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Monday, 11 September 2017
Page: 6785

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (13:30): I feel I can say that Elvis is finally entering the building. I say that because, when The Daily Telegraph said in July of this year that the government was working on emissions standards, particularly applying some to motor vehicles, labelling it as a 'carbon tax on cars', Energy Minister Frydenberg told the ABC, 'There is as much chance of a carbon tax on cars as Elvis making a comeback.' Well, the Product Emissions Standards Bill 2017 is the regime that heralds Elvis entering the building.

The Prime Minister, who at the time when this story broke was busy in the United Kingdom telling the Brits that there was no conservative party in Australia, tried to hose down these revelations straightaway. In this debate on product emissions standards today, we are being told—it's a sales job, I should tell you—that it applies to whipper-snippers, leaf blowers, outboard motors and lawnmowers, and that the coalition is only consulting about applying these emissions regulations to cars.

I'm telling you that you can hear Elvis warming up his vocal cords, because we cannot believe what we've been told. Whilst the direct application is on the whipper-snippers, outboard motors and leaf blowers, the government is indeed consulting about applying this emissions regime, or a very similar one, to cars. You can't hide from that fact. The Daily Telegraph was effectively right. This is a new version of the carbon tax. And so the skirmish has begun. But ultimately those who are far-sighted and have that reasonable, rational and sensible distrust of what government says and what it delivers know exactly what is coming down the pipe.

I understand this will be of benefit to some in the coalition—those who think they're election-winning machines, those who secretly plot against the long-term interests of the coalition to get their own sorts of outcomes that they can boast about drunkenly in bars, but the policy agenda is absolutely wrong. The policy agenda here is absolutely wrong, because it's not so much about air quality. Australian Conservatives support good-quality air. But no-one is reasonably and rationally saying that the air quality in Australia is so bad that we have to limit the use or prohibit or limit the importation of some of the machinery that makes our jobs and our lives that much easier. Air quality will be improved as technology improves, not because government is imposing criminal sanctions or breathtakingly audacious regulatory regimes to stop you, me or any other Australian consumer from purchasing a reasonably priced whipper-snipper or leaf blower.

This regime will impose additional costs to the products that so many of us use every day. It's dressed up in the guise of what's good for public health, but, as Senator Leyonhjelm said, the only person who's been impacted by the outboard motor on his dinghy is himself. I'm looking to buy a boat with two outboard motors. I'd best get in before the outboard motor loathers tell us all off and ban it.

But I also make this point: before the last election there was no forecast, no prediction, no statement from the coalition, which I could identify, that they were going to put up the price of whipper-snippers and leaf blowers. So much so, they were criticised by the Climate and Health Alliance, which rated the major parties at the last election. Neither the Liberal Party nor the National Party had any stronger air pollution laws. I note that the alliance even criticised the Labor Party, claiming they didn't support them either. So, if you can't identify a policy statement in this respect, or where the motivation for this has come from, you have to go back to: have they abandoned all sense and reason?

I understand the minister will probably say later on, 'This came out of the COAG assessment process.' But, do you know what? If states want to impose penalties on individuals in their own state, you have to wonder how they seduced a coalition government, which is meant to be responsible and acting in the interests of the Australian people, into imposing what is effectively a new tax. It is a new tax, because everyone who buys these machines from now on will be paying more. The costs of this are going to be felt by consumers.

The benefits have been quantified from a health point of view, which is always spurious because they're completely unprovable. If you think that imposing this regime is going to save $600 million or $700 million in five years time, I can guarantee you no-one will ever be able to demonstrate that fact, because I can promise you this: the health bill in this country in five years time will be higher than it is today. Of course, they will go, 'But it would be that much worse if we didn't put this ban on whipper-snippers as they currently stand.' That's wrong. The costing in the regulatory impact statement is that the community is going to pay an extra $636 million to regulate and recover the cost of this program. The quid pro quo, as I said before, is that they are saying there's going to be $1.7 billion in health cost savings and $786 million in fuel cost savings. I don't believe that. I don't believe the health cost savings at all; I think they've just made those up with whatever spurious research they came up with—and we're entitled to question all the figures that are put forward in this space.

This, of course, is a regime that enables the government, by regulation, I would presume—in some instances it may need future legislation, but I presume it will be by regulation—to expand this to a whole range of other items. We're at the end of winter; we're going into barbeque season. Is this what we are going to see next? Are we going to see an emissions standard on barbeques because the government suddenly thinks it needs to make barbecues cleaner? Maybe we'll have an emissions standard on fireplaces. We'll continue to regulate and regulate and regulate until the government decides almost everything that can be done in this space.

When it comes to motor vehicles, because that's where it is going to go—we've seen the demands from the Greens today. The government, I can assure you, will say it's not going to apply to motor vehicles, but it's a logical extension of where this is—it has all the hallmarks of that famous 'cash for clunkers' policy of the Labor Party, where they were going to buy old clunkers and get them off the road. But, in this instance, you can foresee an environment where older cars will effectively be taxed off the road. As new emissions schemes and targets come in, you will find yourself in a circumstance where you won't be able to sell your older car because it doesn't comply with what Big Brother is telling you.

