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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6310

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (15:50): 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Those 11 words—'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'—will haunt this Prime Minister for the rest of this year, for the rest of this parliament and for the rest of her term while she remains in this place. That is because there has been no more blatant refusal to confront the truth than her reversal of this promise that she made to the Australian people prior to the last election: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.'

This Prime Minister—and her Treasurer—on more than one occasion went to the Australian people prior to the last election and made a solemn promise to every Australian that there would be no carbon tax under the government she leads. And why did she do that? She knew then that the polls were so close and that the carbon tax was so on the nose with the Australian people that she had to come forth and say on national television and to the national media—to be beamed into every lounge room in Australia—that there would be 'no carbon tax under a government I lead'. That is the promise that this Prime Minister made to the Australian people. And that is the promise that she ripped up in doing a deal to maintain her seat in The Lodge and to maintain her seat here at the despatch box in this parliament. In other words, in order to retain her position as the Prime Minister of Australia, she ripped up a solemn promise that she made on a number of occasions to the people of Australia. What would the government have us believe? Let us nail the lie at the heart of this issue. The government and the honourable member for Chifley, who is not such a bad bloke although he is part of this dysfunctional government—he has not been here that long, so I suppose he cannot be blamed for all of their ills—in this motion before the House speak of the 'urgent need to provide households with financial relief'. Why is there an urgent need to provide Australian households with financial relief? Because the government have been saying, if you listen to them, day after day, hour after hour—we heard it again in question time today—that this tax will only be imposed on 500 companies, the 500 biggest polluters in Australia. The government has been saying that ad nauseam. Hardly anybody in this country would not have heard the government's claim that this tax will only be imposed on the 500 biggest emitters—the 500 biggest companies, to put it in other words. If that is the case, if only the 500 biggest emitters are going to have the imposition of this carbon tax upon them, if only those companies are going to be met with the cost, why is there an urgent need to provide households with financial relief? This nails the lie at the heart of this government's campaign.

Ms Marino: Bells the cat.

Mr ANDREWS: This bells the cat, as my honourable colleague says. The reality is that urgent relief is being provided because of the carbon tax. If you have been listening to the radio or watching the television you could hardly not have noticed the ads about the household assistance package. Let me read the transcript: 'Soon millions of Australians receiving government payments will get additional help with their everyday expenses. An initial payment will automatically appear on your bank account from May 2012. It is the first part of the Australian government's household assistance package. This extra assistance will become a regular part of your government payment between March next year and early 2014. For more information …' Why is this required? If the imposition of this tax is only on 500 companies, why is urgent assistance needed for Australian families? If that were the case, it would not be needed. As I said, this is the lie at the heart of this policy proposal.

Everybody knows that when a tax is imposed upon a company, that company will seek to pass on that tax to the purchasers of goods and services from that company. Where they can do it, they will pass on that tax. Where they cannot do it, they will have to try and downsize or cut their costs in other ways. One of the consequences of that would be a loss of jobs in this country, and we are seeing that already. Where those companies are in an internationally competitive position, competing with other companies producing goods or services in overseas countries that do not have this tax, then something has to give so far as the companies are concerned. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about business, anybody who knows the faintest thing about how taxation works, anybody who has had to balance their own family books, let alone the books of a small business, knows that when there is an additional imposition by way of an additional cost for the business—which this tax is—that has to be passed on in some way, otherwise something has to give within the business.

Do you think that this government will come out and honesty admit to that truth? No, they will not. This increasingly dysfunctional government, led by the chaotic Prime Minister and her office, will not come clean with the Australian people. If they honestly believe that they need a carbon tax, they should say, 'Yes, we need a carbon tax and it is going to cost you.' Why don't they have the guts, the courage, to come forward to the Australian people and say that to them? No, they will not. They want to walk both sides of the street: on the one hand this is a tax applied only to 500 companies and on the other hand we need urgent financial assistance for every family in Australia. The reality is those two things do not add up, and anybody who spends a moment thinking about it can see, as I have described it, the lie at the heart of this policy. Yet day after day after day we get the Prime Minister in here pretending that somehow these realities do not work.

Not only that, this tax is so toxic that they cannot mention it in the advertisements on television and on radio. In Senate estimates it was revealed that the focus groups put together to test the best lines in order to present this to the Australian people found that the toxicity of the carbon tax was such that they did not even bother to put it to the focus groups, knowing what the reaction would be. We know that because of reports coming from government backbenchers, they are afraid to doorknock in their own electorates because people will tell them directly what they think about this carbon tax. If my experience is true, they will also say that they want to get rid of this government as quickly as they can. That is the reality so far as this matter is concerned.

