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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6321

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (16:35): There is a word which must never be spoken in this place whenever Labor refers to carbon pricing. It is the word 'tax'. I call on those opposite to just once call this insidious policy what it is: a tax. A tax is a tax is a tax. In the days after the 2010 election, Julia Gillard gleefully shrilled, 'Let's draw back the curtains and let the sun shine in.' She was talking about the openness of government and the importance of Australians being fully informed about the decisions of their parliament and the government of the day. She said Labor was a party of truth tellers. If this rhetoric—this hyperbole, as she would probably call it—applies to anything, it should include the impact of the decision by the Prime Minister to introduce a carbon tax. Just five days out from the election, she said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' The Prime Minister has already broken that 16 August promise, that there would be no carbon tax, but this is no reason for us not to let the sun shine in by ensuring that all Australians understand the full impact of the carbon tax.

I point out the very wording of this matter of public importance. It talks about 'the urgent need to provide households with financial relief based on facts surrounding the introduction of a carbon tax on July 1'—a carbon price, sorry. I have used the word 'tax'. The member for Chifley would not use the word 'tax', but that is what it is. If there is such an urgent need to provide households with financial relief, why bring it in in the first place? Why burden families, farmers, businesses—ordinary, everyday hardworking Australians—with a tax the Prime Minister said, five days before the election, that she would not introduce?

But we all know that this government likes to tax. The regulator in New South Wales has confirmed that, thanks largely to the carbon tax, families and businesses will pay an average 16 per cent more on their electricity bills, adding between $182 and $381 to the average household bill. The federal government knows businesses will pass these extra costs on to their customers—you, me and all other Australians. The government claims to be compensating Australians with additional compensation but even its own modelling shows that millions of households will be worse off. The best way for citizens to know whether or not they are getting enough compensation is to ensure transparency—a word those opposite probably do not know the meaning of—in the price rises the people of Australia are going to be hit with. But there is nothing transparent about this government.

Their latest compensation for the carbon tax is nothing but a con. This is a carbon tax Australians did not vote for. Hardly anybody in this place voted for it. The member for Melbourne certainly came to the election with a view that a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme—call it what you like—was necessary. I often hear the member for Lyne grumbling behind me and saying, 'It's not just the member for Melbourne.' Maybe he too was in support of it. That is two out of 150 representatives in this place. The rest of us were against it. The rest of us went to the people at the election saying that there would not be a carbon tax under the government we were in. The regional independents have sold out their constituencies by siding with Labor and the Greens and propped up the government. On 24 February 2011 we had that awful press conference where Senator Bob Brown, the Greens leader and quasi-Prime Minister at the time, almost shouldered Prime Minister Gillard out of the way and proudly announced that there was going to be a price on carbon—a tax.

Labor can try to make itself feel better about the burden it is placing on Australia through the introduction of this tax but it should not. Every Labor member—members who claim to represent the disadvantaged members of society and some who even claim to represent regional areas—should be ashamed of the cost they are lumping on everyday, ordinary Australians. They are making people disadvantaged. The best way—in fact, the only way—to ensure that Australians are not crippled by this terrible, insidious tax is to scrap it. The claim that this compensation will assist Australians with the financial pressure they will feel under a carbon tax is sheer nonsense. It is a ridiculous money-go-round. It is wealth redistribution by any other name. Many dual-income families will be worse off once they reach the typical income of a school teacher and a shop assistant or that of a policeman and a part-time nurse. Self-funded retirees who do not qualify for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, including all those under the age of 65, will receive nothing. For what? It is not going to reduce the sea levels or change the shoreline by so much as a millimetre. It is not going to drop global temperatures by so much as a degree. It is just a nonsense. The longer this tax is in place, the worse the consequences will be for the economy, jobs, families and, certainly, regional Australia. The compensation simply will not be enough to outweigh the extra costs Australians will be hit with.

Australia will pay the carbon tax through higher electricity prices. The member for Robertson talked about people who would be driving their kids to sport—and they would be. In her electorate of Robertson they would also be driving them to dancing practice and those sorts of things. The member for Robertson represents an area which is under 1,000 square kilometres. My area, the Riverina, is over 60,000 square kilometres and I know that people in my area are going to be paying this carbon tax through the petrol bowser, as will the people in the member for Robertson's electorate. When people travel for sport, dancing classes and all those sorts of things in the Riverina it is not just a little drive down the road. Sometimes it takes hours to get from point A to point B to have a game of footy for the kids or dancing competitions for those young ones who enjoy it. Unfortunately, those young ones who enjoy their footy and their dancing may well not be able to do that, because for some families the cost pressures will be too high.

This carbon tax is going to be paid for by everybody: through the power point, the bowser and—certainly in Wagga Wagga, Coolamon shire and Griffith—through their rates, because their rubbish tips are deemed to be over that threshold limit of 25,000 tonnes. Following this year's deferment by the Treasurer, they are eventually going to be forced to pay a carbon tax through their rates. That is just totally ridiculous. I could do no better than to quote an article from the Daily Advertiser, Wagga's local newspaper. They have called for heavy polluters to be punished, not everyone. As the Daily Advertiser quite rightly pointed out, it is just a load of rot that the local ratepayers are going to be forced to pay a carbon tax because they have to take rubbish to their tip. Wagga Wagga City Council is now going to be put right up there with Orica, BHP Billiton, Xstrata and the rest as one of Australia's biggest polluters. When you think about it, those companies that I mentioned are not 'biggest polluters'—they are job creators. They are taking jobs to the people, taking resources out of the ground and creating wealth for this country, and they are being hammered by the government over there which is only interested in creating class warfare that is not needed.

Recently, Wagga's annual emissions were reduced to 28,000 tonnes per year. This is good news for Wagga because, instead of having to pay over a million dollars in proposed carbon tax payments, they are only going to have to pay $660,000 in the year after next. That is $660,000 that will not be spent on fixing potholes, on children's playground equipment or on libraries. That is ridiculous. As Tim Blair pointed out on Monday, 14 May in the Daily Telegraph:

One tonne of rubbish, according to the government, generates one tonne of carbon tax windfall gas. You might want to ask your own council how many tonnes of rubbish it's piling up every year. If the amount is close to the 25,000 tonne tax threshold, you'd actually be doing the council a favour by throwing your old mattresses and televisions in the river. Dump car bodies in the scrub and save the town library.

Is that what we want from this government which purports to be so environmentally friendly? Is that what we want from this government which is cobbled together by the Greens here in the lower house and definitely in the upper house, where they are led by the nose by Christine Milne and all the rest, and Adam Bandt? It is a disgrace that we have to have a carbon tax when the Prime Minister said five days out from the election that there would be no carbon tax under the government she led. It is an absolute con. It is a disgrace, and those members opposite know it.