I think they are very illuminating. He said:

One thing is sure—it won't change the world, but it could change the government.

We embraced economic growth, and the benefits of economic growth, in the Hawke-Keating era, but we're fighting this battle on the Greens' turf, not our turf. Bob Brown wants to replace the Labor Party as a major party.

He went on:

Yes, we should take action, but we should not get so far out in front that we injure ourselves.

He said:

Every day there are reports of growth and development in China, its growth in emissions will far outstrip our total emissions.

And:

We've adopted a policy which is part of the Greens' agenda.

And the Greens' agenda is anti-growth and anti-investment. Lower growth and lower investment lead to lower incomes and fewer jobs.

We should always be standing shoulder to shoulder with steelworkers and miners and factory workers before we stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Bob Brown and Christine Milne.

I do not think it could have been said in clearer words. Those are the sorts of words one would have expected a solid Labor citizen of bygone eras to have come out with but today we hear nothing of those words from current representatives in this House.

Don Argus has also made some interesting points. Sometimes the obvious points are not repeated often enough. Don Argus has said that change is not reform. That is obviously true. When governments find themselves in trouble and they want to appear as if they are acting in the national interest they rush to change something. Irrespective of whether it is good or bad they will label it as 'reform' rather than 'change' because the word 'reform' has innate positive qualities.

Let us ask ourselves why this government is pursuing this change. If you believe them, and it was to save the planet—to reduce worldwide emissions—then we would have heard the Prime Minister say, before polling day: 'We need to do our bit to save the planet. That is why I promise you that the government I lead will introduce a carbon tax.' But she did not. The only reason we are having a debate on these bills is that that is the price that was extracted by the Greens to support the Prime Minister in keeping her job after the election.

I am very disappointed with that because the Prime Minister is touted as a great negotiator. If, in fact, the Prime Minister was a great negotiator she should have worked out that there is no way that the Greens would ever have supported the coalition. She did not have to sell the Labor Party's soul and give them this job-destroying, economy-destroying carbon tax. We are here because the Labor Party panicked and decided to give in to the Greens' demands. So when we hear those sanctimonious words—that this is all about the environment; this is all about saving the planet—we know that they are not true.

What we may find is that we may end up with an increase in worldwide emissions because when we export our manufacturing to countries that are not as efficient as us they will make the same things we make but create more emissions in doing so. We have seen in Europe that they have effectively exported some of their manufacturing. They still have a demand for goods that produce emissions but those emissions are produced in other countries. That carbon leakage will certainly occur in this nation as well.

There has been a bit of misinformation. The government are trying—they still are—to convince us that we cannot be behind the rest of the world and that we have to stay in step with what the rest of the world are doing. But who are we staying in step with? Absolutely no-one. The only steps we are following are the ones carved out by the Greens in this parliament, and they are hardly the voice of mainstream Australia.

We have seen disingenuous comparisons made with China. And we have seen the climate change minister embarrassed because he referred to a report that said that China had a higher effective carbon price than we did. That was found not to be correct and he embarrassingly tried to distance himself from the report. When we look at China's official policy we find that the policy is actually to reduce emissions intensity. If you look at the projected growth you find that if China reduces its emissions intensity by 17 per cent by 2015 it will work out to be an increase in total CO2 of 17 per cent on 2011 figures in absolute terms. When we look at the rest of the world, we see that no-one has introduced the sort of carbon tax the Prime Minister is proposing. That is not because no-one smarter in the world has come up with this; it is because everyone else in the world is more concerned and focused on what they can do to assist their economies and industries to survive the current difficult economic times that they face. When we look at what Europe has done we see that 95 per cent of carbon permits in the first few years of its scheme were given out for free. We found that the scheme in Europe had effectively little impact in reducing emissions. A Euro poll found that there was about $5 billion worth of fraud in the purchase of overseas permits in just under two years. This government, on its own figures, says, 'By 2020 we will reduce emissions by 160 million tonnes.' Guess what? One hundred million of those tonnes will be through the purchase of permits from overseas. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme raises about $500 million a year, and that is how much this government's carbon tax will raise in three months. The impact of the carbon tax in this country will be something unprecedented in the rest of the world.

India, which accounts for five per cent of total global emissions, and rising, has no plans for an ETS. Canada has no plans for an ETS. The US has effectively abandoned all talk of an emissions trading scheme. So the time has come to really assess what the government are trying to do and for members on the other side to look in their heart of hearts and, for just once in the term of this government, put the national interest ahead of their party's interest, because the impact on the Australian economy and the cost of living will leave its mark. It will take years of suffering and years of restructuring our economy, and it will see efficient businesses go offshore.

Households are already suffering with the increase in the cost of living. We have seen the cost of housing increase, yet a carbon tax will increase the cost of a new home by $5,000. It will add $36 a month to the average mortgage of just over $340,000. The Food and Grocery Council said that the annual increase in grocery bills will be $120. Australian cars will be $400 more expensive than imported cars because of the carbon tax. Agriculture will have increased costs through the increase in the cost of fuel, fertiliser and electricity. There is even the local supermarket. I take the example of a supermarket in Wangaratta. The local IGA calculated the increase in their electricity costs. They said to me, 'Our competitive advantage is that we are 1c cheaper than the major supermarket, so we can't put up our prices. So we've already told our staff that, in order to pay for the increase in the electricity bill, we will have to reduce staff numbers.' These are real businesses out there trying to make a living and trying to employ people in their local communities.

Many industries have commented on some of the government's figures. A very important part of our manufacturing base is the food and grocery sector. In fact, it is the largest manufacturing sector. Kate Carnell, the Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, said:

For Julia Gillard to say that food companies who aren’t in the top 1000 emitters won’t be affected by carbon tax is simply wrong.

Manufacturers will be impacted right across the supply chain from higher costs in transport, power, refrigeration and food and grocery manufacturing.

We have seen comments right across the heavy manufacturing sector as well. Interestingly, we have not heard too much from someone who should be representing manufacturing workers. In April, Paul Howes, the National Secretary of the AWU, said:

Carbon pricing could be the straw that breaks the camel's back as far as some of these industries are concerned.

If one job is gone, our support is gone.

I do not think I would rely too much on those words because jobs are going now in preparation for a carbon tax.

The government has spoken much about compensation, but Graham Kraehe from BlueScope Steel says that compensation under this scheme would be like putting 'a bandaid on a bullet wound'. Industry compensation is supposed to last for four years. What happens after the four years when the price of electricity keeps going up and up? Does anyone honestly believe that industry planning for capital investment in five years time, after the compensation runs out, will not be starting to run down their operations now for the time when there will not be compensation? What about hospitals, nursing homes and schools, where the Victorian government has shown that electricity prices will increase by $120,000 a year? Community organisations will face increased costs. None of these have really been factored into the government's thinking on the impact this will have on local communities. This says nothing of the fact that most average Australians will be worse off under a carbon tax. The government should have a serious rethink and take this issue back to the people, because it lied about introducing a carbon tax and people should have a say. (Time expired)