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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1011

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for the Environment) (12:00): I present the replacement explanatory memorandum for the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013. This explanatory memorandum includes the regulation impact statement approved by the Office of Best Practice Regulation.

The member for Denison was right: this is a debate, this is a vote and this is a bill about honouring one's word. This is about the word of the Australian people. This is about the commitment of the incoming government. This is about rectifying a fundamental breach of faith with the Australian people following the 2010 election. So the member for Denison was correct: this is about honour, it is about our commitment and it is about the contract with the Australian people.

The notion of Westminster democracy is this: that we each take to the people our fundamental precepts, our will and our proposal, and they judge, they decide, they determine and they elect, and then we implement. The democratic contract is fundamental, and there could have been no clearer statement prior to the 2010 election than, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead,' by the then Prime Minister, and prospective and aspiring Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. It was said on 16 August 2010, only five days before that election. It was a contractual statement, it was a fundamental agreement and it was honoured only in the breach.

But there could have been no clearer statement prior to the 2013 election than the then opposition leader's statement that this election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. We took that position to the Australian people. We set it out on day one of the election campaign, we set it out throughout the election campaign and we set it out expressly, clearly and explicitly in the final week of the campaign. There could have been no doubt, no debate and no question as to what the aspiring and incoming government was proposing. It was front and centre, it was fundamental and it was indivisible from our proposal to the Australian people, and the Australian people voted.

Let me remind the House that the Australian people voted to a level which was the second-most significant majority in terms of the two-party preferred since 1977. The Australian people also voted in a way which was the second-most significant parliamentary majority in terms of the floor of this House since 1983. So the Australian people did not just determine: they determined the result of this election clearly, comprehensively and unequivocally. They voted for a government which proposed to repeal the carbon tax, not because this was a debate about science but because this was a debate about honour, truth and committing to our pledges, and it was a debate around mechanisms.

Let me then move to the impact of these changes and to consider the points made during the course of the debate. This is, fundamentally, an electricity tax and a gas tax which we are removing. The impact, as we know, is that household bills, according to Treasury modelling, will be $550 lower than they would otherwise have been in 2014 with a carbon tax. Electricity bills on average around the country will be approximately $200 lower per household. Gas bills will on average be approximately $70 lower per household—real changes that make a real difference to the living standards of Australian families. That is a fundamental commitment, and it is a point which has been repeatedly ignored by those on the opposition benches, whether they are Her Majesty's loyal opposition or those on the crossbench.

I am advised that repealing the carbon tax on refrigerants will reduce the cost of regassing a car air conditioner by $20, a domestic split-system air conditioner by $80, a refrigeration truck by $550, a cool room at the butcher by $1,000 and the cooling system at the local club by about $3,100. So these are real, significant and germane statements—real, significant and germane savings.

These are not things which are illusory: these are the real-world impacts of the carbon tax, because it was always designed to increase the price of goods. The theory, the purpose and the nature of a carbon tax is to drive up the cost of goods to cause sufficient pain so that people cannot afford to purchase those goods. That is how a carbon tax is meant to work. That is what it is meant to do—it is meant to cause pain for ordinary families in their day-to-day existence so they cannot continue their activities. That is what it is meant to do. It is meant to drive up the price of electricity. It is meant to drive up the price of gas. It is meant to drive up the price of refrigerants, diesel and other off-road items. And if the opposition were to get their way, as of 1 July 2014 they want an additional tax, which is a new tax on trucks. I call on the opposition today to make it clear: do they want a new tax on trucks? Is that still part of their policy or is it not? I think that would be very informative for the House and the public. Is there still a proposal for a new tax on trucks? That is their policy. That is what we know it to be. That is what we have to presume it will be—unless, of course, they recognise that their own edifice is crumbling.

Against that background, let me ask a question. Through all of these debates we have heard some very interesting things from our amiable friends in the opposition. We have heard them say things such as this quote from the shadow minister and member for Port Adelaide at the table, that 'we are as one' in wanting to abolish the carbon tax—except they are about to vote to keep it. Weasel words, things which are untrue and inaccurate, and a fundamental deception of the Australian people. They are proposing two things. Right now they are about to vote to keep the carbon tax. There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide: the ALP is about vote to keep the carbon tax. And then their alternative proposal is exactly the same as what is already there but for a 12-month discount. This tax, which they want to change the name of but keep, will run to $6, to $12, to $18, to $25, to $31 and to $38 on their own modelling, so within a few short years there is a 50 per cent plus increase in the current tax rate of $24.15.

