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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4695


Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (16:00): Here we have it again, another Orwellian motion from the Orwellian writers of the Liberal Party. The only major party in this parliament doing anything about climate change and spreading the benefits of the mining boom and border protection is the Australian Labor Party. All those opposite ever do is say no to policy reform in these areas. In fact, they are so negative that their spokesperson on immigration said on 7.30 the other evening that he would even vote against their own policy in the parliament if it were put forward by the Australian Labor Party. That shows the credentials of those opposite when it comes to serious consideration and resolution of issues, in particular the most pressing issue facing our nation at the moment—that is, border protection. I will come to that in a moment.

In respect of climate change, it is a complete furphy that the Labor Party is not delivering on its commitments. Nine out of 10 climate scientists all agree that human induced global warming is pushing up the planet's temperature and that, if we do not do something about it, there will be catastrophic economic and social consequences. The Stern review and the Garnaut review were the most comprehensive economic and scientific studies into this issue. In the wake of those reviews, Australia made an international commitment to reduce emissions by five per cent by 2020. The opposition has now adopted that target and we have the same target for the reduction of emissions in our economy—five per cent by 2020.

The question then becomes: how do we achieve that in the most efficient method? There have been no fewer than 37 parliamentary inquiries in this parliament into that very question. Each and every one of them has recommended a market based mechanism as the most effective, efficient and cheapest way to reduce emissions in our economy. That was the finding of the Shergold review, implemented by John Howard when he was Prime Minister of this country.

What is this parliament to do? Ignore those 37 parliamentary inquiries, ignore all of the work conducted by those experts into this issue? We would be fools, and the Australian public would see us as such, if we were to ignore the advice of those experts. That is why Labor is implementing its policy of a market based mechanism to reduce carbon emissions in our economy over time.

We all know that households, families, have made changes to their behaviour to reduce emissions and their carbon footprint. They have been involved, at increasing cost, in refitting their houses, installing energy efficient light bulbs, refitting their showerheads and investing in low-emission vehicles instead of gas guzzlers. Households and families have made a commitment to reduce their carbon emissions. This government believes it is about time that big business and big companies that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of emissions in our economy did the same thing, that they pulled their weight and took on some of the responsibility that households in this country have taken to reduce emissions. That is what our plan is all about.

Three hundred companies will pay a price for the right to pollute. There will be cost increases. We have never said there will not be. There is no cost-free way to reduce emissions in our economy, despite what those opposite would like the Australian public to believe. There will be costs associated with it and we have asked Treasury to model those. The modelling has estimated that the cost impact on the CPI will be 0.7 per cent, one fifth of the cost impact of the goods and services tax when it was introduced by the Howard government. When that was done, Treasury modelled the cost impacts of the GST. They said that the cost impact would be 2.49 per cent on the CPI. What did it come in at? It came in at 2.5 per cent. They were spot on then with their modelling and they will be spot on again—0.7 per cent on the CPI will be the cost impact of Labor's clean energy future package. On average, households will receive $10.10 per week to compensate them for the average rise to the CPI of $9.90 per week.

And we have given extra powers to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to prosecute companies who seek to price gouge and take advantage of the fundamental change which will be occurring in our economy over the coming months and years. The longer we wait to take action on climate change the greater the cost will be and the greater the cost will be for future generations of Australians. It will not be us who will be paying it if we do not do something now; it will be our children and our grandchildren. They would pay hell of a lot more than we would to deal with this issue. That is why we are acting on climate change and that is why we have implemented the Clean Energy Future package.

The second element of this goes to the mining boom and the mining tax. Well, Labor have delivered the minerals resource rent tax. We have seen that these companies are making super profits, many of them international companies sending some of those profits overseas—profits from minerals that belong to the Australian people. We have seen that the royalty system that the states have is inefficient and does not tax properly the returns that people are getting from some of these mines. That is why we implemented the minerals resource rent tax in consultation with representatives of the mining industry. What will that deliver? It will deliver an increase in superannuation from nine to 12 per cent over the next eight years, boosting retirement incomes for Australians. It will also deliver greater investment in rural and regional infrastructure—in roads, rail and ports—in some of these important mining towns that are crying out for sufficient investment in their infrastructure.

Through other policies, we are spreading the benefits of the mining boom. We understand that Australian families who are not in the fast lane in our economy are feeling the effects of cost-of-living increases. That is why we are implementing tax cuts through the recent budget. Anyone on less than $80,000 will receive a tax cut of $300 per year on average. We are tripling the tax-free threshold, taking it from $6,000 to $18,000—a great win for people on low incomes, as most of them will now pay no tax. They will pay no tax under Labor, which is a great incentive for those people.

We are introducing the schoolkids bonus because we understand there are cost pressures associated with sending kids to school. Families will get compensation in the form of $410 for primary school students and $820 for high school students. We have implemented a supplementary payment to ensure that families can meet electricity and gas price increases, the majority of which are due to network upgrades being undertaken by state governments, which have offered insufficient rebates to families and households to cover the cost of these network upgrades. We are not doing that. We understand these cost pressures and so we are providing people with sufficient compensation, not only through the Clean Energy Future package but also through a supplementary payment to help meet those cost increases. We are increasing family tax benefits to ensure that those who are on the lowest incomes in our economy get the extra support they need to make the transition to a clean energy future. We have increased our investment in the areas of disability support and aged care, with a $1 billion investment over the coming financial year in the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and extra money for aged care—in particular, for home-care support.

How would those opposite spread the benefits of the mining boom? We do not know. We do not know because they will not tell us. All they have told us is that they oppose the minerals resource rent tax. They oppose taxing the biggest miners and using that revenue to spread the benefits to families in this country. They oppose that. What we do know is that they are planning $70 billion worth of cuts to services—$70 billion. At each and every opportunity I ask them: what will those cuts involve? Will it be Medicare? Will it be the childcare rebate? Will it be pensions?

Senator Brandis: Mr Deputy President, on a point of order: the senator is misleading the Senate in a wilful manner, because he knows that the opposition has not said that—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: In fact, we have said the opposite.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is a debating point, Senator Brandis. There is no point of order. Senator Thistlethwaite.

Senator THISTLETHWAITE: Senator Brandis could put that to bed by coming out and saying they will not cut those services in any way—

Senator Brandis: I just said that!

Senator THISTLETHWAITE: but he knows he cannot. (Time expired)