Thursday, 28 June 2012
Matters of Public Importance
There once was a time when the Liberal Party believed in building a strong economy and protecting the environment—no longer. What those opposite do in this place is support some of our expenditure, oppose most of our savings and allege that they will repeal most of the revenue base through legislation that will build a strong economy and do things to assist Australians from the Torres Strait to Tasmania and from Palm Beach to Perth.
What we are doing in relation to a price on carbon is in the great Labor tradition. We have made great reforms in this country in terms of Medicare, compulsory superannuation, the age pension, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme—we have started rolling out money in that regard. But it is important to be accurate when it comes to the impact of the price on carbon on our households, on our companies, on our communities and on our councils. It is also important to look at the assistance that is being rolled out across the country.
It is important for people to understand that, across the chamber, those opposite, when it comes to tax cuts, family tax assistance, pension rises and the help that is important to all Australians—regardless of whether they live up in the Torres Strait, in Tasmania or in the east or west of this country—cannot bring themselves to support those measures. They cannot even guarantee that, if they come to this side of the Treasury benches, they will maintain the pension and family tax benefit rises, maintain the tax cuts and support companies as they transition to a clean energy future. They will not make that guarantee.
They came into this place and actually voted against a schoolkids bonus. Having supported an education tax refund, they opposed a schoolkids bonus. The assistance that we are rolling out to adjust the economy and help families with the impact of the price on carbon those opposite will not support. They will not support it and they will not talk about it. And they will not guarantee, as they go around in their mobile offices, as they sit in their electorate offices, as they do their street stalls and as they go to their country shows, that support. They will claw it back.
When it comes to this place, one of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen is the way the opposition belittle the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs when she accurately states that that is what they will do. They constantly make fun of the minister for families. What they are doing is making fun of families across the country, of pensioners, of self-funded superannuation retirees, of companies and of small business operators across the country—those hardworking Australians. What they are doing by their opposition is showing that they do not care. They feign care in this place but they do not care. When it comes to their vote, they show that they do not care. They do not care about the environment and they do not care about the economy. They do not care about families and individuals across the country. It is important to note why we are doing this. On this side of the chamber we believe in the power of the market. We believe in free enterprise and we believe in competition. We do; those opposite adopt a Stalinist solution to climate change—a command-economy style approach. And the member for Flinders, what a road to Damascus conversion experience he has had!
He is a long way from Damascus, I agree, Member for Moreton. He has gone in the opposite direction. He has gone from lightness to darkness.
On this side of the chamber we do not think that there are many on that side of the chamber that actually believe that climate change is real and that human beings contribute to climate change. On this side of the chamber we prefer to believe the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and not Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones. But there are plenty on the opposite side of the chamber that actually believe in those people—and in Lord Monckton. The Moncktonites across the chamber—that is what they are.
I did not get into politics to be all that green. I got into politics because I wanted to see a fair system in industrial relations, to fix a road that is so important and to make an impact. I rejected every overture to get into politics for many, many years. I got in because of Work Choices—Work Choices showed what they would do to my local community—and their failure to build a road called the Ipswich motorway. That is what motivated me.
But I tell you this: I do believe in experts. I do not actually do root canal work on my teeth; I would go to a dentist. I do not actually do my own health check; I go to see my GP. I get my mechanic to fix my car. It is a long time since I worked on a car, I can tell you.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point of order is relevance. This matter of public importance is very clear. It is about being accurately informed about the carbon tax. I fail to see how this is directly relevant to the carbon tax.
The Productivity Commission has said that the most economically efficient way to deal with that challenge of human contribution towards climate change is a market based mechanism. Once it was that those opposite agreed.
According to Treasury, the impact on the economy is not going to be great. If those opposite got into this side of the chamber, what would be their attitude to Treasury, having rejected Treasury's advice in all that pertains to the carbon price? Guess what? We have the New South Wales Liberal government, the Western Australian Liberal government and the Victorian Liberal government all saying the impact on their budgets is 0.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent. I see the member for Ryan here. The Brisbane City Council's budget is $3.1 billion a year and the impact on that budget is $15 million. Brisbane City Council has debts of $1.9 billion, because they wasted all that money on those tunnels. The Ipswich City Council today handed down a budget of $450 million and the impact on that council is—guess what?—0.71 per cent, in line with what we said. To all those naysayers and doomsayers opposite who talked about the impact on councils, communities, and on state governments: the impact has proved to be in line with what we on the Treasury bench had to say.
I talked about how important assistance is going to be. It is also important to outline the impact on the economy—what Treasury says; not what Lord Monckton or Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt says. Or the member for Flinders. We should call him 'Saul' not 'Paul', because he has gone back to those days, taking the member for Moreton's previous interjection. Real wages will grow by 20 per cent by 2020. We will see employment grow by 1.6 million new jobs by 2020. We will see a modest impact on prices of 0.7 per cent compared to the 2.5 per cent of the GST.
