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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11364

Mr CROOK (O'Connor) (12:10): My position on the carbon tax, or these clean energy bills 2011, has always been the same. As such, I do not intend to take up too much of the chamber's time today. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to reiterate my position on this carbon tax. I did not support a carbon tax at the election; I do not support a carbon tax now. I have consistently said that I do not, and would not, support a carbon tax in this parliament. My views on a carbon tax have always been the same, which is more than I can say for most members of this House. I have consistently said that the carbon tax is bad for my electorate of O'Connor, bad for my state of Western Australia, bad for regional Australia and bad for industry. A carbon tax is bad for my electorate of O'Connor because it will burden the families of O'Connor who rely for their employment on local industries that will be heavily affected by the carbon tax.

It is bad for the small businesses in O'Connor such as the Widgiemooltha Roadhouse. Small businesses such as these will be hit by an effective carbon price on fuel without any viable alternatives. It is bad for the people in O'Connor who rely on goods to be transported over great distances to reach their supermarkets, stores and homes. A carbon tax is bad for Western Australia, which is home to most of the mining industry. Western Australia will be hit hard by the carbon tax and is already under siege from the unfair distribution of GST and the impending mining tax. The carbon tax is bad for the unique WA electricity market and WA energy generators such as Griffin Energy, who are set to share $0 of the $5.5 billion compensation that will be allocated to the national market.

I have consistently said that the carbon tax is bad for industries, which do not need another tax and will be disadvantaged when they compete in the international market. It is bad for industries that rely on transport fuels for onsite power generation.

I have consistently said that the carbon tax is bad for regional and rural Australia. Regional Australians have no choice but to rely on goods which have been transported over great distances. Rural and regional small businesses have no choice but to rely on diesel fuel for onsite power generation.

I have consistently opposed this tax, and I will be consistent when I vote against this tax in this parliament. Although I firmly and consistently oppose the carbon tax, constituents and industry representatives have pleaded with me to do what I can to make this tax less damaging. Although I will vote against this carbon tax, in whatever form, it is my duty to represent my electorate and the many industry members that have been ignored by this government.

One of the most consistent and specific complaints from industry is about the Clean Energy (Fuel Tax Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, a bill that will apply an effective carbon price on transport fuels used for onsite fuel generation—a carbon price that will hit small businesses. Members of the House will recall the government's repetitive promise that this carbon tax is 'a tax on big polluters'. However, as we all now know, this is another broken promise to the Australian people—the government's amendments impose an effective carbon price on every business that uses transport fuels. This is an effective carbon tax on big business, small business,

developing businesses and established businesses. Every business in a non-exempted industry that requires onsite fuel use will be whacked with this carbon tax—including, of course, businesses that are not part of the top 500 polluters and businesses that are not 'big polluters' by any definition. The Minerals Council of Australia's public submission on the carbon-pricing framework demonstrates that the carbon price on fuel will apply to tens of thousands of small businesses, covering the manufacturing, construction, retail, wholesale and tourism sectors. These operations are by no means big polluters and should not be shouldering the brunt of the carbon price. One of the sectors hit hardest by these amendments are junior miners and mineral exploration operators. This is particularly important for regional mining and mineral exploration operations. These operations rely on diesel fuel to operate, and for many of these operators there is simply no other option. In many country towns and remote locations where junior miners operate, there is no alternative. This is not about changing behaviour; this is just another hit to small business.

Changes must be made to these bills which will hold the government to its promise to only tax big polluters. As such, I intend to move amendments that will introduce a threshold of fuel consumption before a company pays the effective carbon price. The threshold is based on the government's 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent threshold as referred to in the government's Clean Energy Bill. These small polluting operators should not be part of a carbon tax regime that is being spruiked as a tax on the big polluters. My amendments to the Clean Energy (Fuel Tax Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011 will exempt the small polluters from the carbon tax, a provision that would already exist in the legislation if the government had held true to its promise that only the big polluters would pay. These changes are necessary to ensure that this is a tax on big polluters only. I look forward to moving these amendments later this evening.

Even if these amendments are adopted, I will be representing my electorate and state by opposing this carbon tax. This reform is part of the government's triple assault on regional Australia: a carbon tax, a mining tax and the unfair distribution of GST returns. These are major concerns for regional WA, and I will continue to take a stand on these issues.