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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10734

Mr SCHULTZ (Hume) (09:33): I rise to vehemently oppose the package of the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and associated bills. This package of legislation represents the most audacious attempt yet by a government to cripple the Australian economy whilst achieving nothing to abate climate change.

There are three major reasons why I so passionately oppose this package. Firstly, this legislation is illegitimate. The public did not vote for this policy at the last election and have been ruthlessly denied the opportunity to do so since. Secondly, the international community is moving further away from concerted action on climate change. Furthermore, the few schemes that have been enacted are already showing signs of being exploited by white collar criminals and politicians trying to boost their green credentials with no tangible reduction in emissions to show for it. Thirdly, I oppose this legislation because I believe that the Australian economy and small businesses should not become sacrificial lambs to the green movement.

The Clean Energy Bill is a classic illustration of the Labor party's reckless approach to government. Its actions and those of the Prime Minister have rendered this bill illegitimate in the eyes of the Australian people, a fact that should be reflected in this House. It has mismanaged the policy and politics of the climate change debate ever since former Prime Minister Rudd dumped his doomed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Most disturbingly and deceitfully of all, this government has deliberately deployed a political fear campaign exploiting natural disasters such as bushfires, droughts, floods and heatwaves, using them as an outrageous justification for ramming through climate change legislation. Thousands of pages of historical review have been printed, trying to work out why Mr Rudd threw away the CPRS and his credibility with it. The answer is very simple. The Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott argued for and made the compelling case that Australia should not be the first to drink the Kool-Aid and should not proceed with a market mechanism as part of a climate abatement strategy until the rest of the world had agreed to do so at the Copenhagen summit in 2010—a very sensible approach indeed, vindicated as it was by the failure of the global community to reach an agreement on a market mechanism.

A member of the government once said to me that politics is a stayers' game; so, in that vein, the Labor Party regrouped and rather than persevere dumped both the policy and the Prime Minister and called an early election. It was at that extraordinary election that both major parties outlined their contrasting policies on climate change. In reality only one leader and one party took a policy on climate change to the last election. Tony Abbott presented to the Australian people the coalition's real action policy on climate change which would meet our bipartisan commitment to a five per cent emissions reduction by 2020. Through this policy the coalition has proven that emission cuts can be achieved without Labor's carbon tax. The coalition's plan to tackle climate change has been in public circulation for well over 12 months and supports a range of measures that will reduce emissions and improve Australia's environment.

By contrast the Labor government and the Prime Minister did not have anything that even remotely resembled a responsible policy on climate change at the last election. Outrageously, the Prime Minister took to the Australian people a plan to outsource the development of the nation's climate change policy to an unelected citizen's assembly of 150 individuals. Never has a government so blatantly dismissed the centrality of the Westminster system of parliamentary accountability. Subsequent to the election, which the Prime Minister failed to win, in a deal done out of pure political desperation the Prime Minister succumbed to the demands of the Greens and the opportunistic Independents.

Clinging to the wreckage of a lost election, a perverse alliance was formed between the Greens and the Prime Minister. The Greens agenda is quite simple: tax hardworking Australians back to the Stone Age, and destroy the fruits of generations who have fought and laboured to build this country, so that we can all frolic in the forest with fairies. So detached from reality is the Greens' manifesto that I am amazed good people on the government benches sat by and allowed the Prime Minister to agree to implement Green-Left rubbish like this bill, abandoning all their principles to protect hardworking Australians in the process. The result of the election—in which the Australian people clearly registered their vote of no confidence in the Labor Party to govern—left us with this Frankenstein government beholden to the whims of rural fruit loops and out-of-touch inner city elites.

The Prime Minister could have chosen not to compromise her principles as she did and sent the Australian people back to the polls at the end of 2010 to allow both parties to better articulate their vision for the future of our country. Instead of doing what was best for democracy, instead of doing what was right, the Prime Minister copped out. In one calculated action this Prime Minister chose to cast aside all principle, to tear away those last annoying shreds of dignity clinging to the office of Prime Minister, and to go back on her promise before the election. And not just any promise—not core or non-core but an iron-clad, no ifs or buts promise that 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' I repeat, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' In all my time involved in politics I have never heard an individual who held the highest office in this country so blatantly and dismissively betray the trust and honour bestowed upon that office. We are here today as a result of this betrayal. I can proudly state that I went to the last election to have the people of the electorate of Hume judge me on my pre-election commitments and the policies that we as the Liberal Party developed and the principles I stand for. When voters—mums, dads, nurses, pensioners, veterans—all went to the polls throughout the country, they made their decisions based on the promises we made before polling day. The public have to take us at our word that we will deliver on the promises we make. People cast their vote anticipating that the promises each candidate and party make are genuine and will be followed through. But that sacred trust, inherent in our democratic system, the one between voter and politician, is destroyed when the person holding the highest office in the land makes a conscious decision to turn her back on her public stated commitment to the Australian people.

