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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 7511

Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (12:02): I take this opportunity to open these remarks by quoting from a previous leader, one individual who was set up to whisk the Labor government back into office with decisive policy-making and correcting the errors of their lost ways. Having found out that the Australian people were pretty miffed about the carbon tax being introduced by the wrangling and manipulation of a minority government, the then leader, Kevin Rudd, is quoted as saying:

I am the first one to admit, having returned to the prime ministership, in the past, the Government has got a number of things wrong. All governments do. I seek, however, to admit it. For example, I don't think our actions on the carbon tax were right.

When Barry Cassidy then asked what was wrong with that, the erudite Kevin Rudd answered: 'Well, to begin with, we did not have a mandate for it.'

This is an inconvenient truth for the member for Wills and those opposite. And might I say, categorically, to those on the opposite side that there are very few things I would put Kevin Rudd up in lights for, but on this matter his responses should be indelibly etched in flashing neon to those opposite, because they still do not have a mandate for keeping the carbon tax. They never had a mandate to introduce it in the first place. Now from a position of opposition, the reality pill has yet to kick in.

We, this side, the one in government, have a mandate to get rid of the carbon tax. There is not much point to hammering home the fact that this ineffective carbon tax has had only miniscule effect on emission reductions yet has damaged the bottom line for more than 75,000 businesses and reduced their ability to employ people. Those in opposition just do not get the fundamentals of business basics 101. You have to make a profit to be able to employ people. If your expenses are too high, like a massive electricity bill, you simply choose to do the work yourself; you simply cannot afford to employ someone else to help.

There is also not much point in telling those opposite that their whingeing and whining about changes that are proposed in the budget could be fixed with a simple vote in the Senate that actually acknowledges the will of the people. Good grief, wouldn't it be great if they were motivated by responding to the wishes of the voters at the last election! And before those opposite shout and catcall about the budget, just consider for a moment, take a breath and think about the damage they have done to the long-term prosperity of this nation by making us uncompetitive both internationally and on the domestic market. I guess trade economics 101 does not include the concept of analysing the cost of production to assist an industry to survive import competition.

Every time I drive past a supermarket and every time I go shopping, I feel a sense of sadness for the people living in my community. Every single time they purchase an item of food there has been a cost increase, mostly due to electricity increases. But every time I see the increased price of an ice-cream for a young child, I am angry. The price of that particular treat for that child has had a double whammy from the carbon tax. First, there is the increased electricity and then the 200 to 400 per cent increase—depending on the brand and the supplier—in the refrigerant replacement. Every time I pass the auto mechanic, I recall the conversation when he said that half of his business had been regassing car air conditioners. After the carbon tax came into play, he lost half of his business. A lot of the older people in the community simply could not afford to regas. They had to use the earlier version to stay cool in their cars—you know, the one where you wind the window down or open it! Where was the opposition, the government of the day, when most of those who could not afford this were actually pensioners? It is almost laughable, if it were not so sad, that those opposite say they are the true defenders of the economic wellbeing of pensioners. That is absolute irony at its best. After the introduction of the carbon tax, how many pensioners went to bed early because they could turn off their heaters to save power? If those opposite bleat any more about being the defenders of the downtrodden and those who receive welfare, as if they are the only ones who have any compassion, they should really swallow another reality pill. Are those opposite so shallow that only the pensioners of today matter? Is there no vision? We must look after not only our ageing population of today but also those of the next 50 years and beyond. We must look after all those who are in need of assistance through difficult times in their lives and those who through disability will have disadvantages that are lifelong impediments.

This carbon tax is like an insidious snake that has slithered through every aspect of Australian life, leaving a path of toxic waste behind it—job losses, impacts on businesses, and family hardship. A good government looks towards the future and plans. Sometimes that planning means that difficult decisions are made. But let me assure you that getting rid of the carbon tax is not one of them. It is not a difficult decision at all. It is common sense 101. Giving a sense of stability, growing the strength of the economy—these actions allow businesses to grow and employ. They give a family the ability to plan and to save. Australians know this strategy works; it has been done before, and it can be done again, but only with strong policy decisions and stickability. That is political common sense 101.

