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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 999


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (11:05): I rise today to speak to the package of carbon tax repeal bills 2013. I will respond to some of the comments made by the member for Fremantle a little bit later as I speak. This debate marks an important milestone for our government, and particularly for the families and communities of our nation. I am privileged to be a part of a government that deliver on their commitments and are true to their word. The difference between the Abbott government and our predecessors could not be more clearly defined. The carbon tax legislation was passed through the Senate in November 2011, after the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard had stated her now infamous words 'There will never be a carbon tax under the government I lead'. Now, several years later, the coalition have listened to the Australian people and we are responding.

We were elected with a mandate to scrap the carbon tax and reduce costs for business and households, to boost jobs and manufacturing, and to restore Australia's international competitiveness. And that is exactly what we are doing. The coalition has acknowledged that we must take affirmative action to reduce the effects of climate change and we will do so.

The member for Fremantle earlier was referring to the challenges faced by our planet, and particularly focusing and talking about some of the challenges faced in the developing world in our region and by our nearest neighbours. We are committed to working with our region and our nearest neighbours to make a difference in their lives. But if the carbon tax has done little to reduce emissions in our own nation how is it likely to have an impact on our region and our nearest neighbours?

We will take direct action to reduce carbon emissions in a practical, affordable way inside Australia. We remain committed to a five per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. The real issue here is that Labor has never given the Australian people hard evidence of the difference the carbon tax would make to emissions. The carbon tax bills were indicative of a Labor government who became dependent on taxing and placing additional burdens on the Australian people, without any real impact on emissions.

In fact, it seems that the only response the Labor government could come up with during challenging times was to create additional taxes and levies, burdening families and businesses in our local communities. In the electorate of Macquarie since the carbon tax was introduced I have met with countless families and individuals who have been struggling with the impacts. Macquarie is a vast and varied electorate, yet there are some key drivers of the local economy—small business, agriculture and tourism. All of these sectors have felt the repercussions of the rising cost of electricity and gas because of this tax.

Shops in George Street, Windsor, which should be vibrant and full of customers, have been struggling. Michael and Gae, the owners of the well-known Trentinos restaurant in this shopping precinct have told me that over recent years they have noticed customers changing their spending habits—buying one pot of tea between two instead of two pots of tea; and sharing entrees and main meals instead of buying individual meals for each other.

In July this year I met with business owner Greg Zeuschner, Managing Director of Ultra Colour Products. This is a business that is not only strategic in our local community but also in our nation. He provides a particular aerosol paint product that is used in mines. Being an aerosol it needs to be able to be sprayed without producing the potential of fire. To do that it requires him to use a particular gas which has been directly impacted by the carbon tax. This HFC gas has increased by some 400 per cent. This has resulted in an inability for him to compete with foreign imports. The whole question of the future of his business is at stake. Repealing the carbon tax will be critical to him being able to flourish and grow his business again.

This flow-on effect of Labor's carbon tax can be seen in other businesses. Colless Foods, based in Katoomba, is another locally owned business that is directly impacted as a result of this tax. Colless Foods is a third-generation catering company which has been hit with the rise in the cost of refrigeration gas, which is crucial to the running of its business. South Windsor IGA is another example of a food and storage based business which has struggled with the cost of refrigeration as a result of the carbon tax. The cost on local businesses of replacing gas in their fridges when they do not have a cash flow has placed significant burdens on them.

These examples do not even scratch the surface of the community's concerns. Of course, the primary impact on business of repealing the carbon tax is to reduce the cost of inputs. Labor's carbon tax has increased energy prices, it has increased electricity and gas prices and it has increased input costs for businesses.

The staggering news is that research shows the carbon tax has actually not worked. A carbon tax survey conducted by the Australian Industry Group in June this year showed that 70 per cent of businesses have not reduced their carbon intensity as a result of the carbon tax. Not only has the carbon tax hurt businesses but it has been completely ineffective. Yet Labor refuses to acknowledge this fact.

Meanwhile, families and pensioners in the electorate of Macquarie are also doing it tough. The Salvation Army Community Welfare Centre in Katoomba have seen firsthand an increase in the number of families coming through their doors over the past two years requesting help with the payment of bills. I have had personal direct contact with many pensioners who are unsure how they will pay their next utility bill. In the electorate of Macquarie we have very cold and very hot temperatures, but particularly in winter it can be in the minuses. In Blackheath there are pensioners that have told me that they have been turning off the heat or not turning it on in winter. They are covering themselves with multiple blankets. In some cases it has snowed. Our pensioners, who have worked hard all their lives, deserve better.

The carbon tax is not cleaning up the environment but it is cleaning out the wallets of Australian families. It is impacting directly on their quality of life. The government has committed to removing this ineffective policy and members opposite have an obligation to finally listen to the Australian people and support the repeal of these measures. Repeal of the carbon tax will put downward pressure on electricity and gas bills. Families as a consequence will be better off. According to Treasury modelling, removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will leave average costs across all households $550 lower than they would be otherwise. Business compliance costs are expected to fall by around $87.6 million per annum as a consequence of repealing the carbon tax. This is a priority for families, this is a priority for businesses and this is a priority for the Australian people. We believe that strong families underpin a strong and flourishing society. We must support families. We must create an economy that gives them opportunities, that rewards people and businesses and family workers for their hard work.

The debate could not be clearer. On 7 September the Australian people stood up and said no to a carbon tax. They said no to the increased living costs through higher electricity bills and gas prices. The Australian people believe there is a better way to combat climate change and they have put their trust in us to deliver a better way. It is time for members opposite to listen and to take note of the Australian public.