Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question without notice is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to this price list from Heatcraft, which shows refrigerant prices for 404(a) are rising from over 300 per cent—from $92 a kilogram to $377 a kilogram due to the carbon tax. Does the Prime Minister expect coolstore owners, food distribution centres, refrigeration and air-conditioning contractors, and the fishing industry to absorb this massive increase or pass it on to the consumers through higher prices?
I thank the member for the question. It enables me to explain to him both in respect of refrigerant gases, and generally, the way in which this will work. We had a discussion about this in question time yesterday when I was asked some questions about small businesses, and I think that it is very important that members of this parliament are out there giving people the facts, not making things up.
Opposition members interjecting—
The facts are that there is a limited number of businesses that will pay a carbon price, well less than 500. They are the only businesses that will be required to directly pay the carbon price. When examples of small businesses have been raised with us, and the member raises an example of a small business now, they are not directly paying the carbon price.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr Dutton interjecting—
We have always said to the Australian people that there would be a flow-through impact from carbon pricing into the costs of things that households buy, and most particularly we have pointed to the increase in household electricity, which will be on average around $3.30 a week, whereas on average household assistance is $10.10 a week.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This question was in relation to the increase in the cost of refrigerant gas resulting from the imposition of a carbon tax, and the Prime Minister should address the question.
In respect of small businesses, an example was raised yesterday about electricity. The member is raising a different example with me today. Yes, for small businesses there will be some price impacts, but it is very important to keep a sense of scale here and also the ability of businesses with these price impacts to pass them on to consumers who are receiving the benefits of tax cuts, family payment increases and pension increases. Yesterday we had a lot of fear raised about electricity and small businesses. The Council of Small Businesses of Australia has advised the relevant minister, Minister Combet, that the electricity cost of a typical small retail business makes up less than two per cent of total costs and, if you work that all the way through, the Council of Small Businesses says that the typical small business power bill will increase by around $5 per week. On refrigerant gas costs, as the member would probably know, these are only used intermittently, not as a continuous cost.
Opposition members interjecting—
Once again, there is a sense of scale that needs to be got into dealing with these price impacts. We are seeing time after time from the opposition exaggeration to try to raise fear. On 1 July we will see the truth.
Order! It is I who gets to decide who gets to stand up or not in this place, and helpful tips are wearing thin. The Leader of the House did say no. You might not have been able to hear it in the hubbub. The member for Swan has made the point and continual abuse of points of order will be dealt with.
My question is to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation. Why is it important that families and small businesses are properly informed about facts with the introduction of the carbon price?
I thank the member for Moreton for his question. The carbon price will cut greenhouse gas emissions to help tackle climate change and will drive investment in clean energy so that we can build a stronger economy for the future. We all know that the impact of the carbon price will be approximately 0.7 per cent on prices on average. That means that prices will go up on average by less than 1c in the dollar. Power prices are expected to go up by around $3.30 per week on average, but we are providing households with assistance of up to $10.10 per week on average in the form of increases in family payments, increases in pensions and tax cuts.
We know that there has been a lot of misleading information disseminated about the carbon price. That is why we have provided the ACCC with $12.8 million to protect households and small businesses from people who jack up their prices and falsely blame those price rises on the carbon price. Customers and small businesses who have any concerns in relation to pricing can contact the ACCC. We have established a new hotline. We know that most businesses will do the right thing, but those businesses who do not will have to face the ACCC.
While the government is out there trying to crack down on misleading claims, the Leader of the Opposition is out there giving the green light to businesses to jack up their prices and to falsely blame the carbon price. I see that in the last couple of days the Leader of the Opposition has written a letter to businesses and he has enclosed one of his dodgy Liberal Party pamphlets. This particular pamphlet—
Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order on a question of relevance, the Assistant Treasurer is now talking about internal Liberal Party matters and I do not see how that is relevant to the question.
This particular leaflet at least is authorised. It is written and authorised by none other than the member for Dunkley. The Leader of the Opposition has written to businesses and has asked that this dodgy Liberal Party leaflet be put up in their windows. He wants to see businesses jacking up their prices and he says that putting this up in the window will tell customers that the prices have increased as a result of the carbon price. I would say to all businesses around Australia, be very careful and very wary of the Leader of the Opposition. Do not allow him to drag you into his cynical scare campaign because the consequences of that are very serious. Of course, I remind all businesses that, whatever you do, be very careful about making false or misleading claims because if you do mislead your customers you could face fines of up to $1.1 million. I would also say to all customers, look very carefully. Make sure that if anyone makes dodgy claims you pick up the phone and call the ACCC. (Time expired)
My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister that Labor's own carbon tax modelling assumes 'comparable carbon pricing in other major economies from 2015.' I also remind the Prime Minister that last week carbon market analysts at Thomson Reuters cut their forecasts for international carbon prices until 2020 by 59 per cent to just $4.30. Does the Prime Minister think $4.30 is comparable to the price that she is introducing at $23?
I thank the shadow Treasurer for his question and I thank him for the fact that in the past he has very clearly said things like, 'Inevitably we will have a price on carbon, we will have to.' He has proudly talked about how the Howard government were the initiators of the idea of an emissions trading scheme and how they went to an election promising it and so on. I thank the shadow Treasurer for his fulsome support of carbon pricing and, no doubt, it drives his interest in internationally linked carbon markets.
When we look at carbon pricing around the world, we obviously see a variety of prices in different schemes. We have seen volatility in prices in Europe. That is unsurprising, given we have seen volatility on all markets in Europe, given the nature of the economic circumstances there. What the government has done in addressing the starting price for our carbon pricing scheme is to work out the appropriate price to drive a change in our economy to a clean energy future at the least cost. I am sure the shadow Treasurer is very distressed, given his support for emissions trading and carbon pricing, that instead of this most efficient, effective and least cost approach he is committed through the Leader of the Opposition—
Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you. I was making the point that having a mechanism of carbon pricing, as the shadow Treasurer well knows, is always the most efficient approach as compared to the wasteful policy with higher cost that the Leader of the Opposition has committed his political party to. On prices around the world, the average EU price over the past four financial years comes in directly at A$23 a tonne. Over the next few years the Climate Institute expects Britain will have a carbon price of $24 to $30 a tonne; Sweden will have a price of $130 a tonne; Switzerland, $30 to $60 a tonne; Norway, $53 a tonne; Ireland, $24 to $37 a tonne—and the list goes on. And of course, as the shadow Treasurer would well know, we are seeing moves to emissions trading schemes in our region, including the recent decision by the Republic of Korea to move to an emissions trading scheme, the trialling of emissions trading schemes in provinces in China, and the list goes on. I say to the shadow Treasurer: he ought not to risk his own reputation by joining the Leader of the Opposition in this stupid, cynical, negative fear campaign. He has in the past stood up for carbon pricing; he should have the integrity to do it now.