This is not scaremongering. As I said, the regulatory impact statement, which was released last December, estimates that, if European-style emissions standards are imposed, via this regime on light and heavy vehicles, it would cost about $675 million. Interestingly, the draft statement said:

There are no benefits or costs associated with option 1 as this is the 'do nothing' approach.

I like the idea that there's no cost associated with the do-nothing approach. I'm attracted to that. And there are no benefits. So what? It's not like we're drowning in smog at the moment. Australia has an amazing environment. We're living within our means, doing our bit in efficiency, as we go along in a whole range of areas, and it doesn't require government regulation to do that. But there are other benefits, and those are lower taxes, lower cost of living and limited government. Those are the absolute benefits of doing nothing in this space: lower taxes, lower cost of living and you get smaller government. Those are huge benefits. And yet, suddenly, it's so unfashionable that they're clamouring to increase new regulations and bureaucracy.

I also point out that the draft discussion paper listed from 2019 forwards, when that policy might be imposed—the one on motor vehicles—that a Euro 6 standard on heavy vehicles could cost trucking companies $1.5 billion to 2024 in capital costs alone. That's what this bill today is opening the door to. That's $230 million in higher fuel costs for those selfsame trucking companies and about $452 million in lost productivity. Now, that would peak at $28 million in a single year in nine years time.

So when the carbon tax on cars, which was denied by the government at the time—and yet we see the embryonic commencement of it in these bills—was introduced and discussed, the Australian Automobile Association said that the average family car could cost as much as $5,000 more. Make no mistake: that is where we're heading. The regulations within this bill and the regime within which this bill is created allow for the extension to motor vehicles—as I said, perhaps by regulation. So it's not just a benign regime; it's not something that is just going to put the cost of your whipper-snipper up $10, $20, $30, $50 or $100. This could come at a significant community, family and economic cost.

The same draft discussion paper, as far as motor vehicles go, mentioned that our petrol might not meet the European standard that is on the cards either, and this is going to put up the cost of fuel—the cost of petrol—if we adopt it. I would suggest to you that, if we examine the European community, there is not so much as a beacon of light there for us to model ourselves on. It is not the great productive nirvana that some would have you believe that we should ape and map after. The same people—who are telling us that we should embrace the European migration experiment, the European welfare experiment, the European big government experiment or the European big taxes experiment, which have all failed dismally—are telling us to embrace the big new European emissions experiment. It is just a falsehood.

If their models are living in the European Union, if their ideal environment is in the European Union, let them go and subject themselves to it. Let them see how much they can prosper in the regimes of Greece and how freedom of speech has been tortured or migration is dislocating the social compact between nations. Just don't bring it here, because it doesn't work. We don't need a Big Brother nanny state here.

Let's not forget that, in that nanny state of Europe, they had the diesel emissions scandal of Volkswagen in, I think, Germany. It cost $4.3 billion because they had to lie to comply with the emissions that were going on. Are we going to have the same sort of thing here? Are we going to expect every importer to be criminally responsible, potentially, for importing a whipper-snipper or a leaf blower or a lawnmower that doesn't comply? That's the sort of obligation we've got here: a criminal regime for people making misleading representations under this system.

I think it's onerous. I think it's all about Big Brother. It's not good for our country to have government foisting itself into this microlegislation. And who knows where it's going to end? They come for the leaf blowers today, but what about the motoring enthusiasts later on? What about those who go to the Summernats where people are doing burnouts, drag races and stuff like that? Will they be penalising those people for the emissions that they're putting out there, because they're using a different type of fuel than we are?

What about the farmers? Will they to start targeting farm machinery or anything powered by fossil fuels—tractors, slashers and chainsaws used to prevent bushfires. Imagine that. Will they penalise someone using a chainsaw who's trying to make their community safer because they might mistakenly or inappropriately inhale a few emissions? It's better to inhale a few emissions, because that might sit uncomfortably with the government, than to watch your property go up in smoke because you can't manage the land and the foliage around it.

What about forklifts? Are they going to go for the forklifts as well? Is that what's going to happen because they don't like the emissions? We can keep going on and on. But you have to open the door somewhere and this is what this regime does. So it's no surprise that I oppose what is effectively a carbon tax by stealth. This is the start of a war on emissions. It is not grounded in reality; it is grounded in spurious savings that are going to come at a massive cost to the Australian taxpayers—taxpayers who are already struggling to make ends meet, taxpayers who are taking it upon themselves to do a little bit more work around the house because they can't afford to get some assistance to do it but will have to pay more if they want to buy a new leaf blower, a new lawnmower or a new whipper-snipper because of the regime that is being imposed by this government.

We are a nation of fewer than 30 million people. Nothing we do in this space is going to change the climate whatsoever. They can dress this up all they like—as a health measure—but its ideological basis is in the foundation of climate change, the paranoia that has gripped the globe and needs to be exposed for the fraud that it is. This bill contributes to the fraud. This bill is not worthy of this place, and I will be opposing it.