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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5917

Mr HAASE (Durack) (20:04): I am quite surprised that the Greens member for Melbourne had not more to say about the Taxation of Alternative Fuels Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. I would have thought that those who pursued the green style of life and embraced the green philosophy would have had a great deal to be critical of in this particular bill, because LPG is a much cleaner fuel that creates far less pollution than petrol. Quite frankly, I am a petrol user, but I recognise that LPG is an advance on polluting petrol in this era of embracing nonpollutants and cleaning up the globe. The member for Melbourne, I would have thought, would have waxed lyrical for a very long time indeed about the benefits of LPG and about making LPG a cheaper fuel choice than petrol. This government's intention to increase the price of this cheaper, cleaner, less polluting fuel by 12.5c per litre seems to fly in the face of the whole philosophy about cleaning up the globe and saving it from damnation caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. So I am caught almost unawares—never absolutely, but almost unawares.

I stand this evening primarily concerned with the aspect of the transport industry energy source of the future. That will possibly be compressed natural gas. It will hopefully be more exotic and scientifically advanced fuel cells using hydrogen, but in the meantime CNG, or compressed natural gas, ticks a lot of boxes. The downside of it at this stage is that we do not have the infrastructure across this nation necessary to allow the users of CNG to access that product as they would like to.

We do need, in our fuel usage, to consider the pollutants as a result. When one is faced with a government with a publicised philosophy about reducing greenhouse gases, it is very odd—indeed, one finds it alarming—that they would add costs to a product that reduces pollution and allow more polluting substances to be at a relatively lesser cost. It beggars belief that a government that is so populist would do such a thing. Of course, often their defence of their decision is that it was a policy of the Howard government that we would increase the fuel tax on LPG. I might clear the record by saying that that was one of many strategies out of a whole mosaic that would have rationalised improved revenue collection in a very different era than we find ourselves in today. Today, families are hurting. Families are facing increases on all facets. There are increases in the cost of electricity at home. They are facing increases in the cost of petrol at the bowser. They are facing numerous increases in addition to the great unnecessary increases in their mortgage costs as a result of this government's excessive spending. Why on earth would they want to be faced with the cost of an increased price of LPG?

I say it again: why would a government that almost prostitutes itself in appeasing the public—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Durack is straying into territory that I am not going to tolerate.

Mr HAASE: I am sure it is not an area that you have ever participated in, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, thank you! I think the terminology is unacceptable.

Mr HAASE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I accept your admonition. I shall not stray from the point ever again.

This government has made a great name for itself in being very populist in its approach to the reduction of global greenhouse gases. It is a well-known fact not disputed in the least that LPG is an energy source that is less polluting than petrol. So why on earth would this government contemplate putting a 12.5c per litre additional tax on LPG? Why would this government contemplate adding innumerable dollars to the cost of running a cab that will be passed on to consumers, often those consumers who cannot afford a car? We are not talking about the high rollers of our society. We are talking about the elderly who need to grab a cab for medical attention, or the young who are consistently, perhaps irresponsibly, grabbing a cab late at night when they could have arranged for a driver or skipper but did not. They put up for the cost of a cab fare. And the cost of a cab fare is going to go up because this government, frankly, is simply making another grab at any available revenue.

$135 million a day—that is inconceivable, surely, for the common person—is being borrowed by this government just to attend to its spending regime. To get the revenue back to afford that, they have to hit those who are least capable of paying the additional 12.5c per litre of LPG which will hit the pockets of the users of cabs, which were converted to LPG because there was a subsidy provided by the Howard government. All of those people are going to ask, 'Why is this government doing this?' It is a legitimate question. Surely if debate is worth anything in this place it is to try to convince the lawmakers, the government at present, that sometimes their decisions and the bills they introduce into this House are unacceptable to real Australians. Real Australians will question once again why this government is doing such a thing. They certainly questioned the ceiling insulation program. They questioned the program of wasting money on school halls. They question the reason for introducing another tax to hit the only industry in this country that is making a quid these days—the mining industry. They certainly question this government's introduction of a carbon tax. Now, flying in the face of that very same tax, we have this imposition on those users of LPG. It makes no sense.

If this government has a conscience, if this House has a process, if there is any rationale residing still amongst the government benches, surely there will be a realisation that this bill ought be thrown out, that the revenue grab ought be forgone and that real Australians who are battling to survive and are having to catch cabs, amongst other things, ought get a break and ought not be hit for another 12.5c per litre. They should be given a fair go. For the first time in a long time, we are suffering an increased price in electricity, up 51 per cent; gas is up 30 per cent; water is up 46 per cent; education costs are up 24 per cent; the cost of maintaining one's health is up 20 per cent; rent is up an average of 21 per cent across this country; and groceries are up an average of 14 per cent. Since mid-2009, interest rates have added $500 every month to mortgage repayments while wages have risen just seven per cent.

In this environment of increased costs upon those battling families, those of them who have chosen to take the subsidy to convert to LPG that was generously introduced by the Howard government are now going to be slugged an additional 12.5c. That is about a 20 per cent increase—a one-fifth increase in your motoring costs per week.

Quite frankly, if this government has a conscience and if this House process counts for anything, then the government will reconsider this bill. It will forgo the additional grab at revenue. It will hurt less the families of Australia that are already battling and chuck this bill out. Reverse the process and allow common sense to prevail. You cannot run opposing arguments at the same time. You cannot say on the one hand, 'We want to save the planet; little Australia with 22 million population is going to save the planet by increasing the use of less-polluting fuels and more energy-saving regimes,' and at the same time stop people from using a less-polluting product. It is irrational, to say the least. It flies in the face of common sense and it is like a red rag to a bull to the Australian people. This government has absolutely lost the plot. I disagree with this bill.