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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 7732


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (13:02): These are very dark days, indeed. Before those on the other side say I am scaremongering, I do not think of myself as somebody who scaremongers or exacer­bates situations. I look at myself as a mother, a wife, a farmer from central western New South Wales and a pretty balanced person when it comes to my approach to how I look at things like the carbon tax. I still come to the conclusion that these are very dark days, indeed.

What we have here is legislation that is based on a lie. We have legislation that is based on probably the biggest lie this nation has ever been told. I know colleagues before me have also raised this issue. That is because it is central to the fact that the Australian people have been misled. I know my colleague Senator Cash yesterday raised this issue in her excellent contribution in the chamber—that the Prime Minister lied to the Australian people. Let us just go back and have a little look at this. Before the last election what was it the Prime Minister said at the time? She said:

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

To me, that is pretty clear. That is pretty simple. That is pretty straightforward. If I was setting out across Australia during the election campaign to cast my vote, I would be thinking, 'Okay, the Australian Labor Party are not going to bring in a carbon tax.' I am pretty sure that is what people would have thought. I am almost certain that is what they would have thought because they were told by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, that there was not going to be a carbon tax under the government she led. So they went to the ballot box and they voted.

Let us step forward a little bit. What do we see now? We see the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, giving the Australian people a carbon tax. I do not think you have to be a rocket scientist or even a kindergar­tener to figure out that the Prime Minister lied to the Australian people. What we have now is a government that was elected on a false pretence. We have a government that was elected on a false promise to the Australian people. And it was barely elected. We have this cobbled together Labor-Greens-Independent govern­ment because the Prime Minister was far more concerned about getting into power than forming a government that could actually run the country properly. She simply had no desire to form a government that could do it properly. The reason I say that is that, sitting here today, it is obvious the government cannot run the country properly because we are dealing with this legislation.

Wayne Swan, the Treasurer, was asked on 15 August 2010, just before the election, about the carbon tax. He said:

Well, certainly what we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax from the Liberals in their advertising. We reject that.

Hysterical? We were spot on. We were right on the money. We were right on the money when we said to the Australian people, 'Beware of what you are about to buy. This Labor Party will give you a carbon tax.' We got told we were hysterical. We were absolutely right. That is not something I am happy about. I am really sad about that. I did not want to be right about that. I did not want to be right about that because we should not be having a carbon tax. Yet we have in front of us the carbon tax that the government promised the Australian people it would not bring in.

I am not sure whether it makes me completely furious or incredibly sad that we have a government that, on an issue of this nature, would tell the Australian people one thing and then do completely the opposite. Even if we take into account the fact that it was a mistake and the Prime Minister did not mean to do it—I do not think that was the case, but let us give her the benefit of the doubt for a moment—let us go to another election. Let us not introduce the carbon tax until after the next election. We could do then what we are doing at the moment: we could have the debate, we could have the vote and we could determine the future of this legislation. I simply say to the government, 'Say that you will not bring this carbon tax in until after the next election.' Why wouldn't the government do that?

Senator Cash: Because they'd lose!

Senator NASH: It just seems to be very sensible. Senator Cash says it is because they will lose. That is the reason this government does not have the courage to stand up for what it believes in and take this legislation to the next election—it knows it will lose. We know it will lose because I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber and in the other place have been out there on the ground speaking to people on the streets, in the villages and in the communities for years and years about this issue. They tell us overwhelmingly that they do not want a carbon tax.

On the North Coast recently I conducted a poll in the newspaper. Of course it was not a detailed poll like some of them are, but I thought it might give us a bit of an indication. We asked people to vote on a simple question: do you want a carbon tax? Two people were undecided, 136 wanted a carbon tax and 1,591 people did not. I know it was not conclusive poll, I am the first to admit that, but you do not have to be a kindergartener to figure out that it gives you a reasonably good indication of what people on the ground are thinking. Those people who want a carbon tax had just as much opportunity to respond to my poll as those who do not want one. So if it is the case that people want a carbon tax, why did they not respond? It is because they know that this legislation is not going to achieve what the government wants it to. They know it is going to be a whacking great tax that will not make the slightest bit of difference to the climate. They know that. The Australian people are not stupid; they know what is going on here.

When you look at the Clean Energy Bill 2011, you can see that among its objects it intends:

(b)   to support the development of an effective global response to climate change, consistent with Australia’s national interest in ensuring that average global temperatures increase by not more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels;

Support the development of an effective global response! Nobody else in the world is doing what we are about to do. It is a fact. The Productivity Commission even said recently:

… no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on carbon emissions or has in place an economy-wide permit scheme.

So why are we doing this? Why are we the ones who have to be out there on the world stage leading the way, when no other country is doing what we are about to do? Even back in 2007, the Productivity Commission said:

Independent action by Australia to substantially reduce GHG emissions, in itself, would deliver barely discernible climate benefits, but could be nationally very costly.

You think? You only have to look at what the government is putting forward to see the cost impact this is going to have. You know that this is going to have an enormous impact on our families, and our families get it. They get it. Why are we doing this? I take senators back to 16 June, when Senator Boswell asked during question time:

My question is for the minister for climate change. Can the minister explain what purpose it will serve for Australia to enter into a carbon tax when our emissions are only 1.4 per cent but, in comparison, China's carbon emissions will rise by 496 per cent and India's emissions will rise by 350 per cent by 2020?

Do you know what the minister, Senator Wong, said in response?

The answer to it is this: because Australians are not slackers.

There is a good reason for us to impose on the Australian people a massive great tax that is not going to change the climate one little bit: because, apparently, we are not slackers. I am sorry; I actually require a bit more than that as a reason for the government of a nation to impose a carbon tax that is going to reconfigure our economy and hit regional communities harder than anywhere else but will not make the slightest bit of difference to the climate. The legislation before us is probably the worst piece of legislation we have ever seen in this place.

