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Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Page: 8527

Carbon Pricing

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:26): Mr President, my question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to chart 3.42 of Treasury's modelling of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which shows that as a proportion of their income Australians in regional New South Wales spend 25 per cent more on electricity and gas than those in Sydney, Australians in regional Victoria spend 30 per cent more than those in Melbourne, and Australians in regional Queensland spend six per cent more than those in Brisbane.

Why is the Gillard Labor government making it harder for Australians to live in regional Australia by increasing their electricity bills even further through the world's biggest and most stupid anti working-family carbon tax.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:27): Unsurprisingly, I do not have the modelling from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to hand, so I am not going to agree with the assertions that are in there. What I would say in relation to any increase in electricity prices—and the government has said there will be an increase in electricity prices—is that the government is also putting forward a package of reforms to tax, family benefits and pensions, amongst other things, to ensure that working families receive appropriate assistance to manage the impact of a carbon price, including on electricity. That is assistance, I might say, Senator Joyce has signed up to reversing.

In relation to regional Australia I would invite the senator to look at the last budget, where we put out regionally specific information about the spending that the government is putting in place, particularly in relation to hospitals, as well as education and infrastructure. What you will see—it is an embarrassment to the National Party—is that this government is investing more into regional Australia than ever occurred under the coalition. That is even before we include the National Broadband Network, which is an investment in regional Australia.

What people will see in the months and years to come is that Senator Joyce prattled on a lot—talked a lot—about regional Australia but did not really deliver for them. People will see that he certainly never delivered for them in the way in which this government delivered for regional Australia. It is very embarrassing, I think, for the National Party; unsurprisingly, they had to put out the coal seam gas discussion thing—

Senator Sherry: Blue paper.

Senator WONG: They had to put out a blue paper—I am not sure what a blue paper is!—to try and differentiate themselves.

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:29): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I am aware, Minister, that we are better off—apparently by 20c per week. But the question is, of course: with the extrapolative increase of the cost in regional Australia, is this 20c a week going to be enough to cover people in regional Australia? If it is, can you please show us the proof and what conclusions you base that proof on?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:30): Senator, the Treasury modelling goes through the whole-of-economy impact and looks at different household types. Cameos are available, from my recollection, from the Treasury website about how different household types are assisted. We are talking about a cost-of-living impact of some 0.7 per cent of the consumer price index. That is significantly smaller than that which occurred when the GST was put in place, which was 2.5 per cent of CPI.

I thank the senator for his concession that some families will be better off, even if he says it is only by 20c a week; I think that is the first time he has conceded that. I would point out that that is obviously an average impact. We have targeted unashamedly the assistance to lower income Australians, to people on lower incomes—to pensioners, disability support pensioners and people earning less than $80,000 a year. So people, regardless of where they live, will get that assistance. (Time expired)

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:31): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, I did not say they would be better off; you said they would be better off. They will be worse off.

The PRESIDENT: It is not time to argue—go to the question.

Senator JOYCE: Given the modelling shows that the hardest hit areas from the Gillard Labor government's carbon tax will be regional Australia, because that is where the mining, the manufacturing and the agricultural jobs are, what has the government got to hide by not releasing any modelling of the impact of a carbon tax on regional Australia? Why won't you be upfront and at least answer one question, something which you have not done thus far?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:32): The assertions, again, in the question are incorrect. The senator continues to suggest that, for example, the mining industry is going to be somehow damaged or killed by this carbon price.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Why don't you ask the mining industry?

Senator Cameron: They're too busy investing!

Senator WONG: Senator, why don't we have a look at what the mining industry are investing, have a look at how the investment has grown year on year over the last three years, in the context of a debate around a price on carbon. I would probably have a look at where the hard cash is, where the numbers are, rather than rely on Senator Joyce telling everybody that mining was going to—

Senator Joyce: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. It is on relevance. The minister could answer the question by answering it and just releasing the modelling.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister has 19 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: We have released an enormous amount of modelling. The reality is no amount of modelling released by the government will ever alter the position of those opposite, and they should stop pretend­ing to people that they actually care what the modelling says. The modelling says we will have more jobs. The modelling says we will have a bigger economy. (Time expired)