Just last Sunday while visiting a conference on seaweed harvesting and research I had the opportunity to chat with some international scientists. At the beginning there were the general introductions: 'Oh, you're a member of parliament. Oh, this government. Are you Labor or Liberal?' I thought, 'Well, that's interesting; I'm not sure I'd know the different parties from different nations.' When I replied 'Liberal', their response was a chilly, 'Oh, you're getting rid of the carbon tax.' I proudly replied yes, and asked, 'So, do you know why?' They mumbled a little then about it being a forward-thinking concept and that it had made a huge impact on emissions reductions. But shock and horror was written all over their faces when I explained that the emissions reductions had been quite minimal and that the previous government had actually subsidised those very industries that were the worst emitters, like Alcoa and the producers of brown coal. From that point on the conversation was welcoming and mutually interesting. I guess that is international clarification 101.

I despair that the misunderstanding from those opposite is so entrenched. However, 'You can't blame ordinary people with little or no science education for wanting to be seen to be good citizens who care about their grandchildren's future and the environment'—words from former NASA scientist Professor L Woodcock. It is my belief that every Australian wants to ensure that the planet is a better place for the future, for their children and their grandchildren, but this carbon tax is not the mechanism, as has already been proved. Those opposite often have a bit of a whinge about official recognition of science, but science is about research and applying that research. Professor Woodcock also said:

Carbon dioxide has been made out to be some kind of toxic gas but the truth is it's the gas of life. We breathe it out, plants breath it in. The green lobby has created a do-good industry and it becomes a way of life, like a religion. I understand why people defend it when they have spent so long believing in it, people do not like to admit they have been wrong.

Instead of wasting the last six years on imposing a policy that (a) did not have a mandate, (b) was a tax that would never exist in a government led by Julia Gillard, (c) was going to be terminated by Kevin Rudd, (d) was going to be set at a rate of zero by the Hon. Anthony Albanese and (e) is dodged, ducked and woven around by the Leader of the Opposition, it is a hot potato issue for them.

They should have invested in research and development for our planet as there are now new gases impacting on our atmosphere. But do they dare to follow the will of the people? Not on your nelly. They posture and prevaricate, then bluster and—oops; I probably should not say those words in here, but I am sure you know what would follow. It is all about political pointscoring at the expense of community pointscoring, because the community—the Australian taxpayers—are the ultimate beneficiaries of repealing this dismally ineffective carbon tax. We all know that when you have disease you invest in research to cure the disease. We have hundreds of people fundraising every day for that very purpose. A nation invests in research. A government does not tax the researchers and then subsidise those that may be successful.

I venture to say that because vision and forward thinking are not in the DNA of those opposite it is all about the immediate solution, the quick fix, the silver bullet. Every Australian knows that a good solution is one that has been considered and investigated, one that has been analysed and tested. No such procedure was put in place in regard to the carbon tax. And why was that? Because, I remind you, there was never a plan, there was never a mandate, and—oops—there still isn't.

When I was growing up I learned a little about the Labor Party from my parents. We thought it was a fairly democratic representation—at least, that was my impression. As I learned more I thought that surely that meant that you followed the will of the people after an election. But, sadly, I learned that that is not the case; it is about power broking, about doing a deal to actually form government and then bringing in a devastating policy that was the deal you did with, in this case, the Greens. But isn't the deal you make at the ballot box the most important one? And before those opposite start in again: stop and think before shouting. We have been charged with fixing the black hole of debt that was imposed on this nation. Let's not bluster with comparisons that have no meaning and that act only to confuse.

