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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5562

Carbon Pricing

Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (14:27): Mr President, my question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Is the minister aware of recent analysis conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra which reveals that the carbon tax will increase costs for ACT households by an average of $9.71 per week, compared to $5.79 per week in South Australia? Can the minister explain why Canberrans should pay almost 60 per cent more under her government's carbon tax than people in her own state of South Australia?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:28): My recollection, and this is going back some time, is that one of the reasons for the lesser increase in South Australia is that South Australia has a higher proportion of renewable energy, so therefore you see a lower level of increase. But the figures that were released by the various states and territories about the increase in prices for electricity were pretty much precisely where the Treasury modelling assumed they would be, so around a 10 per cent increase. As the senator would know, unlike the approximately 50 per cent increase that we have seen ex carbon price over the past few years in electricity prices, of course this price increase is associated with the provision of increases to family tax benefit pension as well as tax cuts, all of which the coalition are asserting they will in fact roll back and remove—if they are to be believed on that.

I would make the point to the senator that if he is concerned about the pricing of electricity I would assume he would be primarily concerned by the largest component increase in the price of electricity, which is not carbon—which is in fact investment in poles and wires. If he is so concerned about the cost of living for Australian families, I wonder why he voted against the Schoolkids Bonus—why he voted against putting money into the pockets of Australian families to help them with the cost of schooling their children. The reality is that those opposite talk about worrying about cost of living but they come in here and vote against working families when the chips are down.

Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (14:30): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister, but she says that the largest component of the price rise has not been the carbon tax. Is she then aware that the ACT's independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has found:

The increase in the cost of wholesale electricity is almost entirely attributable to the introduction of a price on carbon by the Australian government.

Can the minister explain to Canberra residents why the carbon tax component of their price hike, some 75 per cent of the rise, should be so much higher than that of other Australians?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:31): Again I would refer to my previous answer, which is that the vast majority over the numbers of years of the increases in electricity prices has been as a result of investment in poles and wires. I would refer the senator to his colleague Mr Turnbull in the other place who has recognised that fact.

Senator Abetz: Answer the question!

Senator WONG: I am answering the question, Senator Abetz; the problem is you do not like the answer, because the truth is not something you wish to discuss when it comes to electricity prices, nor does the senator wish to discuss the fact that the Australian government, through its Clean Energy Future package, is providing assistance to Australian households, as I said, through pensions, family tax benefit and tax cuts, all of which the coalition say they oppose.

Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (14:32): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Again, the minister says that the government is providing assistance. Is she aware that the ACT Labor government has analysed this situation and found that 60 per cent of Canberra households are either uncompensated or undercompensated for the Gillard government's carbon tax price hike and that 22 per cent of Canberrans received no compensation whatsoever?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:32): We made our decision to focus the assistance to Australian families on those who need it most, and that is people on the pension; people on family tax benefit; and people earning under $80,000 per year, who will receive a tax cut. That is nothing to do with state or territory boundaries; that is the position the Labor government took, and we stand by that. We stand by a Labor decision to ensure that those in Australia who need it most get the most assistance under the carbon assistance package.

The senator tries to suggest that somehow we have got it in for the ACT. I tell you what: the senator can go out and tell Canberrans why he supports the sorts of job cuts in Canberra that we see Campbell Newman imposing on Queensland. He can go out and tell them why it is that Joe Hockey always beats his chest about his taking a meat axe to the Canberra Public Service. That is what he should go and tell his constituents. (Time expired)