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Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Page: 8157


Senator CASH (10:11 AM) —I rise to speak against the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and the series of associated bills that are now before the Senate. On 13 August 2009, some three months ago now, I, along with all other non-government senators, voted down the Rudd government’s so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Why did we do this? The reason was very clear: Labor’s legislation was fundamentally flawed. If it had passed, this is the effect that it would have had: it would have harmed Australian exports; it would have harmed Australian jobs; it would have harmed investment in Australia; and, almost worse than that, it would have harmed the environment through carbon leakage. Whilst it may have resulted in a decrease in domestic emissions, it would have resulted in an increase in overall global emissions.

But do these fundamental flaws in this legislation mean anything to Rudd Labor? No, of course they do not. And we have proof of that: in summing up the case before the Senate in August 2009, this is what Senator Wong said:

… these bills may be going down today, but this is not the end.

            …         …         …

We will press forward and on with this reform for as long as we have to. We will bring these bills back before the end of the year …

and that is what we have today. Labor have brought the exact same legislation back to this Senate. Have Labor listened to any of the serious concerns raised in relation to this legislation? Quite simply: no. As Senator Macdonald so eloquently said when he addressed this chamber, what we are speaking to today is that same legislation that was comprehensively rejected by the Greens, the coalition, Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding some three months ago. It is back in the parliament with not one alteration or amendment. That is the absolute height of Labor arrogance.

We are now just weeks away from the Copenhagen climate conference, and what we have before us is a Labor government that is frozen in time, a Labor government that refuses to acknowledge its serious mistakes with this legislation. We have a government that is currently asking the Senate to pass legislation that it knows, if passed, will result in action being taken at the expense of the Australian people and is likely to achieve the perverse outcome of increasing global emissions. Labor is asking the Senate to support legislation that manifestly fails to achieve its stated objectives.

But does that stop the self-engrossed, self-obsessed, international egotist Mr Rudd? No, of course not. Mr Rudd has told the parliament that, regardless of the legislation’s consequences, regardless of the fact that there will be no positive benefit to the environment, regardless of the recent events at APEC and the fact that the Copenhagen conference commences in approximately two weeks, Australians must have the Rudd Labor ETS no matter how flawed. Does this man’s arrogance know any limits? Clearly not.

As was reported in the Australian newspaper yesterday, Mr Rudd told the parliament on Monday that the clock is ticking on climate change and he has vowed to press ahead with the CPRS legislation before the conference. The only clock that is ticking is Mr Rudd’s dream to be a hero on the world stage, and that is a dream that is fading rapidly. What we have before us today is legislation that is nothing more and nothing less than political convenience aimed at portraying Mr Rudd in a positive light internationally at the expense of the Australian people. That is shameful and it is un-Australian.

In contrast, however, the coalition has listened to the serious concerns of industry, employers, employees and Australian families and has put forward a number of substantial amendments to this flawed legislation that will address the potential loss of jobs, the likelihood of sending industry offshore, increased electricity costs, the outstanding issues raised by agriculture and increased cost of living.

What do we have from Rudd Labor to date? We have the announcement that it will exclude agriculture from its scheme. What a concession! That was always a major flaw in this legislation. If there is to be a scheme, agriculture should never have been mooted for inclusion, in line with what has gone on in Europe and the United States. The fact that Labor had the audacity to moot agriculture for inclusion shows just how flawed this legislation actually is.

We all know that Labor specialises in spin over substance, and it was interesting to read Mr Swans’s contribution to this debate in the House of Representatives. In his contribution he said:

At the end of the day what it means to the average Australian is jobs … The scheme is designed to help support the jobs of today, while creating the low-pollution jobs for the future.

Well, Mr Swan, let us now look at the evidence that has been put forward in the Senate inquiries and see if what you have said is factual or whether it is just more Labor spin and rhetoric. The evidence given to the Senate inquiries is quite clear. In asking the Senate to pass this legislation before the international community has collaborated, the Rudd government is going to impose on Australian industry a massive taxation burden and one that our competitors will not bear. So what we have is the Treasurer of Australia supporting legislation that will seriously damage our competitive position, harm Australian jobs and see CO2 emissions rise.

Time and time again, in inquiry after inquiry, the Senate heard evidence that the bottom-line impact of the Rudd Labor scheme is that it will cost Australia jobs, contrary to what Mr Swan has told the parliament. The Minerals Council of Australia has stated that the CPRS legislation in its current form will cost over 66,000 jobs. The Access Economics report commissioned by none other than the state premiers, all but one of whom are Labor, said that it will cost no fewer than 13,000 jobs in my home state of Western Australia alone. I will continue to stand up for the interests of Western Australia, even if those Labor senators opposite will sell it out to a spin driven political timetable of convenience.

Mr Swan also said in his contribution:

The reality is that those opposite have never faced up to a hard decision. They can never absolutely face up to the decisions that go to the core of our economic prosperity.

If that is not spin over substance, I do not know what is. Mr Swan knows that the reality is that when Labor came into government it inherited no debt, billions of dollars in the bank and the best financial regulatory system in the world. Mr Swan in his role as Treasurer has destroyed it all. Now Mr Swan is asking the people of Australia to believe that he is part of a government that is going to take responsible action on the environment. The public are not fools, even though Mr Swan and Labor would treat them as though they are.

Labor with its spin and rhetoric has, over the last 18 months, conveniently stifled any real debate on the issue of climate change. I agree with Professor Bob Carter from James Cook University, who recently said:

The current public “debate” on climate is not so much a debate as it is an incessant and shrill campaign to scare citizens into accepting dramatic changes in their way of life in pursuit of the false god of preventing dangerous global warming.

