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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11432

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (16:54): The Prime Minister introduced her carbon tax into this parliament on 13 September 2011 in a speech lasting 23 minutes and comprising 2,678 words. On 28 occasions, the Labor leader used the words 'a price on carbon', 'carbon price' or 'carbon pricing'. Not once did she use the expression 'carbon tax'. Why is she in such denial? Australians are renowned for telling it as it is, not beating around the bush, not gilding the lily. Australians expect their Prime Minister to do the same—to be upfront and honest, to tell the truth always. On 16 August 2010, the member for Lalor, having just ousted her first-term predecessor, the member for Griffith—the man popularly elected by the people—had this to say: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' On 24 February this year, the now Prime Minister, in the position but not by the choice or the will of the people, held a media conference to announce that she was going back on her word; she and her Multi-Party Climate Change Committee would be burdening Australia with a carbon tax; and she was reneging on her deal with the Australian people—tearing up her verbal contract with the job-creating factories, the families, the farmers who grow the food and fibre to feed and clothe us, the small business men and women who are the engine room of our economy, the truck drivers who keep our nation on the move and the workers she falsely espouses to represent. We well remember the media conference, and, make no mistake, so too will the people of Australia at their first available opportunity: the next election.

The body language and the positioning of those at that media conference were telling. Standing at the back was the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, flanked by the Independent members for Lyne and New England. Out front—for a while, at least—was the Prime Minister and, next to her, were two people to whom she is now beholden: Greens leader Senator Bob Brown and his deputy, Senator Christine Milne. But it did not take long for Senator Brown to hijack the show. His opening line said it all:

We feel very happy to be here in a process which is moving forward for this nation's future.

'Moving forward'—wasn't that Labor's 2010 election campaign line? And there is the rub. The Greens and Labor are one and the same, certainly in this parliament. You can lump in the Independent members for Denison, Lyne and New England as well; they are all Labor by any other name. The one Green in the House of Representatives and the three Independents keep this illegitimate Labor government in power, hanging by a thread, in spite of a $200 billion plus deficit, in spite of cost overruns and in spite of botching everything it touches. It is worth noting that the one Green, the member for Melbourne, was the only member of the 150 elected to this House on 21 August who was in favour of a carbon tax—one out of 150, which is hardly representative. Yet here we are, nearly 14 months later, about to embrace a massive taxation reform without first having put it to the people of Australia.

The complexity of this tax will mean a massive increase in the size of the Public Service, to administer the nondelivery of an invisible, odourless product to no-one. At the same time, it will drive up grocery prices, and electricity and gas bills for ordinary, everyday Australians, and will see our jobs and industries sent offshore. Having to buy billions of dollars of carbon credits offshore is akin to sending a scam emailer your bank details.

A carbon tax will hurt the Riverina. This is a region already reeling from this government's abject failure to bring about certainty in the water debate, thereby causing all investment and hope in the Coleambally and Murrumbidgee irrigation areas to grind to a dead halt. This is a region which is proudly home to Wagga Wagga based airline Regional Express, which says a carbon tax will add $2 to the price of every ticket and the impost on aviation fuel would cost the company $2 million in the first year. Abattoirs at Wagga Wagga and Yanco, employers of hundreds of locals, will bear a huge burden under a carbon tax, as will the Hyne timber mill at Tumbarumba. A carbon tax will cost Visy, which has a state-of-the-art, already eco-friendly pulp and paper mill at Tumut, at least $12 million in its first year. The Southern Cross newspaper editorialised:

It will force Junee businesses to adapt, pushing many to the edge of viability and others to downsize their operations. Starting a business in this climate might not seem like the wisest of ideas, with what you might call 'dark clouds' on the horizon.

There is a better way. The coalition's direct action plan is a strong and effective policy which will reduce carbon emissions by five per cent by 2020 without a new tax. We need to invest in renewable energy, improve soils, ensure we have enough productive water to meet the global food task while maintaining healthy rivers, and fund research and development in new technologies to bring about outcomes to help the environment. It is possible. It is happening now. It needs to happen in the future. But this carbon tax should be rejected. It is wrong. It is a fraud. It will harm Australia, it will do nothing for the environment and it is based on a lie. If the minority Labor government did the decent, honest thing now and took it to an election, the voters would no doubt overwhelmingly reject it, as well as this flip-flop Prime Minister and those who back her.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): In accordance with the resolution of the House on 13 September this year, I call the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.