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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 984

Mr BALDWIN (PatersonParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry) (10:07): I rise today in this chamber to deliver on an election promise to get rid of the job destroying Labor-Green carbon tax that drove up the cost of living and operational costs for businesses for all Australians. I am speaking in support of and later will be voting for the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and the coalition government's commitment to abolishing Labor's carbon tax, the Clean Energy Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

From the outset, let me say that this bill is what the Australian public expected from this government: the scrapping of the carbon tax. The carbon tax was a bad idea and that is why I voted against it. The carbon tax was based on a lie and that is why I voted against it. The carbon tax has not been good for Australia or my electorate of Paterson and that is why I voted against it. The carbon tax has massively increased the cost of living, it has forced the closure of businesses, it has killed off jobs, and it continues to create risk and uncertainty for industry and big and small business alike. That is why I voted against it. The world's biggest carbon tax has hit all of our industries particularly hard and given our overseas competitors a distinct price advantage in a price point competitive market. The former Labor government never understood that most of our industries, due to international competition, are price takers and not price setters. That is why I voted against it. The coalition government is committed to abolishing the carbon tax and will not stop until the job is done. That is why at the conclusion of this speech I will vote to repeal this insidious tax.

In repealing this legislation, the Clean Energy Act 2011 and five associated charges acts will be repealed and arrangements will be made to collect all of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 carbon tax liabilities. The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 will be amended, giving the ACCC new powers to monitor carbon-specific prices and place prohibitions on carbon-specific price exploitation and false or misleading representations, in relation to the carbon tax repeal. From July 2014, industry assistance schemes like the Jobs and Competitiveness Program, the Energy Security Fund and the Steel Transformation Plan will be wound up. Once the Climate Change Authority Act 2011 and Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 are repealed, we can then proceed with abolishing the Clean Energy Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Once these are repealed, the second round of personal income tax cuts, which were legislated to commence on 1 July 2015, can also be repealed and the tillage tax offset can be abolished. The bills also make minor amendments to related legislation by removing references to carbon units, prescribed international units and carbon tax reporting requirements.

The message is clear from the Australian people and businesses—get rid of the carbon tax. That is what we are here today to do; we are determined to get the job done. Unlike Labor, we will not say one thing before an election only to do the complete opposite once elected. Of course, I am referring to Labor's 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. By getting rid of the carbon tax, we will reduce the burden on families and businesses. If anyone here questions the pain families and business owners are feeling from this tax, they only need to look in their own electorates.

There are many real-life examples of businesses in and around my region and within my portfolio that have felt the effects of the carbon tax. I would like to share the pain that Labor have inflicted on them. I would like to tell you again about the Weathertex plant at Tomago, one of the oldest continuous employers in the region. It used to be called the Masonite factory but now produces Weathertex boards for both the domestic and international markets. It employs around 100 locals and generates $23 million in domestic sales and, importantly, $2 million in exports. The CEO told me that, even though the business has a negative carbon footprint, they were being slugged with a half a million dollars a year carbon tax bill across their coal, gas and electricity. As I have said before, what Labor did not understand, and still does not understand, is that many businesses like Weathertex are competing in price sensitive markets. Any increases in production costs make them less competitive, which means fewer sales and less Australian jobs.

Another example from my electorate I have talked about previously is the largest dairy owned by Dallas Clarke and based at Wallalong. It closed because the carbon tax made it unaffordable to continue trading. There were two significant factors for the closure. While the low cost of milk contributed, the main reason was the increase in electricity costs. Just the carbon tax increases alone in his electricity bill were $609 in July and $600 in August 2012, and that is not to mention the increases in the off-peak rates. They have risen out of all proportion. Those that know something about the dairy industry know that they produce milk during the off-peak rate period. His power bills went up from $4,850 a month to $6,000 a month, making his business unsustainable. His milk prices dropped to around 45c per litre yet his electricity prices have increased out of sight.

It does not end there. Tailor Made Fish Farms at Bobs Farm have raised their concerns with me in the past that the carbon tax has been undermining their business. Tailor Made Fish Farms is a successful local business involved in innovative aquaculture and hydroponic technology, producing fish and vegetables for the domestic market and proven technologies for the international market. Tailor Made Fish Farms is the largest producer of barramundi in New South Wales and is internationally considered an industry leader in its field, consulting with companies in Australia and abroad. Affordable electricity is crucial for the ongoing viability of businesses like Tailor Made Fish Farms due to the very competitive and price-sensitive market. The fishing industry is an extremely price point sensitive market, largely being a price taker rather than a price setter. Without our intervention by abolishing this tax, this business would be forced to either absorb the additional carbon tax cost, thereby reducing profit margins, or pass on the cost to consumers, thereby reducing competitiveness and jeopardising jobs. These are real people I have been talking about—real people working hard to maintain a business, supporting families through employment, not the faceless men hiding behind the fictitious gold at the end of the rainbow that they believed the carbon tax would lead them to.

