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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9251

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (12:26): This motion seeks to keep alive a debate that I suspect is running out of wind out there in the electorate. That is certainly the case in the electorate that I represent. I will try to respond to some of the matters that have been raised in the course of this debate and those in the written motion but, obviously, five minutes will not allow me to speak in detail about all of those matters.

To begin with, it is a fact that only the large polluters pay a tax for each tonne of carbon emitted after they have used up their free permits. I stress that point: after they have used up their free permits. Having paid a fee for each tonne of carbon they then have the options to (a) reduce their emissions, (b) absorb the costs of their emissions or (c) pass the costs on to their customers. I suspect that each organisation will determine which of the options they will adopt, because all three options are available to them. Of course, if costs are passed on to customers and those customers are themselves business operators, they in turn may pass the costs on to their own customers. I say 'may' because several business operators that I know have said to me that they do not intend to pass those costs on but intend to simply absorb them into their own operations. They will absorb them because, in truth, they know that those costs are relatively minimal.

Again, those businesses have options as well and whether they wish to pass the costs on is a matter for them. It is however of serious concern that some business operators are using the introduction of a carbon tax as an excuse to increase prices and to do so at much greater amounts than the true impact of the carbon tax. I am pleased to see that the ACCC is acting on this matter and has already identified several businesses that have attempted to exploit the introduction of a price on carbon.

It is also of concern that rising prices due to other factors are also being rolled together with carbon price impacts, and the real cause of many of the price increases are being masked by retailers without breaching ACCC standards. A good example of that is where a business says, 'The increases in these costs are attributable to the carbon tax, plus the value of the Australian dollar and so on.' They do not specifically break down the proportion of the increase attributable to the carbon tax but make sure that they put carbon tax in there first and foremost and very prominently, clearly trying to pretend that the carbon tax is the main contributor to the price increases when the reality is that that is not the case.

A good example of that is the example of the power utilities and local government, which the members opposite have referred to. Can I say in respect of the issues relating to local government that I spoke about this matter on 22 May in a House adjournment speech, and I refer members to my speech, where I outlined, step by step, why those local government authorities which claim that the carbon price will significantly put up their rates are misleading their residents and their businesses. It may be convenient to shift the focus onto carbon price without breaching the ACCC standards, but it is also unethical.

Treasury has estimated that the carbon tax impacts will be 0.7 of a per cent. That figure has not been disputed by any reputable authority to date, and for most households that figure will add about $500 per year to their household bills. Putting aside the government's Household Assistance Package, which nine out of 10 households will share in, the fact remains that costs to both households and businesses, wherever they are located, are likely to be impacted much more by interest rate movements, fluctuations in the value of the Australian dollar and changes in the price of crude oil, yet relatively little is ever said about those factors.

There are many reasons why some businesses around the country are facing tough times. Attempting to lay the blame on a carbon tax is dishonest political opportunism and as immoral as the antics of some unethical business operators who are doing much the same. I suggest that members opposite address the real issues that are causing difficulties to both their residents and the businesses within their electorates, because if they do that they might in fact be of real help to them, as opposed to running with the scare campaign. (Time expired)