I saw those opposite hanging on to some sort of brochure about butchers today during question time. Have a look at the impact on grocery prices according to Treasury. On meat and seafood it is 10c per week. It is a 0.40 per cent, 10c a week average, impact and they are giving these things to butchers to put in the front of their shops.
Let us look at household assistance. Those opposite are going to oppose it. The 14,000 families in Blair will receive a lump sum in their bank accounts in family payments of about $3 million. The 22,000 pensioners in my electorate will receive a lump sum payment in pension rises of $4.8 million. The 1,400 students in my electorate will receive about $230,000. The 47,000 local workers get a tax cut, with most getting about $300 extra in their pockets every year. We are increasing the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,200. That is taking hundreds of thousands of people out of the tax system and them not having to pay tax.
We are getting extra money to families to deal with the challenges of climate change, delivering money for local families and pensioners—and those opposite belittle it when we say they want to claw it back. They want to hit them in their hip pocket. Treasury says it is going to cost $1,300 per household if the coalition's policies on climate change are implemented. I find it hard to believe that those opposite, when we say that we are going to tax the big polluters and give back to consumers, would tax the consumers and give back to the big polluters. Where are the small 'l' liberals over there? Where are the bleeding hearts who supposedly want to help struggling families and pensioners?
We have heard so many claims, such as those that our clean energy household assistance is not going to be permanent. It is going to be permanent. They claim that not just Whyalla but also Gladstone, which is in my home state of Queensland, is going to be wiped off the face of the earth. Their claims are extraordinary. They claim that the great big mining boom in Queensland is going to be wiped off the face of the map from 1 July. It is an extraordinary claim from those opposite, but it is typical of what we have heard. With hyperbole and hysteria they exaggerate the impact of the carbon price. That is what the Liberals are always about—fear and loathing and doom and gloom. There was a time when the Liberal Party said that there were big bogeymen all over the place—reds under the bed and the Communist Party. Now it is the carbon tax.
The Liberal Party can never campaign on hope and opportunity and reward; they always campaign on gloom and doom.. What they say is typical of the economic irresponsibility of the party who once prided themselves on being the party of Menzies and the market. They were not supportive of jobs during the global financial crisis, when they put jobs at risk by their doom and gloom and their constant downplaying of the Australian economy. The impact of the carbon price will be modest. We have said that all along, and Treasury says it. Even the Liberal mates of those opposite in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia and in the Brisbane City Council say it. I suggest that those opposite listen to the Treasury figures and start talking about carbon pricing with a degree of accuracy.
Under the Clean Energy Future Household Assistance Package, nine out of 10 households in this country will receive assistance. Treasury modelling was recently released which says that 98 per cent of people earning up to $150,000 a year will get assistance. Almost six million households in this country will get tax cuts or increases in their payments. Over four million Australians will get an extra buffer covering 120 per cent of the average increase in costs from the carbon tax. On average, the cost is going to be $9.90 per week, and we are providing $10.10 in assistance.
It is important to be accurate. It is important to outline the impact on the economy, on councils, on businesses and on families and households. It is also important to make sure that we deliver for Australians. We are doing that, and those opposite will claw all of our assistance back. I say this because, when they go into their communities, they never guarantee that they will retain it. But I expect them to do so. Do the right thing for once and talk with accuracy about the impact on the economy— (Time expired)
That was a wall-banger! It has come to this: the party whose leader before the last election pronounced to Australians, 'there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead', whose leader pronounced to Australians the day before the election, 'I rule out a carbon tax,' and whose deputy leader only a few days before the election made it absolutely clear that he thought that the idea of the ALP introducing a carbon tax was 'hysterical' is now worried about truth in advertising! If the ALP were a trading operation, the ACCC would have put them into liquidation by now; in fact, I suspect that they are in liquidation at this moment!
The member for Blair tried to cite the Productivity Commission. If we are interested in truth in advertising, let us go to page 50 of the Productivity Commission's Emission reduction policies and carbon prices in key economies paper of last year. This may be a little bit inconvenient for those opposite, because it says:
… no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on carbon emissions or has in place an economy-wide—
ETS. That is what the Productivity Commission said last year. My advice to the member for Blair is: if you are going to quote the Productivity Commission in a debate about truth in advertising, you might want to be truthful about what they said.
