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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1323

Carbon Pricing

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Education representing the Minister for Employment. How would removing the carbon tax assist employment in the airline industry? What are the challenges to repealing this tax?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Parramatta will remove herself under standing order 94(a).

The member for Parramatta then left the chamber.

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:33): I am very pleased to take this question from the member for Petrie because he, like this side of the House, recognises that the carbon tax is having a very real and negative impact on jobs in the airline industry. In fact, in the last financial year it was a $106 million negative impact on Qantas and $45 million impact on Virgin, leading John Borghetti, the CEO of Virgin, to say on Friday: 'The best assistance the government and the opposition can provide is the removal of the carbon tax which has cost this industry hundreds of millions of dollars.'

Now the opposition could fix this today. We have a lot of crocodile tears from the Leader of the Opposition; a lot of wringing of hands from the opposition about jobs at Qantas. As the Minister for Education, representing for the Minister for Employment, I say that this side of the House has legislation ready to go that would assist Qantas and Virgin and jobs in the airline industry today. The Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and the Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 sit in the Senate being debated as we speak. Both of those bills could be separated out from the rest of the carbon tax repeal legislation and passed today by the combined votes of the government and the opposition. If the opposition really cared about jobs in the airline industry they would stop the rhetoric, they would actually measure up and they would indicate—and I give the opportunity to the Leader of Opposition to do so at the end of this answer—that they will help Qantas and Virgin today by repealing the carbon tax on the airline industry.

I suspect they will not. I suspect that the Leader of the Opposition is more concerned about the Qantas unions than he is about Qantas workers. This is his big opportunity, but I suspect he will not do it because he said in February 2013: 'I am very proud to carry into the Parliament of Australia every day, my union membership card.' Now here we are again—

Opposition members: Hear, hear!

Mr PYNE: 'Hear, hear!', they are all saying. They are delighted. They should table this, as union members. Has he got it on him or was he just making that up? Does he walk in here with his union membership card? Why does he not walk in here with his 'putting Australia first' card or his 'putting the Qantas workers first' card, rather than his employment union membership card?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Silence on my left.

Mr PYNE: The problem with the Leader of the Opposition is he cannot forget his background. He cannot rise above being a union official representing union officials. But this is a big test for him.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Charlton will desist.

Mr PYNE: If he really cares about Qantas workers, he will put aside his union membership card and vote the carbon tax through in the Senate.