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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7030

Carbon Pricing


Senator RYAN (Victoria) (14:34): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Ludwig. I refer the minister to the government's recent advice to Australia's small businesses through one of its propaganda pamphlets which tells small businesses that to cope with an expected 10 per cent increase in electricity prices as a result of the carbon tax they should 'fix any leaky taps promptly, clean lights and close doors'. Given that electricity prices have actually risen by more than 14 per cent as a direct result of a carbon tax, when will the government stop insulting Australia's 2.7 million small businesses with patronising and badly written brochures and instead admit that it has not paid and it will never pay a single dollar of compensation to small businesses for the increases in their costs due to the carbon tax?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! The time for debating this is after question time on both sides.



Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:35): I do not accept the premise of that question. Clearly the opposition opposed the tax cuts to small business. The opposition are in fact completely at odds with how they can help small business. But let us start with the facts for small business. There are no forms to fill out, no new regulations to comply with and most will not be significantly affected as they are not heavy consumers of gas or electricity. The price paid for electricity by a typical small business has risen by around 10 per cent. Electricity makes up two per cent or less of costs.

Those opposite would in fact inflate it to something like the cheeky little argument they ran about the carbon price when it came into effect on 1 July. That was not true and they are now saying the same for small business—that small business will somehow be destroyed as a consequence of the carbon price. It will not. You are now running again a mischievous false argument.

If you look at the scare campaign in recent question times we have seen the opposition waving around electricity accounts. I am surprised the opposition did not have an electricity account to wave around this time other than a broad smear campaign that it is now operating under.

What the opposition fail to mention is that most of the increase in electricity prices faced by small business have been driven by investment in network infrastructure, the majority of which is state owned. They also appear blissfully unaware of seasonal variations in electricity use, unlike the rest of us. There are seasonal variations in electricity prices, and if you look at what we are doing for small business— (Time expired)


Senator RYAN (Victoria) (14:37): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the government really think the best response to a small business dealing with the impact of its carbon tax is to 'close their doors'? How many small businesses will have to close their doors before Labor recognises that the carbon tax it promised we would not get is bad for our economy and does nothing for the environment?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:38): I thank the opposition for their interest in the carbon price. The largest single-cost impact for small business, though, as identified by the opposition, will be electricity. This was analysed by both COSBOA and AIG, but they suggest the majority of small business owners spend around two per cent. It is a very small component of their overall costs.

What is more astonishing is that, if you look at the opposition's position on this, in case you missed it those opposite opposed assistance to small business. I found this extraordinary given the amount of those opposite put into telling the chamber that they support small business. They opposed: tripling the tax-free threshold; tax cuts for more than seven million people; a company tax cut; the seniors and pensioners tax offset; the Medicare levy surcharge thresholds; early start for the company tax cuts for small business; an increase in the instant asset write-off— (Time expired)


Senator RYAN (Victoria) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. Despite all the evidence, why is the government persisting with the world's biggest carbon tax when it pushes up the cost of electricity, the cost of living and the cost of doing business, and weakens our economy without doing a single thing to reduce global emissions?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:40): One of the most disappointing things for me is that back in 2001 the Howard government first started talking to ABARES about an emissions trading scheme. Why? Because those opposite saw the need to reduce our emissions of carbon. And we agree. Now that we have implemented it those opposite have back-flipped—they have changed their minds completely. The opposition, like I, want to ensure that we can drive down our emissions in carbon. Why? Because it is a benefit to the environment, it is a benefit to the economy and it will ensure that we can have a clean energy future. Those opposite want to continue to decry— (Time expired)