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Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Page: 956

Senator BUSHBY (3:03 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) and the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations (Senator Evans) to questions without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Abetz) and Senators Bernardi and Payne today relating to a proposed carbon tax.

Having heard the answers provided by ministers today, I can only conclude that those opposite live in some rarefied, latte-sipping, elitist little world where they simply do not come across everyday Australians—the people they once referred to as working families. When they do, they treat their opinions, concerns and fears as the rantings of the ill-educated, the ignorant or of the little people who know no better. These Australians deserve better, because they face real financial struggles and challenges every day. They are getting angry that Labor shows no appreciation of the challenges they face. Those opposite seem to have no concept of the cost of living pressures that continue to mount on Australians as so many of life’s necessities, such as groceries, electricity, gas, water, petrol and transport, increase in cost. Many of these increases are influenced by decisions of government, either directly or indirectly, yet this government seems to have no knowledge, understanding or appreciation of the magnitude of the struggle faced by so many Australians. No, it seems to think that they have an endless ability to pay more as it seeks to pile tax upon tax on them. The most recent attempts at this are the flood tax and the carbon tax, which was announced last week.

Ignoring for the moment the stark betrayal of the Australian people that this breach of a clear, concise and totally unambiguous pre-election promise represents, this attempt to hit the Australian people with another tax demonstrates that Labor is out of touch with Australians. Of course, the government will tell you that this tax is different; this tax is needed to address the evils of climate change, or so we are told. The fact is, whether or not you accept the need for urgent action in this area, this tax will not and cannot reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases, no matter how it is designed. We have heard the argument why this is the case put eloquently by this side of the chamber and in the other place over recent days. Indeed, it is a fact that many on the other side of the chamber know and acknowledge the truth in private. Today we asked questions of Minister Wong that go to the heart of what she thinks about carbon taxes. It is probably worth repeating some of the statements that Minister Wong has made in the last couple of years. They include:

A carbon tax does not guarantee emissions reductions.


A carbon tax … is a recipe for abrupt and unpredictable changes, as the government would need to adjust the tax frequently to try to meet the emissions reduction target, each time subjecting these adjustments to the inherent uncertainties embedded in the political process.

Finally, and I think this is the real clanger:

The introduction of a carbon price ahead of effective international action can lead to perverse incentives for such industries to relocate or source production offshore.

That is exactly what those on this side of the chamber and in the House have been saying ever since the Prime Minister broke her promise last week and moved to introduce a carbon tax.

This is particularly relevant given some of the answers that we received to questions in estimates last week. All we really know about what the government is going to do with this tax is that it will impose a tax and it will impose it from 1 July next year. But the government itself has no idea of what level of tax it will impose, how much per tonne people will have to pay or on what. Even in the last couple of days it has been refusing to rule out putting the tax on petrol. Last week in estimates, those in Treasury who did the 2008 modelling which came up with the figure of $26 per tonne said clearly that it was not possible to say now what price would need to be charged to meet Labor’s promised emissions targets, which is what this is all about. The officials said last week that too much had changed since they did that modelling in 2008 to be able to say whether that $26 per tonne remained a relevant figure or whether it should be something different. No new modelling has been done since that time to inform the government of what figure that should be.

The Australian people now face a situation where they have the certainty of Labor introducing a carbon tax but Labor themselves have no idea how big that tax needs to be in order to deliver their own emissions targets. They do not know if it is the $26 per tonne which was modelled and found to be the case in 2008— (Time expired)