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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5558


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:13): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the 2012 edition of KPMG's Guide to International Business Location Costs, the most thorough comparison of international business location costs ever undertaken by KPMG. Is the minister aware that that study found that, between 2010 and 2012, the cost of doing business in Australia went up by nearly six per cent while it came down in all other developed nations studied, except Japan? Is the minister also aware that the study found that the cost of doing business in Australia is now 3.7 per cent higher than that in the US, while Canada and all European nations studied were as competitive or more competitive than the US? Why is the Gillard government pressing ahead with world's biggest carbon tax when it will push up the cost of doing business in Australia even further and when independent objective analysis is showing that Australia is already losing its competitive edge against its international competitors?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:14): I think it is interesting that Senator Cormann in his question refers to Europe as somewhere Australia should look to when it comes to competitiveness. If Senator Cormann wants to have double-digit unemployment, if Senator Cormann wants to have the risks in the financial sector, if Senator Cormann wants to see economies contracting, he can go out and explain to the Australian people that we should look to Europe. He should explain to them that, while 27 million people around the world as a consequence of the GFC lost their jobs, we have created 810,000 jobs here in Australia since Labor came to government. So if he wants to talk about a track record and the strength of the economy, I suggest he needs to do better than to look to Europe. With all due respect to our European friends, the reality is that that is not an example of an economy that is strong and certainly not by comparison in terms of investment in Australia.

The question shows yet again the sort of trash talking of the Australian economy that is clearly not in the interests of Australian workers but which those opposite are utterly addicted to. They cannot bear the fact that since we came to government that has been $919 billion invested in Australia. They cannot bear the fact that the economy is growing, they cannot bear the fact that unemployment is at 5.2 per cent. So they come in here and say it is all really bad and it is going to get worse and it is really bad because there is this carbon price. They said the sky would fall in previously and it might not have but they say it is going to. I think Australians deserve better than that.

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:16): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I refer the minister to KPMG's analysis of electricity costs, which showed that Australia's power costs are already the highest of all 14 developed and developing nations studied and that the cost of electricity in Australia per kilowatt hour is more than double that in the US, Canada, Germany, Great Britain and France and higher even than that in Japan. Why is the Gillard government deliberately raising the cost of electricity by even more, contributing to a further loss of international competitiveness and eventual loss of jobs, investment and prosperity?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:17): I will do my best, but (a) I cannot see how that was a supplementary question and (b) that was a speech, not a question. It was a statement, not a question. But I am very happy to talk about electricity prices, which was the first part of that statement, because as the senator should know the average electricity bill went up by about 50 per cent in the last four years without the carbon price. Despite the fact that Mr Abbott claims that this is a fabrication, the reality is that your own state Liberal ministers and even Mr Turnbull know that is true. I will just remind the Senate what Mr Turnbull said:

There is no doubt that the bulk of the reason for the 50 per cent or thereabouts increase in electricity prices, for example, in New South Wales over the last few years has been because of investment in poles and wires.

Unfortunately, Mr Turnbull is one of the few that actually told the truth. Maybe you should listen to him, Senator.

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:18): I have yet another supplementary question. Why are the government and the minister in particular trying to blame shift yet again when it has the direct power to bring power prices down now by getting rid of its carbon tax?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:19): Mr President, it is pretty desperate, isn't it, in the face of the facts that the vast majority of the increase we have seen in electricity prices—for which there has been no assistance—has been for reasons entirely unrelated to the introduction of a price on carbon? Senator Cormann cannot even convince members of his own front bench like Malcolm Turnbull who have the temerity to tell the truth on this issue and say, 'You know what, the facts actually do not stack up with the scare campaign that the opposition is running,' and that is explicit in Senator Cormann's question. Yes, there is an impact on electricity prices as a result of a price on carbon. It is significantly less than the impact as a result of the investment in poles and wires and the significant difference is we are providing increases to the pension, family tax benefits and other assistance. (Time expired)