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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11327

Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (09:32): On behalf of the people of Flynn I must stand here today and absolutely and completely reject the carbon tax legislation. We all know there is climate change—you just have to ask the dinosaurs about that. My electorate, as I have said before, is home to two aluminium refineries, one aluminium smelter, Australia's largest cement works, three coal-fired power stations, 11 coalmines and an emerging LNG industry. Coupled with that we have small and medium businesses that rely on this intensive industry to survive. My electorate of Flynn is ground zero as far as the carbon tax is concerned. If you go to the people in my electorate, nine out of 10 hotly oppose a carbon tax. One out of 10 is yet to make up their mind. There is only one person I know in my electorate who is in favour of a carbon tax. I ran into a miner from Rolleston a couple of months ago and he told me that no-one in the Rolleston coalmine was in favour of a carbon tax. Make no mistake, Mr Deputy Speaker, the policies of Gillard and the Brown government will cost Central Queensland—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The honourable member for Flynn will refer to the Prime Minister by her title.

Mr O'DOWD: The policy of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Greens will cost the Central Queensland area thousands of jobs if this carbon tax comes to fruition. For example, just jumping to Victoria for a moment, the aluminium giant Alcoa in Victoria faces closure and job losses. They put that down to high input costs, the high Australian dollar and a carbon tax. It also costs that industry $40 million. The same can be said for the aluminium smelters in my town. For instance, the Russian company Rusal, who have a 20 per cent share in Queensland Alumina, have said all sorts of nasty things about this carbon tax to the point of saying they will not invest another dollar in Australia until this matter is clarified and if it is clarified it will have to be a lot different from what is proposed with this carbon tax. I can quote you some examples, the first from the Courier Mail on 23 September:

The world's largest aluminium company, Rusal, has launched a scathing attack on the Gillard Government's carbon tax and emissions scheme, saying it puts its key Queensland project at risk.

In a submission to the Federal Government Rusal said that the clean energy legislative package—the carbon tax and Emissions Trading Scheme—was a threat to the viability of the Russian group's major investment in Australia.

The Weekend Australian on 24 September 2011 said that American aluminium giant Alcoa is warning the Victorian government, et cetera. Another article in the Australian Financial Review on 11 July 2011 said:

Rusal Australia, which owns 20 per cent of Queensland Alumina, one of the world's largest aluminium refineries, expressed concerns over the number of free permits to be allocated. Rusal Australia chairman John Hannagan said the refinery would receive free permits for 75 per cent of its emissions in the first year. 'For this year at Queensland Alumina Ltd it will cost us around $30 million,' Mr Hannagan said.

You can see that the investors are very dubious about investing in Australia and particularly in the aluminium and cement industry in my area. Six black coal mines could close prematurely and 21,000 mining related jobs could be lost as a result of a carbon tax. That is according to new data released by the industry in the last couple of days.

I do not need to remind the House that Indonesia started its coal industry in 1980. In 2006 it overtook Australia as the biggest exporter of coal. Africa is another hot spot for projects, and you may be surprised to know that there are 600 Australian based companies in Africa investigating projects in the mineral resource area. There are 225 projects already underway in Africa. In Mongolia—it was not only Genghis Khan that came out of Mongolia—there are huge deposits of high-quality black coal that are feeding into China today. That is being managed by another Australian company, Leighton, which is over there carting the coal from Mongolia to China.

It is no different in Central Queensland. Jobs are at risk. The government want us to believe that workers who lose their jobs as a result of business closures will be able to transition to new, cleaner, greener energies such as windmills, solar panels and the like. That defies logic. China has become the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels, and it is also a leader in the development of carbon sequestration technology. The Prime Minister and Senator Bob Brown have argued that China can do green examples and should be the inspiration for Australians and the rest of the world. It should be noted that China has taken over from the USA as the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

It is an act of national economic suicide to destroy our ability to generate low-cost energy. Wind and solar energy can never provide electric power at a cost to the consumer that we, as Australians, can afford and still be competitive with the rest of the world. Our large fleet of cars, trucks, trains, ships, dozers and aircraft is not going to run on sunbeams and sea breezes. Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper, just think about that for a moment. You would need a pretty long extension cord to pull that off.

