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Monday, 14 July 2014
Page: 7694

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Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for the Environment) (12:38): I» «move» :

That these bills «be» «now» «read» «a» «second» «time .

Today the government introduces:

the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014;

the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014;

the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014;

the True Up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014;

the True Up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014;

the Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014;

the Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014; and

the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014.

The Australian people have already debated the carbon tax and they decided ten months ago on 7 September 2013 that they did not want:

higher electricity prices;

higher gas prices;

higher travel costs; or

higher food costs.

The Australian people did not want to support a measure that did not do the job, was not working and did not have a mandate. In short, the Australian people voted in the most express, clear and absolute way to ensure that they did not have and would not have a carbon tax, and they would have a government that will take real measures to reduce emissions, without a carbon tax.

The carbon tax increased the costs of everything it touched.

It punishes households, business, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, charities, churches, council swimming pools and community centres.

It hits each and every group and individual who use energy—and that was always its goal: to make electricity and gas more expensive. The purpose, the intention, the construct of a carbon tax is to increase the cost of living, most specifically the price of electricity and gas, for Australian families.

And that is why the Australian people voted to get rid of it.

The bills honour the coalition's commitment to the Australian people to scrap this tax.

It is now up to this parliament to show that it has listened to the Australian people.

We categorically accept the science of climate change. We categorically accept the need for action. But we categorically do not accept a system that fails to work, that does not achieve significant reductions and that comes at a significant cost. We are committed to a better way that actually reduces emissions and cleans up power stations, cleans up land fill and cleans up waste coal mine gas and reduces emissions by improving energy efficiency.

The bills today ensure that all elements of the carbon tax are abolished.

The main bill removes the carbon tax, and implements new powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to ensure that cost savings are passed on to the Australian public, in full.

The other bills remove the imposition of the carbon tax on liquid fuels and synthetic greenhouse gases.

The bills also provide for the transitional arrangements to ensure a smooth transition out of the carbon tax in all its forms, and give the Clean Energy Regulator, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Department of the Environment the powers they need to do this.

A cornerstone of the government's plan for a stronger economy built on lower taxes, less regulation and stronger businesses, whilst reducing emissions, is the repeal of the carbon tax.

The first impact of the repeal of the carbon tax will be on households whose overall costs will fall, according to Treasury modelling, by approximately $550 a year on average, compared with what it otherwise would have been.

Electricity bills will be around $200 lower this financial year without the carbon tax.

Gas bills will be around $70 lower this financial year without the carbon tax.

These are real savings that will help family budgets.

Only last week, we heard from a number of new Senators on the impact of the carbon tax on pensioners, on the cost of heating homes, on farmers' incomes and small business costs. I would note that Senator Joe Bullock was expressly elected on a campaign to terminate the carbon tax.

The people who voted for those senators expect them to act.

It is disappointing that families and small businesses are still paying $11 million a day in higher electricity prices due to the carbon tax.

Once the carbon tax is repealed, there will be savings to the family budgets with lower electricity and gas prices.

And these savings are already being confirmed.

In Queensland, the Queensland Competition Authority has said that typical household electricity bills are expected to fall by 8.5 per cent. In New South Wales, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has said that gas prices will be up to 9.2 per cent lower without the carbon tax. In Tasmania, the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator has said that electricity prices will be 7.8 per cent lower with the removal of the carbon tax. In the ACT, the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has said that electricity prices will fall by 11.6 per cent without the carbon tax. Prices for groceries, for household items and for services will also fall because the price of power is embedded in every price in our economy where those prices have been added according to the rules which are set out in these bills.

The carbon tax will go, but the carbon tax compensation will stay so that every Australian should be better off. I repeat this message to the House and to the people of Australia: while the carbon tax will go, the carbon tax compensation will stay so that every Australian should be better off. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a wide-ranging arsenal of compliance powers to ensure businesses do not mislead their customers about the impacts of the carbon tax repeal. It has received $10 million in additional funding to take necessary enforcement action and also to inform businesses about their obligations and customers about their rights. Under the original version of the repeal bills, penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals will apply where there are breaches. These penalties are retained. The ACCC has already issued over 560 requests for information from companies across the economy, including from the electricity, gas, refrigerants and aviation sectors.

As agreed with the Palmer United Party, I foreshadow and will move amendments during the consideration-in-detail stage of the bills to supplement the commission's ability to ensure that consumers benefit from the repeal of the carbon tax. The changes included in the bills are to ensure that suppliers of regulated goods—electricity, natural gas and bulk supplies of synthetic greenhouse gases—must pass on all cost savings. They impose a penalty on electricity and natural gas suppliers equal to 250 per cent of any cost savings they do not pass on. They require electricity and natural gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases to inform the ACCC and customers about how they are passing on the cost savings amounts of the savings.

The changes to the main repeal bill balance new compliance obligations with the need to ensure that household and business customers benefit. Already strong protections are being further strengthened. Businesses should be able to explain to customers how changes in their costs are flowing through to changes in their prices. For the purpose of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, I confirm that the definition of 'electricity retailer' is limited to electricity retailers and electricity producers selling electricity into a wholesale electricity market or to a retailer. By agreement, this is not intended to override any pre-existing contracts.

The cost of synthetic greenhouse gases was significantly impacted by the carbon tax. Bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gas defined under s13A(2)(c) of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are covered by the new requirements. To minimise the cost of compliance, small imports of synthetic greenhouse gases such as imports of synthetic greenhouse gas contained in equipment such as fridges, cars and air-conditioners are not covered. The new provisions are confined to those sectors. I make that statement for the purpose of the Acts Interpretation Act. The bill already provides flexibility for the ACCC to expand the range of sectors covered should any significant concerns arise.

The government is confident that all businesses will do the right thing and pass on all the savings relating to carbon tax repeal. The government is aware that major electricity and gas retailers are already committed to providing this information to households and businesses on bills, inserts and through websites in any event. The carbon tax has been a $15 billion hit on the economy over two years. It is a $15 billion hit on jobs, a $15 billion burden on investment and a $15 billion slug to families, pensioners and small business owners, which they do not need because it simply does not do the job. These bills get rid of a tax which does not work, which is not doing the job and which is not achieving its outcome.

In moving these bills, I want to thank from the Department of the Environment, Simon Writer, who has worked tirelessly over recent weeks and months, the Acting Secretary, Mr Steven Kennedy, and able officers Joe Pryor, Kim Begbie and Josie Cleland. From the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, I wish to thank Mr Keith Byles and his team, and from the Department of the Treasury, Mr Hamish McDonald and his team, the Minister for Small Business and his outstanding staff and the outstanding staff of the Australian Government Solicitor. I also particularly wish to thank the extraordinary and patient Alex Caroly from my own office.

Ultimately, repealing the carbon tax will reduce the cost of living, make jobs more secure and improve the competitive position of our country. It will be replaced with a system which actually reduces emissions. Let us be absolutely clear: the Australian people have already voted on this carbon tax repeal bill. They are now waiting for members and senators to honour their commitments to abolish the tax and get the budget back into surplus. As the Prime Minister has said previously to the House: these bills are the government's bill to reduce the Australian people's bills—and so the government and I commend these bills to the parliament.