We have two worlds here. We have this unreal world of Treasury modelling—we had the honourable member for Chifley telling us about Treasury modelling and the impact of prices—and then we have the real world in which ordinary Australians live. Let me tell you something about the real world in which Australians live. From the December quarter of 2007 to the December quarter of 2011, four years, what has happened in the real world of Australians? Their electricity prices have gone up by 61per cent. That is even without a carbon tax.

Ms O'Neill: That's right!

Mr ANDREWS: You're saying that's fine and you want to do something about the cost-of-living pressures. This is the unreal world that this government lives in. 'That's fine,' interjects the honourable member opposite—a 61 per cent increase in electricity prices. But that is not all. Gas prices have gone up by—

Ms O'Neill: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I think that the honourable member misheard my comment which was, 'That is right; that is correct.' He is attempting to mislead the parliament with that misrepresentation.

Mr Andrews interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): I am happy to let you have the call when I give you the call, but until then it is probably better to be silent. The honourable member for Menzies in continuation.

Mr ANDREWS: Electricity prices have gone up by 61 per cent. Gas prices over four years have increased on average across Australia by 37 per cent. Water and sewerage rates across Australia have increased by 58 per cent. Petrol prices across Australia are up by eight per cent. Health costs have increased by 20 percent. If you go to the doctor or you need some medical attention, health costs have gone up by 20 per cent across Australia in this government's term. The price of bread has gone up by nine per cent across Australia and the price of food on average has gone up by 13 per cent across Australia in four years. Fruit and vegetables have gone up by 20 per cent and rent, where people do not own their homes, has increased by 25 per cent over the last four years.

We have these two worlds: this totally unreal world that the honourable members opposite are trying to pretend we live in—as if things just go according to whatever Treasury has modelled—and the real world of people who are going to the supermarket, the people who are going to the service station to fill up their car, the people paying for their rent, the people using public transport, the people driving on the freeways—the millions of ordinary Australians and their world. The great English statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, said 150 or so years ago that between two nations there was no connection. At that time he was talking about the rich and the poor. There are two nations here between which there is no connection—between the government and the real people of Australia, because these costs are going up and we have not even got to the carbon tax.

What is the carbon tax going to do to Australians? Just today in question time we had an example of transport. What the government expects of their fuel excise over the next forward estimates is a $920 million increase in revenue. That $920 million is going to get passed on by every transport company that is transporting goods around this country. If we are talking about transport, consider the service station owner who has just tendered out for his electricity under this competitive arrangement and in the tender documents that came back there was a carbon tax component of $13,141. That represented just over 18 per cent on his annual bill, and yet we are being told that it will have only a few dollars impact. This one service station is faced with an 18 per cent increase on what is being projected for the carbon tax.

The City of Sydney will have to collect an additional $921,000 in rates and the cities of Wollongong and Blacktown will need to collect almost half a million dollars extra in rates. If anyone wants to check this, I make this suggestion: ring up your local council and ask them how much are they factoring in for the carbon tax in terms of their expenditure in the next year. I have spoken to my local councils and they are factoring in a very significant amount for what they will have to find. In other words, how much will rates go up because of this carbon tax?

I have mentioned just two things. One is transport costs for every good that is supplied and provided around this country, which flows through to food prices. It flows through to the goods that we buy from the shelves of shops which are usually trucked in from somewhere else around the country, often overnight. The other is the councils. When the street lights are turned on, when the waste is disposed of—all of that attracts a carbon tax. Somehow, these people come in here and pretend that this is not going to have an impact. But, as I said, you cannot be saying it impacts upon only 500 companies in this country and yet come in here with a motion which says there is an urgent need to talk about financial assistance to families—and they are spending $36 million on media advertising to sell this particular proposal—the one in which the carbon tax does not speak its name. It is hidden away in the budget as a nice little line item under the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. That is on top of the $70 million this government is already spending on advertising. It is estimated that this government is spending something like $270,000 per day of Australian taxpayers' money in order to advertise this urgent need to provide financial assistance for something they tell us is not going to affect us.

This is a joke. It comes from a government that is not even a joke. This is a government that is dysfunctional and a Prime Minister who evades questions she is asked here in question time. This is a Prime Minister who told the unionists she was furious about a labour agreement and yet turned around and said she knew nothing about it. This is a totally dysfunctional government. I hope that some of the backbenchers in the Labor Party do go doorknocking, because what they will hear is that Australian people are totally fed up with this government, with the lies, with the dissembling and with the dysfunction. They want some security. It is about time we delivered hope and reward and opportunity to people of Australia and that will only come by having an election.