I turn to the issue of truth in advertising. I will deal with the facts: firstly, whether the carbon tax works at an environmental level, before we address anything else; secondly, what it means for electricity and refrigeration costs; and, thirdly, who pays. At the moment we are living through a $70 million carbon tax advertising blitz. That includes the $46 million which will be spent on the advertising to be screened until Saturday night. Forty-six million dollars has been budgeted for this advertising by the government and spent so far. Since budget day, that is $270,000 a day on advertising telling us about the carbon tax. After 1 July it will continue—there is another $24 million in advertising to come after 1 July. Apart from the fact that it has not really worked, there is just one problem with the advertising: it is the Basil Fawlty moment of political advertising—'Don't mention the carbon tax!' At the moment we are seeing carbon tax advertisements which do not mention the carbon tax. So this matter of public importance, this critical issue before us today, is about truth in advertising and about the government, the party, the group of people and the parliamentarians who have authorised $70 million of expenditure on carbon tax advertising and who do not have the courage to call it by its name of a carbon tax. These miraculous ads with—believe it or not—the hashtag '#cashforyou' do not actually bother to mention 'carbon tax for you afterwards'. It is a slightly bizarre moment of Pythonesque proportions from our furry friends on the opposite side. These guys have a degree of hide when it comes to talking about truth in advertising: $70 million—$46 million so far with another $24 million to come—at $270,000 a day and nobody bothers to mention the carbon tax! That is how much they care about truth in advertising.
Let me go to the whole point of this carbon tax, being to reduce emissions in Australia—so the whole goal is to do the right thing. I am one who believes categorically, absolutely, emphatically that that is an important and valuable thing to do—never doubted it, never will; it is something I believe in. But let us look at the Treasury modelling, because the member for Blair mentioned the Treasury modelling and I have a suspicion he has not read it. Let me say this about the Treasury modelling: it is quite crystal clear and categorical. In 2010, according to page 18 of the summary of modelling, Australia's emissions were 578 million tonnes. By 2020, when you look at the modelling—again on page 18—Australia's emissions will be 621 million tonnes. So over 10 years, after a carbon tax of $36 billion in the first four years and a carbon tax which is going to increase significantly according to that same Treasury modelling, Australia's emissions will have gone up by 43 million tonnes, or by almost two tonnes per person across Australia's population.
That is the starting point, but the consequence of that is that the government then has to go offshore and purchase, through corporations that are doing the acquisitions on their behalf, 94 million tonnes of foreign carbon credits. These carbon credits are going to come from China and Kazakhstan, among other places. I love Borat but I would not be buying 94 million tonnes of carbon credits from Borat and his friends, and there is a reason why: we lived through the Home Insulation Program and we saw what happened when you let loose the dodgy traders and the shonks and when you do not put probity in place. This system is designed to do that. Don't take our word for it; take that of the European police authorities. At the moment they are prosecuting a €5 billion scam from Norway and in Italy they caught a Mafia don over false trading and dubbed him 'The Lord of the Winds' as he was so engaged in this. This government is not exactly heading off in the right direction, because the purpose—the reason for being—of the carbon tax is to reduce emissions in Australia and it completely fails to do that, not on our modelling and not on our estimates but on the government's own estimates.
Beyond all of that, though, there is a financial implication: when you purchase 94 million tonnes from overseas at the government's projected rate of $37 tonne by 2020 you will be spending $3½ billion a year on top of the likely carbon tax revenue of $14 billion. So that is $3½ billion a year on foreign carbon credits. But when you follow it through—because, as the member for Aston has often pointed out to me, this carbon tax starts at $23 a tonne, it hits $37 a tonne in 2020 and it hits $350 a tonne in 2050; it is a 1,500 per cent increase in the price—what it means for the purchase of foreign carbon credits is that, on the government's own estimates, we will be buying 434 million tonnes of foreign carbon credits at—now wait for this—$350 a tonne, which is about $150 billion. That is 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2050 which we will be spending not once or twice but each and every year. These are the figures directly from the government's own modelling. That 1½ per cent of GDP on foreign carbon credits is in addition to the carbon tax, and that 1½ per cent of GDP is what we will be spending every year, and that is almost as much as the current defence budget as a proportion of GDP. So each and every year for eternity, on this government's own modelling, we will be purchasing foreign carbon credits to the extent of almost the entire defence budget. So when they talk about sustainability, when they talk about truth in advertising, they might—just one of them—pick up their own Treasury modelling and understand that the system they have created is so unsustainable that no government will be able to continue this into the future and that no government can condone or authorise almost the entire Australian defence budget, as we project forward to their target datelines, being spent on foreign carbon credits. The impact on Australia's budget is incredible. It is extraordinary.
So what does it mean in human terms? This is a carbon tax about electricity, and let us look at what is happening with electricity. The government does not talk about electricity in its advertising. It does not talk about the massive impacts on manufacturing and otherwise. Let us start with the facts. In New South Wales there are 18 per cent price rises, and nine per cent of those come from the carbon tax; in Western Australia, 12 per cent price rises, with a nine per cent price rise—or 72 per cent of the price rises—coming from the carbon tax; and in the ACT, 17.74 per cent price rises, of which 14 per cent, according to the regulator, comes from the carbon tax. So, in other words, 79 per cent of the price rises in the ACT, for both residents and commercial operators, come from the carbon tax. That is the reality. So if you want truth in advertising you might want to put those figures on the table, and that is my suggestion to the government.