If you dare to question the impact of Mr Rudd’s legislation, you are derided as a sceptic, no matter how valid your concerns might be. God forbid you bother to read the legislation, as I have done, and then raise questions about its impact on the Australian economy and on Australian jobs. Mr Rudd derides you as a climate sceptic. God forbid you read the legislation, as we on this side have done, and you then raise concerns about the potential for carbon leakage and an increase in global emissions. Mr Rudd derides you as a climate sceptic. God forbid you raise concerns about the potential for industry to move offshore. Mr Rudd again derides you as a climate sceptic.

Well, Mr Rudd, despite your deliberate attempt to disguise and shroud the true nature of this legislation, the Australian people will not be conned. They are awake to the nasty little surprise that Rudd Labor have in store for them. It is a nasty little surprise in the form of a tax, a tax on the Australian people—the ETS tax. Yes, that is right: mums and dads of Australia, if this legislation passes in this form, everything that you touch will be tainted by Labor’s tax. Every time you turn your lights on, every time you buy something, every time you cook a meal, Labor’s tax will be there staring you in the face. You will pay for Labor’s arrogance and incompetence, with no benefit to the environment. It is proven that Labor’s scheme will push up electricity prices. Guess who invests most of their money in paying for electricity and in paying for energy? The poor and the elderly. The poor and the elderly will pay the price under Labor’s legislation.

For those of you who say, ‘But we will not know the real impact of the scheme until after it is brought in,’ let us look at the recent analysis of the EU emissions trading scheme prepared by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which reveals the high costs being imposed on British and European consumers by the EU emissions trading scheme. Their report says:

The burden on consumers since the scheme was introduced on 1 January 2005 has been significant.

At page 3 of the report it is estimated that the ETS cost British consumers nearly £3 billion in 2008 alone, equivalent to around £117 per family, by increasing the cost of energy. Too bad if you are poor or elderly in that country. This figure increases to £132 per family if you look at the cost of the scheme on consumers from its introduction to the end of 2008 in all ETS participating countries. So, mums and dads, if this legislation passes, prepare for a hefty increase in your household energy costs.

But that is not the only nasty little surprise that the Labor Party have in store for the people of Australia. As part of their so-called action on climate change they have conveniently hidden from the people of Australia the details of the current Copenhagen draft treaty which, if you read it, effectively gives complete power over the Australian economy to a committee of unelected UN carbon regulators controlled by those claiming climate compensation from Australia. So much for open and transparent government. The question for advocates of this scheme is: how could any thinking person acting in the national interest actually endorse such flawed legislation? The answer to that is: perhaps because this legislation is being run to a political timetable as opposed to one that underpins good public policy. That is why those opposite are so keen to see the Senate pass this legislation next week.

Minister Wong’s claims that the legislation must be passed to provide momentum to the crucial UN negotiations in Copenhagen in December are absolutely absurd given the events of the last week. Based on what has now happened at the APEC conference in Singapore, based on what we now know is the likely outcome of the Copenhagen conference, is the minister still so deluded to actually believe that the world is waiting with bated breath to see what Australia, with a mere 1.4 per cent of global emissions, is actually going to do to tackle so-called climate change? I think not. Let us not forget that this is the minister who tirelessly trumpeted a 2010 start date because the world was going to end. Then what happened? A political decision was made by her leader and, guess what, the start date became 2011. She then appeared in this chamber as if nothing had happened and trumpeted a 2011 start date.

Consistency of argument will never ever get in the way of those on the other side when they are trying to sell Mr Rudd’s message of the day. Mr Rudd and Minister Wong need to understand that, while they may delude themselves over their own self-importance, the world leaders at APEC have dismissed their delusional state of mind and have made it very, very clear that they have not fallen for their ETS stunt. Our international competitors must be rubbing their hands with glee at Mr Rudd’s insistence at strutting the world stage and promoting himself rather than protecting Australian jobs.

As a senator for Western Australia I have to again put on the record that Western Australia is being short-changed by the current legislation. Why? It is a failure by those on the other side to recognise the disparity between the national electricity market and the Western Australian electricity market in relation to the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme. This failure and the resulting detrimental impact on Western Australia will see electricity generators in WA pay more for the price of their electricity.

This detrimental impact is not new. It has been raised time and time again by Griffin Energy and by senators on this side of the chamber with the minister over the last 18 months. Griffin Energy have even provided the Labor Party with the appropriate amendments that would actually rectify this appalling situation. What have the Labor Party done to date? Absolutely nothing. They have done nothing to rectify a serious issue in relation to a flaw in this legislation that will detrimentally impact upon Western Australia. Labor senators from WA on the other side should hang their heads in shame at their failure to stand up for Western Australia, to stand up for industry in Western Australia and to stand up for jobs in Western Australia. Prior to the 2007 election Prime Minister Rudd, as the then opposition leader, said:

In taking the lead before an effective international agreement is in place, it is also vitally important that a domestic scheme does not undermine Australia’s competitiveness and provides mechanisms to ensure that Australian operations of energy-intensive trade-exposed firms are not disadvantaged.

That is nothing more and nothing less than Ruddspeak for, ‘The Australian people are fools and that is the way I am going to treat them.’ The Rudd Labor CPRS fails on all counts. It will cost Australians their jobs, it will kill investment in Australia and it will do very little, if anything, to reduce CO2 emissions. The bill that we have before us is absolutely self-defeating. It is not good public policy and under no circumstances should it be supported.