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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 10316

Mr RANDALL (Canning) (13:25): I am very pleased to speak on these bills today, one of which has the Orwellian title of the Clean Energy Bill 2011. It really should be relabelled 'Destroying Australian Industry, Jobs and Income Bill 2011'. Why are we here today? We are here today because we were misled by the Prime Minister before the last election. On the front page of the Australian newspaper of 20 August 2010 is the Prime Minister glorifying herself at her desk saying, 'I rule out a carbon tax.' She goes on and says that, should she actually get involved in a tax, a 'carbon price would not be triggered until after the 2013 election'. Was that to seek a mandate or was that because she realised what a toxic tax this is?

The problem with this is that the Prime Minister got elected on a misleading statement to the Australian people, and that is why she has no authority on this issue. She certainly does not have a mandate. We are here because the Brown-Gillard government, which we know is led by Senator Brown of the Greens, has now forced this government into a position where, when you look across at the backbench members, they all mouth these platitudes on this issue—but they know they are wrong.

I have 15 minutes to speak on the 19 bills before us. I will not go over the issues I would like to on each bill, but what I will do is generally speak about how they are going to affect my electorate. Being a member from Western Australia, I certainly have some issues with these bills. For example, the Western Australian Treasury analysis shows that more than half of Western Australian households will be worse off under these bills. My constituents are not happy about that. In Western Australia we have mining and manufacturing jobs that will be lost. In fact, my electorate has the third-highest number of fly-in fly-out workers in Australia and they are not happy with this legislation. Their incomes will be lowered. Their standard of living will be lowered as things become more expensive. This is a tax on everything. Global emissions will increase because we will export our pollution. I will refer to that later in my summation of these bills.

I want to give an example of a major business in my electorate and in the world. The company Alcoa receives 60 per cent of its global income from my electorate. Its two mines and two refineries, Pinjarra and Wagerup, produce almost 60 per cent of Alcoa's global income. Their smelter is in Portland, Victoria. Interestingly, Australia has five smelters, including one at Bell Bay in the seat of Bass. It would be interesting for that member to hear what the people of his electorate think about how this tax is going to impact on their jobs. We also have Boyne Island, Kurri Kurri in the Hunter, Point Henry in Corio—another Labor seat—and Tomago in the seat of Newcastle. It would be interesting to know what the workers there are thinking. What is very interesting about Alcoa's operations is that Alcoa makes an incredible contribution to Australia's mining industry, obviously, but particularly to the alumina industry—bauxite mining, alumina refining and its smelting and rolling operations. It brings a lot of jobs, as I said, and adds value to Australian products—at both a state and local level—and to the national economy at every stage. The Gillard government thinks this tax will force people to change the way they are currently doing their business, but Alcoa is already doing that. It has, in fact, been involved in positive actions on the environment and its carbon footprint for a long time. Alcoa has already been reducing its footprint, as I said, and it does not need a tax to do so. Alcoa has already significantly reduced its emissions without a carbon tax. In fact, globally it has reduced its total direct emissions by more than 40 per cent from 1990 levels without a carbon tax. I repeat that: they have reduced emissions by 40 per cent on an international level. But let us get to Western Australia. In WA alone, Alcoa has reduced its emissions per tonne of product by more than 20 per cent from 1990 levels—again, without a carbon tax. Alcoa's WA refineries have less than half the greenhouse footprint that its key competitors in Asia do—less than half of the emissions of its Asian competitors. Indonesia has a refinery at Kuala Tanjung, so in other words they are producing twice as many emissions as Alcoa does in my state of Western Australia—the electorate of Canning. This is quite incredible, because those figures on what Alcoa has done voluntarily, without a tax, show not only that we will export our pollution overseas to countries that do not have to comply and do not intend to comply but that we will export our jobs and our income nationally. Alcoa pays company tax, and there is the spin-off throughout the community of jobs in this industry.

It is very interesting to look at where these jobs could go overseas. As I said, Azerbaijan has a refinery, as do Egypt and Ghana. Will the jobs go there? Interestingly, India has seven smelters. Nigeria and Kazakhstan also have smelters. Interestingly, I turn three pages—as you might be noticing, Mr Deputy Speaker—because China has exactly 100 aluminium smelters. So that is where we are going to export our jobs, our pollution and our income, because of course that is where they are going to go if the government make us uncompetitive. This is a trade-exposed industry from both an energy point of view and an environmental point of view if this tax is to come on. So I am going to make sure all the Alcoa people in my electorate understand this. The unions will be trying to tell the workers, 'Don't worry about it; we'll look after you.' That'd be right! If you do not have a job, they will not look after you. The workers might want to know the real facts about Alcoa's record, which I have outlined today. I might conclude on the fact that Venezuela has two smelters. I can imagine Hugo Chavez paying a carbon tax and making his country uncompetitive so he cannot get a handle on it! So that is just how ridiculous it is. I am sure that the people whose electorates the mines, refineries and smelters are in know what this government is doing to them and their jobs.

