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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4502

Senator BERNARDI (5:28 PM) —Before I was interrupted by question time I was commenting on the cost to industry of the CPRS. I make the note that dollars and cents are one thing. To this government they are simply entries on a balance sheet, with no thought of the impact of their spendthrift and damaging policies. But, in the end, this should not just be about numbers; it has to be about jobs. A few brave companies have been prepared to go public with the impact on their workers of this CPRS. The Minerals Council has found that over 66,000 jobs will be lost or forgone as a result of the CPRS. Rio Tinto has stated that ‘the CPRS as proposed will cost jobs—now and in the future’. Xstrata predicts that between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs nationally will be lost. Alcoa has concerns about 1,800 jobs at risk in Geelong and Portland. Exxon predicts the loss of 350 jobs at their Altona refinery. Hundreds of jobs will or could be lost at BlueScope and OneSteel. The aluminium smelting industry would cancel their expansion plans, with a loss of 3,000 permanent jobs and up to 15,000 construction jobs.

Even the clean energy projects at ZeroGen and Envirogen could see 1,000 jobs go begging as a result of this CPRS. The list of jobs lost or foregone could go on and on. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could disappear under this scheme that—just as a reminder—will not make a jot of difference to the climate. Research commissioned by the New South Wales government found that regional centres across Australia would shrink by 20 per cent under the government’s scheme. In some one-factory towns, the loss of industry would effectively shut the community down. This scheme is just another stake through the heart of regional Australia.

As I mentioned earlier, the government will be offering financial support for low- and middle-income families to help cope with the increased costs caused by this scheme. Why, then, are the government burdening all Australians with higher costs when the CPRS will make no meaningful difference to the world’s climate? Put simply, the price of emission intensive goods will increase, the cost of electricity will increase by up to 50 per cent, the cost of gas and other household fuels will increase for every household and food prices will increase. I ask once again: why are Labor trying to place this burden on Australian families? Why are Labor threatening their jobs, their prosperity and their lifestyle when the action that Labor are proposing will have no impact on global climate change? The only reason is that Labor have turned their backs on Australia’s interests in an ill-fated attempt to ingratiate themselves among the leaders on the world stage.

Frankly, the national price alone is too high for me to support this bill. While, by virtue of our position in the national parliament, we must consider our county’s interests, I am a senator for South Australia and I will and must consider the interests of my state. You see, when talking about job losses and increased cost, it is easy to think that it will not happen in an area near you. This scheme will affect everyone. But some, of course, will be much worse off than others. South Australia, for example, relies on agriculture, manufacturing, mining and other energy intensive industries that will all be disadvantaged by the introduction of Labor’s CPRS. It is estimated that the South Australian government will experience a net additional cost of $99 million. This will place a significant burden on other areas of state government expenditure, such as health care, just to cover the costs of this scheme.

The town of Whyalla, where I was last week, currently facing such a promising future, would once again be plunged into uncertainty as a result of this scheme. Nyrstar, a metals processing and recycling company operating in Port Pirie, estimate that a CPRS could make their smelter unviable. This would cost up to 1,700 jobs, around 30 per cent of Port Pirie’s working population. Imagine that: one third of a large town’s population out of work as a result of a scheme that will not and cannot achieve its stated aim. It fills me with dread, and it should fill every South Australian senator with dread, too.

South Australia’s future is reliant on the very industries that the rabid greenies consider unfriendly to the environment. We have to accept, though, that industry is needed to continue the growth of our state. We need to see the development. We need to see the development of our mining industry. We need to see the development of new power stations, including the proposed $350 million, 450-megawatt, gas fired power station planned near Mallala—a project the viability of which is threatened by Labor’s irrational CPRS. In the south-east of my state, the Kimberley Clark pulp and paper mill at Millicent will suffer under the CPRS, threatening the future of its 630 employees. Every single job lost will have a flow-on impact, not only for Millicent but for the neighbouring townships and the south-east region of my wonderful state.

South Australia is reliant on more than mining and industry for its prosperity. We also have a big agricultural presence that contributes a large amount to our state economy. The proposed CPRS could take up to 22 per cent of a farmer’s income to—I remind the Senate once again—achieve no meaningful benefit for the environment. Beef eaters will pay more and beef producers will make less under this scheme. In fact, input costs will rise and profits will fall for all farmers. The inevitable result will be more farmers leaving the land, placing further pressure on regional communities. I do not have time to further extrapolate on the danger this bill represents to the national interest and the interest of South Australia.

Local industries will be forced to close, only to reopen elsewhere, effectively exporting Australian jobs and profits to other countries. Every Australian—every Australian family—will bear the cost of this scheme in the form of higher food and energy prices, through loss of jobs, through the decline in real wages and through the closure of communities.

This CPRS is like a wish list of anti-Western, ultra-green ideology. It places hypothetical environmental benefits above the interests of every Australian. The economy, employment and families are ignored in favour of Al Gore’s alarmist and discredited apocalyptic future of the world. And for what? It will have no meaningful effect on reducing global greenhouse gas levels. No matter how extreme our own approach to reducing carbon emissions, Australia can achieve nothing alone. In the absence of a global agreement including India and China, Australia will simply be a loser by being an observant climate change disciple. We cannot and should not pursue causes, no matter how well-meaning they might be, if they will have no positive impact on the global environment and yet threaten the very future prosperity of our country. Accordingly, I will be acting in the national interest and the interest of South Australia by voting against this bill and by flagging my objection to any future incarnation that does not serve the interests of my state and my country. I ask that every South Australian senator, and in fact every senator in this place, makes that same commitment. To do anything less is abrogating their responsibility under our constitution.