Senator Joyce: And that's saying something.

Senator NASH: That is saying something. We emit 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions, but we are going to have this whacking great tax that will not change the climate one little bit. No amount of debate—I do not care how many hours of debate we listen to in the other chamber and in this place—can take away from the fact that this piece of legislation is not going to change the climate one little bit. The government says, 'Oh, we're going to compensate,' because we on this side of the chamber are giving the Australian people facts. We are not scaremongering when we tell them exactly how this is going to hit their hip pocket. Electricity, fuel, transport—it is going to hit their hip pocket, there are no two ways about it. As my good colleague and leader, Senator Joyce, says, it is going to come at you out of the shopping trolley and it is going to come at you out of the power point. The Australian people understand that the costs will be passed on. And the government admit that, because they have put in place a compensation package. By the very fact that they have put a compensation package in place, they have admitted that those companies will pass the costs on. How is it actually going to change the behaviour of those companies, which is what the government are trying to do, if they are going to pass the costs on and not bear the cost burden?

The compensation is very interesting, because guess what, colleagues? It is not ongoing. It is not going to go on forever into the future. It is not going to be rolling compensation that goes on for decades. This carbon tax is going to go on and on and on, which means the costs are going to go on and on and on. So the compensation in its theoretical form, from the other side of this chamber, is going to be very short lived. What is even more astounding—I should not actually be astounded by this, colleagues; we should not be at all surprised—is that the government have done part of their compensation as a one-off, upfront, lump sum payment before the commencement of the carbon pricing scheme. This advance payment is designed to cover a period of six to 18 months, depending on the type of welfare payment that a person is receiving.

Does this government learn nothing? A lump sum payment—let me see, colleagues. Let us go back to—oh, I don't know—maybe the $900 payment that went out from the government during the global financial crisis. What did we see then but a splash of activity, and the feedback coming from clubs and shops—for example, places selling plasma TVs—was that their profits went through the roof. Does the government really think that giving a one-off payment to tide people over for the next 18 months is really the smartest thing to do? Does it think that is a really clever way of dealing with compensation? The more important thing is that it is not ongoing, and under this government the carbon tax will be—and that is the very difference.

The impact on the regions is going to be enormous. While the government keeps saying, 'Agriculture is not included,' we know that down the track, when there is a review, there is capacity for agriculture to be included. This is not going off into the never-never of 'agriculture is going to be out forever'. It is simply not true. Putting that to one side, that is a separate issue anyway, because even if agricultural emissions are excluded, farmers are still going to bear all of those associated costs—fuel, transport, electricity, fertiliser. Farmers are going to get hit harder than those in so many other parts of our economy, much harder. What is extraordinary is that this government thinks that is okay.

Farmers are at the bottom of the food chain, and so often we have absolutely nowhere to pass costs on. But this govern­ment thinks that is fine. This government thinks it is fine for regional communities to be harder hit than anywhere else. This government thinks it is fine for farmers to bear the brunt financially of a whacking great new tax that is not going to change the climate one little bit. If I could come up with a better word for it, I would, but at the moment all I can come up with is 'stupid'. It is just stupid legislation from this govern­ment because it is not even going to achieve what the government is trying to achieve. The cost to farmers is going to be huge. Jock Laurie, the President of the National Farmers Federation, recently said:

Food processors are facing millions of dollars in higher costs as a result of the carbon tax, particularly through increased electricity prices, and many have said that the only way they can recoup this cost is to pass it on to their suppliers—our farmers.

That is precisely what is going to happen, colleagues. We have examples.

Under a carbon tax, the Murray Goulburn Co-operative's costs are going to go up over $5,000 per farmer, paid for by farmers. We are going to see rice farmers' costs, on average, increase around $10,000 a farm. The power increases are going to sit with our farmers. The power and gas bill for an average horticultural farm in the central west of New South Wales is going to go up to $50,000 a year. These are just tiny examples of the very real effect that this tax is going to have on people not only in our regional communities but right across the regions.

The end result: by 2020, what is going to happen? Our emissions are actually going to increase from around 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes. We are doing all of this, putting all of this pain on the Australian people, for an increase in global emissions. I am back to that word again, colleagues. It is stupid. It is simply stupid.

I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber will not give up. We have fought this fight for a long time, even back when we had the initial debate around the emissions trading scheme that the government wanted to bring in. I commend my colleagues on this side of the chamber for having the guts to stand up and say, 'This country does not want an emissions trading scheme.' Some of them are here in the chamber with me at the moment: Senator Joyce, Senator Bernardi, Senator Cash. There were so many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber who fought and fought to allow the Australian people to have their voice because they did not want an emissions trading scheme.

And now, today, we have this carbon tax legislation before us. To anyone listening out there, I can only say: please don't stop. Contact the Prime Minister, contact your local Labor member and contact the ministers. If you do not want this carbon tax, you tell them, and do not stop telling them. Let them know exactly what we think. We know what you think about it, people out in the Australian communities. You make sure you tell the Prime Minister of this country that you do not want a carbon tax.

I know that on this side of the chamber we will not step back one moment from trying everything we possibly can to ensure, under this government, that we do not have a carbon tax. But we can absolutely promise the Australian people that if the coalition is in government we will rescind this tax. There will be no carbon tax under a coalition government, and the reason we are so resolved about this is that we know it is wrong. We know the Australian people do not want it, and our job is to make sure we do the right thing by them. We know that this tax is not even going to do what the government intends it to do, and how stupid is that! It is a whacking new tax that is going to affect all Australian people and it is not going to change the climate one little bit.