This government has already said that it plans that this policy and this legislation will eventually see $3½ billion a year go straight out of Australian families' pockets and into those of foreign carbon traders—or should I call them foreign carpetbaggers? We know how fraud has been outlined in these trading schemes in Europe—for example, in Finland and Norway, where there are inquiries into these trading schemes. But no: as part of this, we are going to be paying offshore countries billions of dollars. In fact, I see here that it will be $57 billion by 2050. We are going to spend $57 billion overseas.

The amazing thing is: why would we pay somebody in, say, the Ivory Coast or Equatorial Guinea billions of dollars in carbon credits? The fact is that we know that in these sorts of countries they are not meant to cut down trees, but just look at what has happened in the Amazon Basin. Of course they will take the money and put the money in their pocket, but after they have put the money in their pocket they will still probably cut down the trees in any case, because we cannot trust them not to do it. We have seen it happen in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world. In fact, I saw it in Vanuatu when I was there. We are out there trying to help them protect their forests, and they are cutting them down as quick as they can. So this is just a farce, and people are going to see it for what it is worth.

Homebuyers in Western Australia will be affected. Ross North, one of the larger home builders, for example, has estimated that this carbon tax will increase the cost of a new home by $16,000. That is one of the most credible home builders in Western Australia, and those are the figures it has done internally. The mortgage delinquency rate in Western Australia is probably the same as in the rest of Australia, but the delinquency rate in my suburb of Armadale is 2.9 per cent, the sixth highest of any suburb in the country. In Mandurah, another locality, it is 2.7 per cent. The fact that rents will rise and people will be unable to afford to build a house because of the increased costs is something that is going to impact on families and first home buyers.

A survey from the Australian Retailers Association revealed that a massive 83 per cent of retailers expect consumers to spend less as a result of this carbon tax. Eighty-five per cent of those surveyed believe the carbon tax will have a negative impact on their profitability. The survey also found that one-third of retailers will pass the increases on and that jobs will be lost due to the carbon tax. Of course, the independent store owners in my electorate are also very, very concerned about the jobs and the discretionary spending in their supermarket. We know that it is already having an effect on businesses because there is a crisis of confidence in the retail industry, because they are worried about the fact that this government is heading towards a tax that they do not want. The amazing thing is: how many polls do you need to have to convince the other side that people do not want this tax? But it has been rammed down the throats of all Australians, because this government has decided that it is going to just give it to them because Bob Brown has made it do it. Under this toxic tax ratepayers will be paying more as well. When the member for Hotham, Minister Simon Crean, was in my in my electorate recently he tried to come to an RDA forum to tell people in my electorate how good this tax was going to be for them. Can I say on behalf of the member for Hotham and Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government that it was a dismal failure? The headlines in the paper afterwards said that the minister could not answer the questions. When he stood up at these forums—and Alcoa was there—and was asked by local councils and local businesses he struggled with the answers. It was seen for what it was: he did not know the details.

For example, increased electricity charges are going to impact on local governments. Most of my local governments were at this forum and they understood—and this is a very good example of how it is going to impact—that they are going to be hit by something like an extra $200 million a year for tipping fees alone. The Western Australian Local Government Association president, Mayor Troy Pickard, has already indicated that increased costs of electricity cannot be absorbed by their councils. It is already out there, and this was brought up at the RDA forum where the minister was: who is going to pay for the lights to be left on at night when electricity costs go up? The councils say they cannot afford the extra electricity price and the state government says that they are not going to pay for the extra price, so will the lights go off late at night to save electricity? You can imagine the crime that will be pervasive through the community once the street lights go off. It is a crime, in fact, that this is going to be a flow-on effect of this carbon tax into the community. The impact of this on electricity prices will hit ratepayers because they are going to have to pay for the lights to be left on in their streets at night for security reasons. This is just disgraceful.

We are looking at the highest carbon tax of anywhere in the world at $23 a tonne. We know that Europe has 17 per cent and that so many exemptions exist that the whole trading scheme is not working. In fact, as I started by saying, we are here today because the Prime Minister misled us before the election and got herself elected illegitimately at the last election. In this article she said that there would be no carbon tax under the government she led. This is what she said on the front page of this newspaper, that there would be no carbon tax under the government she led. Now she has one, and at the end of the day everybody is going to pay for her misleading statements.

She was one of the gang of four that I understand convinced Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister, to walk away from his carbon trading scheme. She was one of the ones, along with the Treasurer, who convinced him that he should abandon his scheme. Then, going into an election she told us that she would not do that. Straight after the election not only has she dudded the Australian community she has dudded the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. He should feel somewhat aggrieved, as I am sure he does, that he had been misled by his faithful deputy on this issue and that as a result his political assassination was complete.

This is a tax that is not needed, this is a tax that will hurt families, this is a tax that will hurt jobs and it will hurt all Australians because everyone will pay for this toxic tax.