We are repealing the carbon tax because the carbon tax was based on a lie. It was a clear case of a dirty deal done dirt cheap just so that the Labor Party could stay in power—a dirty deal that sacrificed the economy of the nation so that they could stay in power. Labor were prepared to sell out a nation with a dirty deal done dirt cheap, just for their own political benefit. But this deal has not been cheap. In fact, it has been very expensive. And yet, from the rhetoric in their speeches and statements, the Labor Party are still not listening to the Australian people.

Families have paid the price, through increased electricity bills, and what have they had to sacrifice? The quarterly CPI figures released on 24 October 2012—the first since the carbon tax was introduced—saw a 15.3 per cent rise in electricity prices, with household gas and miscellaneous fuel prices seeing a 14.2 per cent rise. This was the largest quarterly increase ever, two-thirds of which, on average, came from the carbon tax. Business has paid the price. Labor squandered the hard-earned cash given to them by businesses and continued to raise the carbon tax. The carbon tax is estimated to have accrued $16 billion over two years, for no change in domestic emissions, and the former government's own figures showed that domestic emissions would rise to 637 million tonnes by 2020.

Australia's carbon tax of $24.15 per tonne currently covers around 370 liable entities across 60 per cent of total emissions in industry sectors such as electricity generation, industrial processes and off-road fuel users. We cannot let this squandering continue. Australian families and businesses need the carbon tax removed. Removal of the carbon tax will reduce cost-of-living pressures on households and businesses alike. Some examples of the benefits families will see include: on average, families will be $550 better off per year; average household electricity bills will be around $200 lower than they otherwise would be in 2014-15 with a $25.40 carbon tax; average household gas bills will be around $70 lower than they would otherwise be in 2014-15 with a $25.40 carbon tax; business compliance costs are expected to fall by around $87.6 million per annum as a consequence of repealing the carbon tax; and the costs of transporting in Australia will not increase because of fuel cost increases to do with the carbon tax in 2014.

Last year, I watched powerless as the Kurri Kurri aluminum smelter was forced to close its doors and leave hundreds of Hunter residents jobless. The carbon tax had forced up the company's energy bills and played a significant part in the decision to close its doors. Local businesses are struggling.They are doing it tough. We just cannot afford another local business like this to close its doors. I am now in a position to remove this tax, and I intend to vote yes—yes because I no longer want to see Australian businesses close down; yes because I want no more job losses because of the carbon tax; and yes because I want to reduce electricity prices, which are placing more and more pressure on the average Australian battler.

We promised to eliminate the carbon tax. We have a mandate to scrap this tax. We are doing this because the Australian people have told us this is what they want. We are doing this because this is what Australian business and industry have told us they want. This is what the vast majority of the Australian public voted for. We have listened to the Australian public and we will undo the damage of Labor's dirty deal done dirt cheap.

The repeal of the carbon tax also represents a major contribution to the government's deregulation agenda, by removing about 440 pages of legislation and reducing business compliance costs by about $100 million a year. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will have new powers to monitor prices and take action against businesses that charge unreasonably high prices or make false or misleading claims about the effect of the carbon tax repeal on prices. Maximum penalties for price exploitation will be set at $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals. Under the repeal legislation, business compensation schemes associated with the carbon tax will be scrapped from 1 July next year and the Climate Change Authority will be abolished. The first round of personal income tax cuts, which started from 1 July last year, will be maintained; however, a second round, which had been included in Labor's original carbon tax compensation package, will be scrapped.

Without the carbon tax, there is no further need for compensation measures. We will axe the carbon tax on fuels used in shipping, rail and air transport and on synthetic greenhouse gases. Also, shortly we will repeal the mining tax and measures attached to that. These and many other sensible solutions are being carefully and properly put in place. These are outcome focused and will keep us on track for the government to reach the same reduction in emissions, of five per cent by 2020, that Labor promised to deliver but struggled to show any evidence that they were achieving. In fact, the data available has shown little to no decrease in emissions and has shown that Labor were never going to come close to reaching their targets.

It is obvious Labor have not been listening. Australian families have told us they do not want this tax and business have told us they do not want this tax. The government has a mandate to rid this country of this tax once and for all. This is what the Australian people voted for. This is what they expect from this government. The carbon tax was always a bad idea. By getting rid of the carbon tax, we will reduce the burden on families by reducing their electricity bills. This government is pro jobs. By getting rid of the carbon tax, we will get the monkey off the back of small business. The Australian people want the carbon tax scrapped, and this bill will deliver what the Australian people want.

Again I remind you that our target is the same as the previous government's commitment: a five per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. But we have a better way to meet that commitment. Labor clearly knows this tax is hurting our country. It was one of the main reasons businesses and families ousted them. They never wanted the tax. This is why Julia Gillard declared there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. This is why Kevin Rudd declared on 16 July 2013 that he had 'terminated' the carbon tax—except the truth is he had not. This is why, after the 2013 election, the member for Grayndler wanted to set the carbon tax rate to zero. Now the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, with his carbon steel sword and band of faceless men , will have us believe the carbon tax is in Australia's best interest and what the Labor Party really wants. The real truth is that this is vital legislation for the Australian economy. This is vital legislation for Australian families. This is vital legislation for the survival of business. We need to abolish this tax and today I am here today to vote down this tax.