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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 7836


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (21:08): I commence by saying that this tax is about the great betrayal, the great betrayal of our Prime Minister, our Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr Swan, and those others who have supported this government into power. I refer to Mr Windsor, the member for New England. Just prior to the 21 August election, ABC radio in Tamworth, hosted by Kelly Fuller, on the morning show, was interviewing the candidates for the seat of New England. She put the question to Mr Windsor: 'Mr Windsor, you put a private member's bill into the House of Representa­tives when the emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, was the saviour of the world. Your private member's bill wants a 30 per cent reduction by 2020 on 1990 levels and a massive 80 per cent reduction by 2050 on 1990 levels.' Mr Windsor said: 'No, Kelly, that wasn't my bill. I just put that into parliament of behalf of some of my constituents.' He shirked the question. He misled his people of New England. Then he comes out afterwards and says, 'I have always wanted a price on carbon.' No, he has not. He misled the people of New England, and if they had known beforehand that he wanted to drive this whole carbon tax emissions trading scheme debate they would not have voted for him.

Mr Windsor is a great one to survey his electorate. He did a survey in his electorate on tax reform, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. But when he came into the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee that he insisted, in his deal with Ms Gillard to put her into government, that she form, he drove it as much as or even more than the Greens. But he would not answer an honest question from Kelly Fuller just prior to the election.

People might say this is all being driven by the Greens. No, the Independents have driven it. I will get on to the other Independ­ent, the other betrayer of his electorate, Mr Oakeshott. A freedom of information inquiry by MP Jamie Briggs shows that months before the announcement of this Mr Oakeshott was working in conjunction with Ms Gillard to set up this whole carbon tax.

We have not heard a solid argument from the government. Perhaps when Senator Conroy addresses the chamber on his attitude to the carbon tax we might hear the real facts and might even give some argument for it. But I doubt it very much. I doubt that will happen. I just do not think Senator Conroy will give a convincing speech in this parliament about why he thinks we should have a carbon tax. We will wait and see. I notice he is not on the speakers list yet. That will come later, I am sure.

Let us look at Australia's emissions: 578 million tonnes this year. That will go, by Treasury's figures, to 621 million tonnes come 2020.

Senator Conroy: Is that weightless?

Senator WILLIAMS: No, it does weigh. That is why when you drive along the road at 100 kilometres an hour and you put your arm out the window it actually affects your arm. It does have weight. Let us go back to one of the big issues, the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, that terrible day when we lost so many lives and there was so much destruction. It was estimated that 90 million tonnes of CO2 went into the atmosphere. Half of that came from national parks. Let us go back to national parks. Who drives the national parks? It is the Greens: lock up country and leave it. You are not allowed to graze it; you are not allowed to reduce fuel levels. Then when you get the 42-degree hot day with a howling wind it is out of control and you have got 50, 100 or 150 tonnes of fuel per hectare on the ground. So the lack of management is what is driving these increas­ed emissions. When I put the question to the department, 'What about bushfires?' they said, 'No, we don't count them because after a bushfire it rains and the grass grows, so that abates what the fire put into the atmosphere.' How crazy is that?

Let us move on to the emissions. As I said, we are going up 43 million tonnes. It is interesting to see the Treasury figures on China. This year China will produce 10.3 billion tonnes. That will go up to 17.9 billion tonnes, an increase of 7,600 million tonnes a year by China alone, by 2020. And what we are going to do is going to change the planet? No, it is not. It is not going to change anything. It is going to change the cost of doing business and the cost of living. That is what it will change.

It is interesting that the Greens want to stop the burning of fossil fuels, of coal, and shut down all the coalmines. Let us have a look at what China burnt last year. China burnt 3.2 billion tonnes of coal. They increased their consumption of coal in that one year by a massive 435 million tonnes. How much is 435 million tonnes of coal, just as the increase? Last year Australia produced in total 420 million tonnes. So China's increased consumption of coal in 12 months was more than the whole of production of coal in Australia for 12 months. They are now actually producing 51 per cent of the world's coal themselves. China produces a lot of coal. We know that China went up 435 million tonnes to 3.2 billion tonnes of coal. In 2010 coal consumption increased by 5.7 per cent in the United States. It increased by 4.8 per cent in the European Union. It increased by 15.1 per cent in China, by 4.2 per cent in the United Kingdom and by 5.5 per cent in Germany. And what about in Australia? It fell by 3.6 per cent through direct action, through having gas-fired power stations. We actually reduced our consumpt­ion of coal by 3.6 per cent. We did not have a carbon tax to do it. You do not need a tax if you want to change the way you carry out your business. Those statistics are from an International Energy Agency document on coal information, dated August 2011. By 2020 we are going to see China's CO2 emissions go up by 7,600 million tonnes a year and Australia's by 43 million tonnes a year. That is not including the bushfires. Come January or February next year, with all the fuel from the good seasons we have had, thankfully, for the last 12 or 18 months, it will be another scary time.