Let me just remind the House: the opposition's proposal is to have a tax which, in a few short years, will climb by well over 50 per cent, from $24.15 now to $38 on their modelling, as set out in the most recent Australian budget, as set out on 16 July, as set out in the pre-election economic forecasts. Their modelling, their prediction, a $38 tax, is what they are about to vote for. But it does not stop there. As the Prime Minister informed this House only yesterday, this tax will head towards $350—again, on their modelling, their analysis, their projections when in government—by 2050. So this is no discount that they are proposing. This is a lifetime electricity and gas tax sentence for Australian families and Australian businesses. Nothing changes. This is Julia Gillard's carbon tax, lock, stock and barrel, but with a name change and a 12-month discount. It is not an honourable position to put forward.

Let me remind some of the members of the House of what they have said as we have gone along. The member for Port Adelaide has said:

… Labor supports terminating the carbon tax.

But they are about to vote to keep it and their proposal is just to change its name. We have the member for Wakefield, who said at an earlier time, only a few weeks ago:

I think we should abstain in the Senate, allow the Abbott government to implement its policies in their entirety in terms of carbon …

Senator Mark Bishop said:

The strong public position of the ALP prior to the election and in the election was completely rebuffed by the electorate.

Let me just repeat: 'completely rebuffed by the electorate'. That could not have been clearer. The member for Corio said:

We do need to acknowledge the fact that Tony Abbott won the election and we lost, and we need to face that reality and questions of mandate are issues that we need to consider.

Where I completely agree with Nick Champion is that we do need to be choosing our battles very carefully. These are some of the things we have heard. And, of course, my friend the member for Lilley, in an earlier incarnation prior to the 2010 election, said:

… what we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax …

Hysterical—except for the fact that they did implement a carbon tax. And now, 16 and a bit months after they introduced the carbon tax, they are trying to tell us they do not believe in it anymore. They are trying to say, 'We don't believe.'

There are more than 40 members on the opposition benches who voted for the carbon tax. Is there one who now says they support the carbon tax? Is there one who, 16 months on, believes that they got it right? Apparently not. They all opposed the carbon tax, except for the fact they are voting to keep it, they are voting to extend it, they are voting to change its name, but it is going to be here, it is going to $38 and from there it heads north to $350. That is not on our modelling but on their modelling when in government. They were the ones that said $38, not once or twice but three times this year alone, with their official government modelling.

At the end of the day, I return to where I began, with the words of the member for Denison. He was correct: this is about keeping our word. Our word to the Australian people was that we would take real action on climate change, but we would not do it through a mechanism which is fundamentally broken, which fundamentally fails to achieve its task, which relies overwhelmingly on having a tax and then an additional $3.8 billion, according to their modelling, in purchasing from overseas by the end of the decade on a per annum basis. That is why we oppose this tax. That is why we support this legislation. That is why we will be repealing the carbon tax. We will do so, firstly, because it does not work; secondly, because it destroys our competitiveness; and, thirdly, because we gave our word and the Australian people gave their decision. So at the end of the day this is about honour and dignity and the sovereign will of the Australian people. I commend these bills to the House because they right a wrong. An environmental issue is not solved in the way this current tax exists. There is a better way. We will deliver to Australian families and Australian businesses the relief which they so richly deserve and for which they voted.

The SPEAKER: The original question was that these bills be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Port Adelaide has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The honourable member for Melbourne has moved as an amendment to the proposed amendment that all words after 'House' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. In accordance with the resolution, the immediate question is that the amendment to the proposed amendment be agreed to.

A division having been called and the bells having been rung—

The SPEAKER: As there are fewer than five members on the side for the ayes, I declare the question resolved in the negative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of those members who are in the minority will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.

Question negatived, Mr Bandt and Mr Wilkie voting aye.

The SPEAKER: The question now is that the amendment moved by honourable member for Port Adelaide be agreed to.

Question negatived.

The SPEAKER: Pursuant to the resolution agreed earlier, I now put the question that the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and 10 related bills be now read a second time.