Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 6096

Carbon Pricing

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:35): My question is to Senator Wong, the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Does the minister agree with the Prime Minister's advice to Victorian fruit-packing business Geoffrey Thompson Holdings, which has been hit with a one-month carbon tax bill of over $10,000—a 15 per cent increase—that the business should simply pass on these additional costs to its customers in full? If the minister does not agree with the Prime Minister's proposition, will she at least concede it shows how dreadfully out of touch the government is with Australian agricultural businesses?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:36): First of all, I do not take as read the suggestion from the senator that the cost over a month is as a result of carbon, as she indicated. It may be the case, but—

Opposition senators: She is precious!

Senator WONG: All three of you said it then, so you could at least do it one at a time!

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind senators that interjections across the chamber are disorderly.

Senator WONG: As we have previously discussed in this place on a number of occasions, there have been substantial increases in electricity prices for some years. The vast majority of those have occurred as a result of investment in poles and wires, and the Prime Minister has indicated her intention to work through the COAG process to try to ensure that we see a more efficient way of dealing with these network issues so that consumers are protected from the sorts of price increases we have seen over recent years. On that front, I would certainly disagree with the contention in the senator's question. The Prime Minister is very well aware of the pressures that high electricity prices are causing, which is why she has indicated her intention to work through the COAG process to seek to deal with the driver of the largest component of electricity cost increases, which is infrastructure costs. In relation to agriculture, I would remind the senator that, of course, agriculture is excluded from the carbon price mechanism. In relation to—

Senator Nash: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The minister was specifically asked whether or not she agreed with the Prime Minister that the fruit-packing business should pass on its additional costs caused by the carbon tax in full.

The PRESIDENT: The question was broader than that. The minister is answering the question, and the minister does have 23 seconds still remaining to answer the question.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr President. In relation to the last bit, I was responding to a number of aspects of the question. If the senator only wants to ask one aspect, I am quite happy not to take multibarrelled questions which give me the opportunity to talk about many things. But, when it comes to the impact in terms of price increase, I think the point the Prime Minister was making is that our Household Assistance Package—

Senator Nash: It's not a household.

Senator WONG: does assume cost pass-through.

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that many agricultural businesses like Geoffrey Thompson Holdings supply major supermarkets, what will the government be doing to ensure that the major supermarkets accept the passing on of the additional costs that the Prime Minister is advising?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:39): I think the senator misunderstood my answer to the last question when she interjected that this is not a household. The point I was making is that, in the assessment of what the price impact would be on households, the government did assume cost pass-through, including in the food production sector. So the point is that we assumed that in terms of the amounts that we provided through increased pension, family tax benefits and the tax cuts. In relation to the supermarket issue, I suspect that that is actually the same question which was asked of me a number of days ago—I cannot recall if it was this week or not—in relation to the ACCC. I think it might have been Senator Xenophon, from memory. I would refer the senator to my answer on that issue, because that really deals with the same matter.

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:40): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that businesses like Geoffrey Thompson Holdings have conceded that they 'may have to reduce their workforce to save costs', will the minister be apologising to those workers who will lose their jobs because of Labor's carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:40): That is yet another example of the sort of scare campaign that we have seen from those opposite. What I would remind those opposite of is this fact: that, since we came to government, some 810,000 jobs have been created. I would also remind those opposite that this government, whether through Senator Conroy and the National Broadband Network or through the health portfolio or the education portfolio, is investing more in regional Australia than any government ever in Australia's history. I know it is enormously embarrassing for Senator Nash that she could never deliver this sort of regional investment when Peter Costello was Treasurer, but the fact is that you never did. It is extremely embarrassing, but this Labor government has delivered more than you could ever get out of the Liberals.