If the government is serious about reduc­ing emissions, why is it putting a tax on liquid petroleum gas? LPG is the cleanest fuel you can burn in your motor vehicle. It has 13 per cent less emissions than petrol or diesel. And it is Australian produced; it is not imported. This December the government is going to put a tax of 2.5c a litre on the cleanest fuel we have on the planet. Of course, by 2015 that will go to 12½c. I have been around long enough, and I am sure others in the chamber have been too, to know that if you want to lose an election, you should upset the taxidrivers. They get 90 million taxi fares a year and 95 per cent of the cabbies' vehicles run on gas—and you are going to tax the cleanest fuel, which causes the least pollution. That is the way to get the taxidrivers talking to those 90 million people they cart around every year. If you want to lose an election, get the cabbies on the wrong side of you. It is just amazing.

The biggest loser from this tax will be regional Australia. Already regional Australia has the highest electricity costs. The 10 or 15 per cent added to our electricity bills is on a higher base for regional Australia. The government says agriculture is not included. What about the increases in the price of electricity used for running farms and workshops, for piggeries or irrigation pumps? What about the fertiliser? What about the fuel? Those in regional Australia are the ones that are going to pay the most.

It is interesting that New South Wales Treasury figures show that the carbon tax will lead to 31,000 jobs being lost in that state alone, 26,000 of which will be in regional Australia. The Hunter will be the hardest hit, with over 18,000 people likely to lose employment. But that does not seem to worry the member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Maybe he does worry but is too frightened to speak out on this very issue. That is what is going to happen to jobs, according to the New South Wales government's Treasury figures.

The Senate Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes held a hearing in Tamworth. I often talk in this place about the Bindaree Beef abattoir, based in Inverell, which employs 630 people. They are competing on a world market, trying to export beef into places like Korea, Japan, and even Europe, the home of subsidies—which hopefully will stop soon now that those governments are all broke. And it is time that America dumped their subsidies on their farmers as well. This tax is going to cost Bindaree Beef $1.74 million in its first year.

Just a couple of weeks ago the abattoir in Grafton fell over. A lot of jobs were lost. It is a tough industry; I know it is a tough industry. I could take you to many places where the abattoirs have shut down. I could take you to Coonamble or across to Byron Bay or to Gunnedah or to Mudgee. I could take you down to Forbes. We have had troubles at Wagga Wagga. We are going to put this cost on Australian meat processors, but their competitors overseas are not going to face it. JBS Swift is a Brazilian company that has invested in many abattoirs here in Australia. This is going to cost their largest abattoir at Ipswich $3.3 million a year.

Let us look at our regional councils. The Tamworth council have announced that they will need $300,000 extra just for electricity. There will be extra road-building costs. For what? What is it going to achieve? I have already given you the figures for the increase in China's CO2 emissions. This very tax is an attack on regional Australia.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council estimates that dairy-farming families may be up for an additional $5,000 to $10,000 a year because of the carbon tax. This is after what the dairy industry is going through with its price war, led by Coles, of $1 a litre milk. As Woolworths has said, it is unsustainable. We have a situation now where Coles sells two litres of milk for $2 and two litres of water for $2.75. At least the milk is transported refrigerated. Now water, free from the sky, is 35 per cent more expensive than milk. This is how crazy this situation is. Yes, the dairy farmers will cop it. Rice farmers will see their costs increase by $10,000, sheep farmers by an average of $1,000 and cotton farmers by $10,500.

I want to go to the issue of agricultural aircraft. They have had tax on their fuel tripled. In a submission to the Senate inquiry, David Boundy of Superair, Armidale, who employs 20 people and operates 10 aircraft, said the carbon tax is going to cost his business $30,000 to $40,000 extra in fuel costs alone. When graziers in the New England want to spread some fertiliser to keep the quality nutrition in their grasses, they might say, 'I am going to spend $50,000 this year on top-spreading fertiliser.' Under this scheme, they will spend the same amount—$50,000—but they will be able to put out less fertiliser. Therefore their productivity is on a slide. Isn't the government aware of what productivity is?

We are talking about increasing our food supply for the expected nine-plus billion people in the world by 2035 or 2050, whenever it is. We tipped over to seven billion this week. What is this tax going to do to increase food production? It is not going to do anything at all. In fact, there are incentives for farmers to sow their country down to trees. When we are going to take up so much of our good farming country to grow trees, we will be looking at a situation where we will have to turn into termites and eat trees! It is simply outrageous.