What about the workers in the industries who will lose their high-paid jobs? At the moment, oil and gas industries are paying workers very well. Indeed, some workers are getting in excess of $150,000 a year. They work hard and long hours for this money, but they still get it. They also have a very good national superannuation fund that is paid for by the employers. How are they going to cop working in government transition jobs erecting wind turbines and solar panels that have been manufactured in China? How will a family used to earning $150,000 a year manage on, say, $50,000 a year? The government, those opposite, love to redistribute wealth and bring everyone down to the same common denominator.

China has closed hundreds of inefficient coal fired power stations over the last decade, but what they have not said is that, over the last few years, for every powerhouse they have closed down they have opened up two new ones. Wind power now accounts for less than one per cent of China's energy, while solar constitutes one-hundredth of one per cent of the country's energy use. Why can't those opposite me here in the House today see that China has outsmarted us again with clever propaganda and marketing?

There is no evidence that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere controls the climate. Mr Tim Flannery has stated that there will be no change to the climate inside 1,000 years. It is false to claim that Australia lags behind the world in waging war on carbon. The Kyoto protocol is dead and Copenhagen produced nothing. Only Western Europe and New Zealand are moving on this suicidal path, but they are doing it at a much slower pace. Our current and future energy needs depend solely on coal and gas, the very things that Senator Brown's green extremists want to tax to death.

Those opposite see an opportunity to burst the balloon. Why do you want to bust something that is good? Why do you want to replace something that is not broken? It is ridiculous. Why do you want to hurt the people you profess to represent, the workers? I am here to represent workers in Central Queensland. The government's own Treasury modelling shows that the inflation impact will be 10 per cent higher in regional areas. I am in a regional area and the 10 per cent higher cost is quite evident when people start doing their modelling.

I want to go back and talk about a couple of things that those opposite have said in the debate. They said that the introduction of the carbon tax is in the national interest. How can that be, when thousands of workers will lose their jobs? Around 1,500 workers are about to lose their jobs in the Australian steel industry. They were in everyone's mind about six weeks ago, but that has fallen by the wayside now. What will happen to them? Nobody talks about that anymore, nobody cares. The government say there is going to be transitioning, retraining and repositioning. To where? That is what I would like to know. These are real people we are talking about and real jobs that were lost. They were not fakes and it is not fake jobs that they need to be relocated to. They are real job losses and that is what I am concerned about. We cannot just talk about compensation. Where is the compensation going to come from?

The government have stuffed up the live cattle exports. They had the hide to tell the graziers to go to Centrelink. Are they going to tell everyone to go to Centrelink for compensation once they lose their jobs? I do not think so, because the taxpayers of Australia will not be able to afford to pay Centrelink to pay the people who are not working.

I have six councils in the electorate of Flynn, and they are all going to have higher costs. It is the councils who pay for the lighting in the streets, the waste dumps and also water charges. To pump water around the electorate from shire to shire costs a lot of money. A lot of electricity is used to pump water. This will add drastically to the bottom line, and of course the ratepayers of the shires will have to pay for these extra costs. I wonder if that was factored into the $9.80 a week extra for our residents.

On our jobs in Queensland: in a thriving economy, a resource boom, we see the unemployment of Queenslanders going up. We are now above the national average. I think our unemployment rate is about 6.3 per cent and going up. Yesterday the jobs marketed had increased also.

We have problems everywhere we look. We cannot afford to have our jobs disappear offshore. We cannot afford to lose our Australian jobs and the people they employ—highly qualified, in a lot of cases—to overseas companies. Those Third World countries and other bigger countries such as China are looking at Australia now to take our qualified people over to their countries and work their coal mines, iron ore and steel works. I totally oppose this legislation for more reasons than one. If it goes through we will rescind it when we get into power, if we get into power, but there is the damage it is going to do in the meantime. I just hope that the Independents and the crossbenchers realise this when they come to vote on the matter.