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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11619

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (17:28): I am pleased to rise this evening to add my contribution to today's MPI: the adverse impact of the government's changes to the carbon tax on the Australian economy. It is now just over 100 days since the introduction of the carbon tax. In those 100 days the evidence has become clear: this is a tax that is hurting families and businesses right across Australia. Less than eight weeks into this tax—this broken promise of a tax—we have seen chaos and confusion reign. We have already seen eight changes, including changing the floor price arrangement—another backflip on the broken promise. Changing the floor price contradicts what the Labor government and almost every member on that side have been saying for the past year.

I would like to give a few practical examples of what this Labor government is doing to our country and the effect this carbon tax is having on average Australians. A few weeks ago an 80-year-old lady called Rose phoned in to a Sydney radio station. Being 80 years of age, she would have been born in the middle of the Great Depression. She would have lived through the deprivations and hardships of the Second World War. She would have worked hard all her life and, in her old age, you would think she would be entitled to some dignity. These are the words of an 80-year-old woman. This shows what the effects of a carbon tax are doing to Australian citizens. She said: 'I just got an electricity bill for $645. The last one was $435; what's happened?' She then broke down into tears and said: 'I can't pay it. I've got congestive heart failure and I can't take any more stress. Now that I am old—I am nearly 80—all I am doing is going to bed at 5 pm at night with two hot water bottles.' That is what this carbon tax is doing to Australians out there. Throughout Western Sydney, 80 per cent of the increase in electricity prices is all the responsibility of the carbon tax. Here we have an 80-year-old lady breaking down in tears because of the effect the carbon tax is having on her electricity bills. That is the effect.

There is another example I would like to give in the time allocated to me today. A few doors down from the electorate office in Hughes there is a small bread shop. It is run by a husband-and-wife team. They get up every morning and start work at 4 am. They keep their little shop opposite Sutherland Railway Station open until 8 pm each night, hoping to catch a few extra sales from people coming home from work off the train at Sutherland. They get a few hours sleep and then they get up at 4 am the next day and do it all over again. For all this, and the risks associated with running a small business, they earn less than $10 an hour. It is these small business people who are the backbone on which our economy is built, and it is these small business people who are bearing the brunt of this carbon tax.

Last week I went into their shop and they were both almost in tears. They had just received their latest electricity bill, which had increased from $1,650 a month to over $2,200 a month—an increase of $550 a month and over $6,500 each year. So here we have someone out there in our country today earning less than $10 an hour who, because of this carbon tax, has to do come up with another $6,600 every year. They asked me what the future is for them. I said to them, 'If you want a vision of the future under this Labor government, imagine electricity bills that go up and up forever.' Remember, to start with, the carbon tax is $23 a tonne. Then it will increase to $29 a tonne by 2015-16, according to the government's own figures. By 2020, this government says, it will go up again to $37 a tonne. By 2050, it will be no less than $350 a tonne. Yet we have this Labor government in complete denial about the adverse effects this is having on the most vulnerable people in our society.

What concerns me the most is the dangerous commercial naivety we have seen from this government. They are simply deluded that small businesses can pass these increased costs from the carbon tax onto their prices and onto the consumers. The Prime Minister, in her own words about what small businesses can do, said:

… you would be in a position to pass that onto the people who buy services from your business and we have expected that those costs would be passed on …

This small bread shop works in a competitive environment. In Sutherland, there are three other small bread shops and two supermarkets all in competition with each other. They do not have a substantial degree of market power. They cannot raise their prices without losing business to their competitors. That is what this government simply fails to understand—that every business is in competition.

They are also in competition, in some way or other, with imports. You might ask: how would a small bread shop be in competition with imports? That is a question I first asked myself. But if you go into our major supermarket chains today you will find that they have started to import bread from overseas. They bring the imported bread in and just reheat it. That puts someone who is making bread here at a competitive disadvantage because they are paying the world's highest carbon tax. When bread is made overseas, the carbon tax is not paid. So it will simply mean more imports and less work and fewer jobs here in Australia.

One of our nation's greatest competitive advantages that underwrites our national prosperity is the seam of black and brown coal that runs down our eastern seaboard. It is one of our biggest sources of export income. We are one of the largest exporters of coal in the world, and it is this coal which in the past has enabled Australian industry and Australian families to enjoy the lowest electricity prices in the world. But today we have the highest electricity prices in the world. According to the Australian energy association, we have here in Australia an economically demonstrated reserves-to-production ratio of brown coal to last us no less than 539 years. We have 539 years worth of brown coal and 111 years worth of black coal. But simply by introducing this carbon tax and other so-called green schemes Labor is actually sabotaging and destroying one of our nation's greatest competitive advantages. Now we see that it is Australian families that are being punished, paying the highest electricity prices in the world.

Labor like to pretend that, as the member for La Trobe came in here and said, all countries are moving to the carbon tax and everybody is paying it. This is simply false. Our overseas competitors are not paying the carbon tax. The Productivity Commission have made that clear. They said:

… no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gas emissions or has in place an economy-wide ETS.

Last year when President Obama was here he explicitly ruled out the US introducing a carbon tax. Canada's foreign minister did the same. He said his country would never have a carbon tax. China has no plans to introduce an economy wide carbon tax. In fact, last year China increased its emissions by 800 million tonnes of CO2. That increase in one year alone is more than 1½ times Australia's total annual emissions. India has no such plans. Nor does Indonesia. Nor do a raft of other countries which we need to compete against to survive have any plans to introduce a carbon tax. If we look at New Zealand, the Australian carbon tax is 15 times higher than its New Zealand equivalent. According to Scientific American, India alone has 455 coal fired power stations planned or under construction and worldwide there are 1,231.

There is one simple way to fix this carbon tax, and that is to scrap it lock, stock and barrel. Only a coalition government will do that. On day one we will repeal the carbon tax. To those who come in here and say we will not or we cannot, I say: you guys keep talking it up because, when we do, it will show the true difference between us on this side of the chamber and you who sit over there. We will repeal this carbon tax.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order! The time for this discussion has expired.