I want to talk about the cement industry. About 18 months ago at Rockhampton a cement factory closed. Only a couple of months ago Kandos closed. There would hardly be a farm or a town around Australia that has not had a bag of cement from Kandos. I think about 97 direct jobs were lost, plus those of the truckies and everyone else who rely on the factory. They are closing because they are facing cheap imports, with a high Australian dollar brought about by high interest rates, brought about by excessive government spending. That is what these businesses are facing. I have mentioned the dairy industry and now I want to talk about the housing industry. The Master Builders Association estimates that a carbon price of $23 a tonne will add $5,000 to the cost of a modest home. The move from a five-star to a six-star energy efficiency rating will add around $9,200 to price of the same home. This means an overall additional cost of $4,000 to build a house. Let us look at the brick industry. In evidence to a Senate inquiry, Namoi Valley Bricks at Gunnedah said that it uses $120,000 worth of electricity; $400,000 worth of coal; and $120,000 worth of diesel. Namoi Valley Bricks runs on a profit of two to three per cent and their cost of production will go up by five per cent. AUSVEG said that the cost of food will increase for its 9,000 vegetable and potato growers, and it will only get worse when the diesel tax comes in. Electricity for irrigation and refrigeration will be the killer for these industries. And to achieve what? To achieve nothing. Our emissions are going up by 43 million tonnes.

Let us go to the transport industry. I am sure Senator Conroy would be very interest­ed to hear again the words of Mr Sheldon, the boss of the Transport Workers Union, when I asked him about the 1 July 2014 extra tax of 6.85c a litre on our truckies. Our truckies use eight billion litres of fuel a year. There will be $510 million of extra tax on the truckies who carry our nation. Mr Sheldon said that this was a 'death tax'—a tax that will stress the truck drivers and the trucks and more people will be killed on the road. The Transport Workers Union is saying that, Senator Conroy. I hope you are listening to this. This is clear evidence of the absolute craziness of this whole tax scheme, which will achieve absolutely nothing.

We now come to the issue of the emiss­ions trading scheme. In 2020, Australia will purchase around $3½ billion of carbon credit permits from overseas. This is where it will be opened up to all the fraud in the world, literally. We are going to have the carbon cops here, in Australia, saying to businesses: 'Show us your books. If you don't keep them for five years, you have got two years jail. That's what you'll face. If you don't give proper information, you'll face up to 10 years jail.' Who is going to police these carbon credits from overseas? I believe there is already an inquiry in Europe into carbon credits and the fraudulent activities involving them. And this is going to save the planet? It is simply outrageous.

The climate has been changing for thousands upon thousands of years. As I said recently, during the July break I took a week off. I headed up to Queensland to the Whitsunday Islands. I spent four days driving on the road and three days on the islands. I read the history of the Whitsunday Islands. Eighteen thousand years ago they were not islands; they were joined to the mainland of Australia. Ten thousand years ago the globe warmed. The ice over the mainland melted and now we have the islands. What caused the globe to warm 10,000 years ago? Perhaps it was coal fired generators? But they did not exist then. Was it the truckies carting stock and all sorts of other supplies around the nation? No, they did not exist. Climate change has been happening for thousands of years and it will continue to change, no matter what you do with this tax. This is a deceitful tax, and you can be guaranteed that if the coalition win the next election it will be buried. Whether or not it takes a double dissolution, it will be buried.

I want it to add one other thing. Many around here would be aware that in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia the coal fired generators are owned by the states. Macquarie Generation, located in the areas of Singleton and Muswellbrook, New South Wales, produces 40 per cent of the state's electricity. It is owned by the state of New South Wales. I suggest that some of the government senators have a look at the Australian Constitution and particularly at the second part of section 114, where it clearly states, 'nor shall a Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a state'. Where does this tax stand in relation to the Constitution? Doesn't it overrule this place? Doesn't it clearly state that the government cannot put a tax on coal fired generators that are owned by a state? They are the property of the states of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales. I think it is something that should be looked at. The next thing we know is some constitutional lawyer will come in and say: 'This whole carbon tax on the coal fired generators owned by the states is against the Constitution. Tear it up and throw it in the bin and start again.' This is what we are facing. This is one of the craziest schemes ever put forward.

The government should come up with a good environmental policy to look after our farmlands, our rivers and our countryside. We have already had the truckies get onto the Euro 5 motors, which produce far less pollution than the motors we had in the old times. However, the Euro 5 motors do use 10 per cent more fuel, and the more fuel they use the more CO2 they produce. But they do not produce the sulfur, the carbon monoxide and the other toxic emissions that were produced by the old 400 Cummins and GMs et cetera that we used to drive some years back. We can do our bit for pollution. We do not want to see smog over the cities of Australia or anywhere else around the world. We do not want to see the country burning in a blaze of bushfires. But with the Greens policies we will continue to see plenty of bushfires while our national parks are unmanaged and they will not allow grazing to reduce the fuel levels in them. If the government had a good environmental policy, there would be support for it all around this chamber. This is a bad policy. It is bad for our nation, bad for our economy, bad for our environment, and it will not be supported on this side of the chamber. (Time expired)