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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8370

Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (16:12): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter of public importance, but before I go to the substance of my contribution I would just like to challenge a few words from the member for Isaacs. He commented on the fact that the Prime Minister said from on high: 'Go out and sell the carbon tax. Go out and make your voices heard. Go out and tell the Australian people why higher power prices are going to be so good for them.' And do you know what the response was, Mr Deputy Speaker? The response was silence, because I have to say I did not hear too many marginal seat members out there selling the benefits of higher electricity prices and job losses. I did not see too many marginal seat members saying too much at all about the carbon tax. In fact, they were running and hiding. I have to say that, if you wanted to see the definition of someone looking sick, it was a Labor marginal seat holder when the Prime Minister came to visit to sell the carbon tax, because it is a toxic tax that nobody wants and you are deluding yourselves to think any differently. This day, one day after the first anniversary of that notorious statement that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led, the Prime Minister needs to explain why she is so intent on doing so much damage to the Australian economy, on destroying jobs, on driving up the cost of living and on cruelling small business and large business. We have a situation where the world is facing very challenging and very uncertain times. Just yesterday the Treasurer said there had been:

… big swings in global share markets, a downgrade to the US government's triple-A rating … and a rapid rise in borrowing costs facing Spain and Italy.

He continued:

In uncertain times like these, it is more important than ever that we have a mature debate about our economy and where it is heading …

Yet at the same time his government is imposing a carbon tax which will increase the cost of doing business, that will cost jobs, that will slow growth and that will damage our economy. This is no time for this negligent Prime Minister to be introducing a carbon tax that is going to do so much damage to Australia.

Overnight, Germany announced that their GDP slowed to almost a standstill in the second quarter of 2011, increasing only 0.1 per cent, down from 1.2 per cent in the previous quarter. Markets took a dive again overnight over fears that France is struggling to deal with its debt crisis, which totals 85 per cent of French GDP, some €1.65 trillion. Countries like Greece and Spain are struggling with trillions of dollars of debt brought on by governments spending more than they can afford. There is a crisis of confidence in the world economy. The US government owes US$14.6 trillion. Australia must ensure that our economy remains as stable as possible and not do anything to threaten our growth.

Instead, what is this government doing? This government is intent on imposing a tax that is going to reduce our international competitiveness. This government is intent on imposing a tax that is going to make it harder for businesses to generate growth, generate jobs and continue to allow Australia to prosper. In the labour market, Qantas has announced 1,000 job losses—that is before a carbon tax is going to hit; OneSteel has announced 400 job losses; Channel 10 has announced 150 job losses; and Westpac has announced job losses. What is the government's policy response? You are going to impose another great big new tax. Is that good policy? You guys are dreaming if you think that is going to help our economy prosper. If you think that is going to aid this country to grow you are in dreamland. At a time of global uncertainty the government is reducing the ability of Australian businesses to compete, and there is no question that that is going to result in job losses.

Australia is dependent on exports to maintain our economic growth. The Treasurer said after the budget in May:

With the right policies and decisions, we can convert an unprecedented mining investment boom into an opportunity boom for more of our people.

The carbon tax is the wrong policy at the wrong time to capitalise on Australia's competitive advantages. We are dependent on China for much of our exports. In 2010, Australia's exports to China totalled $58 billion or around five per cent of our GDP. If demand in China for Australian resources were to collapse, it would greatly impact our economic growth. But our threats are not limited to a potential slowing of growth in China. Australia exports $18 billion to the European Union each year and a further $9 billion to the United States. Both the EU and the US are certainly encountering huge economic challenges, and this tax is not going to do anything to assist Australia in combating the potential impacts of those challenges.

The fallout from the problems overseas could have major impacts on our exports and major impacts on Australian companies. We already have this government planning to impose a mineral resource rent tax on our mining exports. This Prime Minister really does have to come into this House and explain why she is doing that. The Prime Minister promised she was going to wear out her shoe leather to tell the story, but I can report to this House that her shoes are in perfect condition. After only a week she gave up on the information campaign, she gave up on peddling the falsehoods, she gave up on trying to spin the lie that has been put about—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! The member for Cowper would be aware that that terminology is completely inappropriate and disorderly. I call on him to withdraw that statement unreservedly.

Mr HARTSUYKER: I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. We saw the Prime Minister abandon her sell job. She abandoned the job of trying to convince the Australian people that this toxic tax was good for them. She abandoned any notion that that was going to be good for them. In fact, she has done everything she can to change the subject. We heard the Prime Minister talking about the VFT, the very worthwhile notion of the disability insurance scheme and hospital reform—anything but the toxic carbon tax. Anything that she could get in the news cycle apart from the carbon tax was mentioned by this Prime Minister.

The government talks about the fact that many of our industries will be protected by a range of subsidies. What international investor and what Australian investor would want to invest in an industry that will be dependent on government subsidy for the rest of its life? What a ridiculous situation to put our very fine industries in, a position where for the foreseeable future they are dependent on government largesse—largesse that can be taken away with the stroke of a pen. She would be making our very important industries dependent on government subsidies to survive. It is an absolutely ridiculous situation. It is an absolutely ridiculous policy. The Prime Minister also needs to explain the untruths that she is peddling about the rest of the world allegedly running lemming-like to throw themselves over a cliff, just like she is trying to do to the Australian economy. She is trying to claim that the US is making great strides in relation to an emissions trading scheme. The reality is that is false; that is untrue. We saw the 10 western American states abandon their plans for an ETS. We saw the eastern state of New Jersey withdraw from a carbon trading scheme. We saw the closure of the carbon exchange in Chicago.

I see the Labor members shaking their heads. Their constituents are shaking their heads that their local members would be imposing such a tax on them. We see the US retreating from a carbon regime. The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said that the scheme:

… does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens and tax our businesses with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment.

I think he has captured the situation in Australia perfectly.

We have a government that has attempted to mislead the Australian people. We have a Prime Minister who refuses to say why she is imposing this tax. We have a Prime Minister who promised to wear out her shoe leather, but she did nothing of the sort. After a few days out in the field she saw the response the Australian people were giving and she ran for cover—and she has got a lot more running to do before the next election.