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A new tax on petrol, but not until after the next election.

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The Coalition welcomes the release of the Green Paper because it finally reveals the Government's thinking on an Emissions Trading Scheme. The Coalition proposed such a scheme prior to the election. We will therefore examine the specific measures outlined today very carefully because there is a lot at stake for our environment, our economy and for all Australians.

Mr Rudd is asking Australians to take him on trust - that he will compensate households and business for the impact of his new taxes and will get the details right. However, what we have seen today and over recent months is a cynical exercise on a number of fronts.

First, Mr Rudd and the Labor Party are proposing a new tax on petrol - but not until after the election. Indeed, Senator Wong confirmed at the Press Club today that she was “giving Australians notice” that they should prepare for higher petrol prices.

In the interim period Labor will be adopting the Coalition’s proposal of an excise offset. However, it is only an interim measure which simply takes them past the next election. In addition, groceries and consumer goods will be hit with a new transport tax within a year of any new scheme.

According to the Green Paper, electricity is set to rise in price by up to 16 per cent. The Government should therefore release its modelling of cost rises well before responses to the Green Paper are due. The public has a right to know the costs of any system if they are to make informed submissions on the cost of living. Mr Rudd cannot expect Australians to take him on trust given his broken promises on petrol and grocery prices.

The announcement of an Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme confirms that the Government is planning for plant closures and job losses in the electricity sector. We need to know where they are expecting plant closures, job losses and the risks to electricity supply.

In addition the Green Paper fails to reverse the damage caused to the solar panel sector by the Government’s decision to means test the solar panel rebate.

Whilst making some vague commitments about compensation for households and business in relation to the now confirmed ‘overall increase cost of living flowing from the scheme’, the Government has dodged the detail and rolled this into the Henry Tax Review which will not report until late 2009.

The Government is set to continue squeezing middle Australia. Despite the Government’s cynicism we will take a constructive approach to emissions trading but call on them to be honest that this is not just a deferred petrol tax, but is also a tax on everything and everyone.

16 July 2008