I struggle to comprehend the sheer audacity of this Prime Minister to present this series of bills before the parliament. Clearly, she has the most public case of political amnesia or she holds the trust placed in her by the Australian people, that she would not introduce a carbon tax, with complete and utter contempt. This bill has no legitimacy and therefore no place being presented before this House. Nobody in Australia voted for this carbon tax; nobody in Australia was given the opportunity to vote either for or against this carbon tax; nobody in Australia should have to wear the cost being imposed upon us because of this carbon tax.

My second reason for opposing this job-destroying piece of legislation is that the international community is moving further away from concerted action on climate change. As I mentioned earlier, Copenhagen illustrated that the global community has no stomach for imposing a global carbon trading system that will actually reduce emissions. The Prime Minister has already acknowledged that the purchase of carbon credit offsets from other countries will be integral to Labor's ability to achieve the bipartisan five per cent emissions reduction target by 2020. As my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition outlined in her speech to the House the day before yesterday, the Kyoto protocol era international carbon credit market has collapsed within the space of six years. Representing a value of $25 billion in 2005, that market is now valued at a paltry $1.5 billion because the international community are abandoning their commitment to the protocol after its expiry in 2012. Even more disturbingly, in Europe law enforcement agency Europol reported that raids were conducted in Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, Italy and Portugal. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, 90 per cent of trades in the European Union emissions trading scheme were fraudulent, resulting in a loss to European taxpayers of more than €6.6 billion. Yet the Prime Minister wilfully ignores this evidence. The Prime Minister also fails to see her moral double standard of continuing to support the export of coal to China and India to pollute the atmosphere yet expects Australians to pay for overseas countries to do so. I cannot possibly support a package of bills that intends to waste over $57 billion of taxpayers' dollars on overseas carbon credits simply to assuage the Green left-leaning politicians and inner-city elites and what they feel over humanity's industrial advancement, with no evidence that climate change will either be stopped or abated.

There is a third major reason I refuse to support the Clean Energy Bill package. This government has already exhibited its appetite for attacking small enterprise. Throughout my electorate, small businesses in places such as Picton, Goulburn, Boorowa, Harden, Young, Yass, Grenfell, Cowra, Cootamundra and Crookwell are struggling under the burden of overregulation and cost increases. As recently as last week, Senator Eric Abetz came to my electorate where I introduced him to small-business people from Goulburn, Boorowa and the Wollondilly region to discuss industrial relations policy. Not only was overregulation a burden on small business, but the message they gave us regarding the carbon tax was overwhelming. Coupled with the colossal increases in the cost of doing business under this government, implementing a carbon tax will devastate the bottom line of many small and family run businesses who cannot keep up with the increase in electricity prices as it is. The money merry-go-round that this legislation hopes to implement delivers virtually no compensation for small enterprise. Even under their own example of assistance for small businesses, a cash-strapped cafe owner would need to find $6,000 for some new equipment to receive a one-off earlier tax benefit of $1,800. Any additional one-off tax benefit will not relieve the ongoing and unavoidable increased operating costs due to escalating energy costs under the carbon tax, particularly the price of electricity.

I have raised the fear being felt by small business on numerous occasions both in this House in August and in opinion pieces highlighting the struggle they will face if this business-busting carbon tax is introduced. Sadly, what I have been hearing out in my electorate from small business is being echoed in towns and suburbs across the country. On Tuesday 13 September the Australian Retailers Association released a statement that declared that retailers could not cope with the price hikes and other flow-on effects of the carbon tax as new research released by Deloitte Access Economics showed the sector had posted the worst growth results in 20 years. The report went on to say:

Almost 85% expect carbon tax will have a negative impact on business profitability

Over a third of retailers surveyed to shed staff as a result of lost trade

Small business will struggle to survive and jobs will be lost if the Prime Minister gets her way and succeeds in passing this package of bills. In all my 23 years in state and federal politics, I have never witnessed anger about a government policy as widespread as I have with the introduction of this carbon tax. The Prime Minister said there would be no carbon tax under the government she led. This bill represents a betrayal of the trust invested in the democratic process by the Australian people. This bill represents a colossal waste of taxpayers' money on offshore carbon credit schemes proven to have been corrupted by the people charged with the white and clean environmental consciences of gutless politicians and latte-sipping socialists. This bill represents the greatest act of economic sabotage since Federation and will destroy the lives of small businesses and employees who will find themselves out of business and out of work. This bill to introduce a carbon tax is a betrayal of Australia's democratic process, an enormous waste of money and will vandalise our economy for absolutely no environmental gain. I cannot and will not support this bill.