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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 5763

Carbon Pricing

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to Budget Paper No. 1, which shows that the government will raise about $18 billion in carbon tax revenue over the first three years of the world's biggest carbon tax. Why will Australia's 23 million people pay an average $115 million per week over the next three years when the 502 million people in the 30-nation European Union ETS will pay only $23 million per week? Is the minister aware that the government is imposing a carbon tax burden on Australians which is five times higher than that in the 30-nation European ETS, a regional grouping whose collective GDP is 14 times the size of ours here in Australia? Why is the government so intent on pushing up the cost of living and the cost of doing business in Australia by more than any other government in any other country in the world?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:01): I congratulate the senator for yet again managing to get the tactics committee to give him a head start. It does not appear to be very democratic over there, but he certainly does very well in terms of getting a number of questions.

Of course the question put to me is not really a question; it is another rant which includes a whole range of assertions, some of which may not be correct. There is really no question at the end of it, because the senator and the opposition are not interested in actually asking a question. They are simply interested in bringing into this place the same sort of dishonest scare campaign that we saw for months and months and months in the lead-up to 1 July and which we are still seeing.

Although I note that Mr Abbott is starting to backtrack ever so slightly in his comments today on electricity prices from the previous position where he denounced the Prime Minister's proposition that there are other things at play in electricity prices as an absolute furphy. So we are seeing even Mr Abbott starting to shift back when it comes to the scare campaign because he knows that it is no longer tenable to be telling people that the carbon price will shut down all industries. He knows that it is no longer tenable to be telling people that Whyalla will be wiped off the face of the map. This is the harsh reality that those opposite are dealing with.

As the senator knows, we have put in place a comprehensive package, a package which also addresses international competitiveness through the provision of free permits, something which is not addressed in the coalition's policy which would simply impose a tax on all Australian households of $1,300 a year. The highest carbon price on offer is that proposed by those opposite. (Time expired)

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister also aware that the Gillard government's carbon tax burden imposed on Australians is nearly 20 times larger than the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scheme in the United States, which covers 10 American states with a population more than double the size of ours? Why is the Gillard government so intent on pushing up the cost of living and the cost of doing business in Australia by so much more than in the US?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:04): The first point I would make in terms of cost of living is that the CPI impact is substantially less than the GST when it was introduced. If those opposite are concerned about the cost of living, they can explain why a 2.5 per cent increase in the CPI was okay but a 0.7 per cent increase to the CPI with associated tax cuts and increases to the pension and family tax benefit is somehow not okay. It beggars belief.

In terms of the costs, I would make this point. The Climate Institute expect Britain to have a carbon price of $24 to $30 a tonne over the next few years; Sweden, $130 a tonne; Switzerland, $30 to $60; Norway, $53; and Ireland $24 to $37 a tonne—self-evidently not what Senator Cormann is suggesting, but quite the opposite to what Senator Cormann is suggesting. Again I mention this: Senator Cormann always fails to consider the impact of free permits, which reduce the carbon impact for the most emission-intensive trade exposed industries to about $1.30 a tonne.

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:05): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The minister of course is well aware that Europe also has free permits, and of course she always forgets to mention that. Why is the Gillard government introducing the world's biggest carbon tax, which will do nothing to reduce global emissions, when no other nation is imposing a similar burden on its export and import competing industries and households, because that is exactly what you are doing? You are imposing an economy-wide carbon tax which is the biggest in the world.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:05): This the same tired old speech that we have heard ad nauseam from those opposite, the same tired old speech that we hear over and over again. Why are you so intent on rolling back the tax cuts and increasing the income tax rates for every Australian on under $80,000? Why do you hate small business so much that you want to take their tax breaks from them? Why have you been telling Australian pensioners that you are somehow going to remove the increase to the pension that this government has put in place? Why are you seeking to impose the largest carbon tax, $1,300 on every Australian household in additional tax, to achieve the same environmental outcome—more cost to the economy, more cost to households, more cost to business?