In the closing stages of the last Labor government there was no intention of addressing the debt; that would be someone else's problem. If those opposite had won government then the Treasurer would have just told the trusting Australian public that they were on track to deliver budget surpluses. If that did not happen, and it was not likely to, and the paperwork had come to light, then it would have been a case of: 'Oh, I must have made a few calculation errors, or perhaps borrowed a little too much. Oh well, we'll just borrow some more to pay off the debt'—something like $1 billion a month, and that could grow to $3 billion a month. I imagine this might be national bankruptcy 101, and those opposite certainly gained a distinction in that course.

Our nation has been held to ransom long enough. Anyone in business knows that there are a number of calendar events that have an effect on a business's sales. Let me give you some very clear examples based on my confectionery business. Over more than 17 years the pattern became quite clear. Good businesses develop marketing strategies to overcome these temporary drops in sales. My business was fudge making. Our initial marketing was of fudge as a comfort food in the colder months, so as the weather warmed our sales dropped. We developed markets in tourist places. Around the end of the financial year there would be a drop in sales; nobody wants extra stock to count. At the time of the Melbourne Cup, a national event—and we were a national business—we had reduced sales for about a week. But by far the biggest and most inexplicable hit on sales was the six weeks leading up to an election. In February last year—which just goes to show how little understanding those opposite have of business dynamics—the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard called the election for August. After an initial 'thank goodness' period, the usual wobblies set in for small business sales. It became worse and worse as the election slowly came closer. Every Australian knew that the carbon tax was a disaster. They could not wait for the election. Even the Labor Party knew, flicking out the leader and flicking in a new one, along with the statement about 'terminating the carbon tax'. But those opposite cannot even keep that experience top of mind.

We have seen all sorts of industries saying how much their business will improve after the carbon tax is repealed. These include business groups and chambers and the dairy industry, whose costing go up to $40,000 per year, particularly for one dairy in my area. The energy suppliers are going to drop their prices. There are so many beneficiaries in this repeal bill. I just cannot fathom why political posturing takes precedence over people and productivity.

We have heard much of this before, and still those opposite bathe in the reflected green glow of a political alliance while business bleeds and jobs evaporate. This time two years ago the member for Throsby urged our local councils to get creative to reduce the impacts of the carbon tax. Back in June 2012 IPART estimated that council electricity costs across New South Wales would be at least $14 million. Good grief, how many roads, footpaths, community centres and libraries could that have built? Those opposite whine and gripe at the budget policy of freezing the federal assistance grants, yet their ill-conceived carbon tax on local governments has been catastrophic, and has had a much greater effect.

Shellharbour Council has had to develop a completely new waste disposal system as they were liable for the carbon tax hit. It was a great idea, except now they have to increase the tip fees and they will have to employ lots of new rangers. Perhaps that was the underground strategy. Kiama Council has had an 18 per cent rise in the cost of their electricity, and that is partly just to keep the streets lit.

Each and every one of us enjoys watching our children play sport and watching our favourite teams. In Gilmore we have hundreds of sporting clubs. Our councils provide the sports fields, and I am pretty sure Gilmore is not unique. Lots of these teams also play at night. That is okay in summer, with daylight saving, but it is pretty hard to see the ball or field lines in winter, so most of the fields are lit—well, at least for the moment. The cost to some councils for this service to the community can be around $80,000. Most councils support sport and subsidise it, but now they are thinking about having to get a bit of a payback from some user-pays system. So in an electorate like Gilmore, where sport is really part of the community, where sports fitness is used to fight increasing obesity, where we are developing leadership and community contribution, they are going to have to fundraise to pay for the electricity to light the fields. So when members attend the next sports presentation or watch the next big game, I hope they see the following in the eyes of the children and the young people: 'the carbon tax made my uniforms more expensive and my parents had to fundraise with sausage sizzles for my uniform, my transport and for trophies—and not only that, they also had to fundraise to pay for the electricity to light up the field.'

Those opposite just aren't playing cricket, especially if it needs night lights. Often they lean over the dispatch box and say, much like Arnie Schwarzenegger 'We'll be back with the carbon tax.' We all know what happened to the Terminator. It was crushed and broken, which is exactly what should be happening to this very damaging policy.

Debate adjourned.