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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 5921

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (16:50): The introduction of the carbon tax legislation today formalises a massive deception of the Australian people by this Gillard Labor government. It is a massive deceit by the Prime Minister, and it is a massive deceit by every single Labor member and senator against the people of Australia. History is going to judge harshly every single Labor senator and member across Australia for the bad impact of their broken no-carbon-tax promise on Australia. Yes, it is a broken promise, but it is also a bad tax based on a lie. The lie it is based on—the proposition that is put to us—is that somehow this carbon tax will stop floods, it will stop droughts, it will stop sea levels from rising, it will stop the climate from changing—it will stop every ill under the sun. Nothing could be further from the truth. The carbon tax will push up the cost of everything. It will increase the cost of living, make Australia less competitive inter­nationally, hurt business and cost jobs—all of that without doing anything to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact in the past we were led to believe that the carbon tax and the emissions trading scheme would help to reduce domestic emissions. It will not even do that. Emissions in Australia and emissions in the world will continue to rise even after the Australian Labor Party and the Greens have conspired to impose a carbon tax on the Australian people. This is a carbon tax that we were promised would never happen. It is a carbon tax which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised the Australian people would not happen under a government she leads.

So let us just reflect on what has happened in this parliament today. The government has introduced 19 pieces of legislation—963 pages of it. If those 963 pages are passed by the parliament, it will push up the cost of everything right across Australia. This will put jobs at risk without doing anything to help reduce global greenhouse gas emis­sions. Why would any sensible parliament do that? A sensible parliament, of course, would not. It is our job as parliamentarians—it is our job as senators and it is the job of members in the House of Representatives—to properly scrutinise what the government is proposing to do. It is our job to properly scrutinise the impact of the government's legislation on the cost of living, on the budget, on the economy and on jobs. It is our job to properly scrutinise whether the government's supposed objectives are likely to be achieved, such as the supposed objective of helping to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasing the cost of living will not in itself help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Making Australian manufacturers less competitive is not going to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Making overseas manufacturers in countries where they do not face a carbon tax more competitive than even the most environmentally efficient business in Australia will not help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Helping emitting businesses in other parts of the world to become more competitive, helping them take market share away from businesses in Australia, will only see a shift in emissions to other parts of the world, arguably increasing emissions in those other parts of the world rather than reducing them.

Shifting emissions away from Australia to other parts of the world, shifting emissions to manufacturing businesses in China, the US, India and so on, will impose a sacrifice on businesses in Australia. Yes, it will result in reduced economic activity in Australia and, yes, it will result in lower emissions in Australia than there otherwise would be, but for no reduction in global emissions. That is not effective action on climate change. This is an act of economic self-harm. It is an act of unilateral economic disarmament, as a congressman in the US described it recently.

Quite offensively, in very Orwellian language, the Prime Minister continues to refer to the 500 biggest polluters. What the Prime Minister refers to as the 500 biggest polluters are 500 of our biggest employers. These are 500 of the biggest employers, who are employing Australians. People right across Australia work in those 500 businesses. These are businesses that, over the last 20 years, have made significant efforts to reduce their emissions intensity, to become more energy efficient and to make sure that they are as energy efficient as they possibly can be because it actually makes sense. As Senator Joyce pointed out before, access to electricity is not free. You do not just get given electricity. There is actually a price on carbon in the economy now because you actually have to pay a price for accessing electricity. But what the govern­ment are proposing to do is artificially, through a government tax, push up that cost further. They will artificially impose an additional tax and then they are going to call it a market based solution. It is Orwellian language at its worst to call a government tax a market based mechanism. And people buy this? This is not a market based mechanism. It is what it is: it is a tax.

Our manufacturing industry is already under a lot of pressure. Yes, the carbon tax will be only one of many other pressures. We do have a high Australian dollar and we do have general economic uncertainty in significant parts of the world. There are a range of issues that together impose pressure on the manufacturing sector in Australia. But the carbon tax is a self-inflicted act of additional pressure that the people across Australia, the manufacturing businesses across Australia and the working families across Australia were promised would not happen. Every single one of the senators on the other side went to the last election supporting a Prime Minister who promised that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads. History will judge every single one of those Labor senators and members harshly, and the reason is that, once this tax has been in place for a while, people will understand that it has not done anything to actually help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator Thistlethwaite can smile, but I refer him to the modelling of his own government which shows that, even under their job-destroying, push-up-the-cost-of-living carbon tax, emissions in Australia will continue to go up, from 578 million tonnes of CO2 to 621 million tonnes of CO2. To really put it into perspective, you have to compare the Treasury modelling of 2008 with the Treasury modelling of 2011. In 2020, emissions in China will be 1.8 billion tonnes higher than Treasury thought they would be only three years ago. That is more than three times the annual emissions of Australia.

The terrible thing about all this is that this government is deceiving the Australian people. They are taking advantage of people's goodwill towards the environment. They are trying to make people believe that, somehow, imposing a tax will fix the climate and reduce emissions. It will not do that, and if you look at the fine print you will see that not even the government believe that it will. What do they then do? They say, 'Let's buy some permits in some non-existent inter­national carbon pricing market. Let's send about $650 billion out of Australia into some unidentified locations overseas and buy permits.' They say this so that we can continue to have electricity, to keep the lights on and have businesses that run on electricity so that people can continue to enjoy an appropriate standard of living. They say, 'We are going to send $650 billion overseas. We are going to send $3 billion overseas very soon and about $57 billion, 1.5 per cent of GDP, overseas by 2050.'

This is just reckless. It is a bad tax based on a lie. We were promised that we would not get it. Every single Labor member and senator should be ashamed for supporting a Prime Minister who has so blatantly broken a promise and is now going to hurt the Australian people. (Time expired)