Let us go back to the point that the member for Aston has made. We start at, per tonne, $23, we go to $37 and we hit $350—and that is on the government's own modelling. It is not an incremental increase; it is a manifest, manyfold increase which starts on day one. It does not finish on day one; it starts on day one and it continues thereafter, every day and into eternity, on the design of this system.
You are right—1 July is the easiest day, not the hardest day. What we know is this, and refrigeration is a very simple example. The Prime Minister today conceded that it is not some mythical group of under 500 companies; it is small businesses around the country. Let me read what was said by the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association in a letter received today: 'At least 800 companies from the refrigeration industry will be paying this tax direct to the government. In most applications there is no viable alternative to these refrigerants.' What does that mean? It means that at least 800 companies, over and above all of those that are already listed, are going to directly pay the tax. And they are not going to pay small price rises. In the case of R404A, one of the leading refrigerant gases in Australia, we are looking at a quadrupling of price. Let me look at other examples. In the case of R23 there is a doubling, for R134A there is a tripling, for R507 there is a tripling, and for R407C there is a doubling. These are the real price rises that we are looking at because of this tax on refrigerants. And who pays that? Cool stores, warehouses, distribution centres, butchers, cafes, bottle shops—anybody who has to keep things cold; the list goes on and on. They are the people who pay the carbon tax.
I heard mention of charities, and that is dead right. The government has seemed to belittle the fact that the RSPCA pays the carbon tax. We were at the RSPCA two days ago and it pays $180,000 in its first year, according to the president of the ACT and national chapters of the RSPCA. That is $180,000 for a charity. That is what they pay. The government may mock the RSPCA, but they sure as heck are taxing them at the same time.
I think that Australians are astonished that it is not some mythical group of 500 companies but every Australian small business, every Australian charity and every Australian household who uses electricity that will pay this tax, because at its heart the carbon tax is an electricity tax. When people ask, 'What will go up?' it is electricity. On day one—and this is where I want to finish—the moment you wake up and turn on the television, you will be paying the carbon tax. The moment you open the fridge door, you will be paying the carbon tax; the moment you use the kettle, you will be paying the carbon tax; and the moment you use the toaster, you will be paying the carbon tax. That is before you leave the door. That tax will apply to public transport, visits to the shop and visits to the tip.
The government talk about truth in advertising and yet the reality is that they advertise without reference to the carbon tax, they advertise without reference to electricity prices and they advertise without reference to the great deception of two years ago. (Time expired)
I begin by applauding the member for Blair for bringing this very important matter of public importance before the parliament today. Some of the outrageous and false claims that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow minister for climate action, environment and heritage, and other members of the operation are truly appalling.
The truth is that the carbon price will have a modest impact on the cost of living and an increase in the CPI of 0.7 per cent, but you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that. State based regulators have confirmed key aspects of this forecast, but of course you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that. The New South Wales pricing regulator, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, has confirmed Treasury's forecast that electricity prices would rise by $3.30 per week, but of course you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal said that the impact on council rates will be 0.4 per cent, which is less than the Treasury modelling, but of course you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal figures have been confirmed by the New South Wales Liberal government, but you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that.
The Liberal New South Wales local government minister issued a press release showing council rates will rise by 0.4 per cent as a result of the carbon price and that for the average household this is only 6c a week, but you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that. The New South Wales Liberal government has confirmed the Treasury forecast about the modest impact of a price on carbon, but you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that. Our government is providing tax cuts, increases in family payments and other benefits, and all up an extra $10.10 per week, on average, will be delivered through the government's household assistance package. That is $10.10 per week against, in this case, a 6c per week rate rise, but you will never hear the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Flinders say that.
What the opposition leader has said is that the impacts of carbon pricing will be unimaginable. For the last 12 months the opposition leader has been going around the country making numerous false claims designed to engender fear that the carbon price would increase electricity prices by 20, 25 and 30 per cent. That is specifically what he has claimed. That is dishonest. Just last week the Leader of the Opposition said that, as a result of the carbon price, 'Power costs will go up by 20 per cent'. That is dishonest.
It is well known that the opposition cannot add up, and recent claims about the effects of the price on carbon made by the Manager of Opposition Business and the shadow minister for climate action, environment and heritage, amongst others, exceed any previous efforts in the deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of the facts and figures that affect this vital issue. Then they claim that the $3.40 per week that will be due to the price on carbon is some sort—
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In relation to comments by the member for Reid, I would ask that he withdraw references to 'deliberate misrepresentation' and 'dishonesty' with regards to the Leader of the Opposition.
If it assists the House, I withdraw, but I will not withdraw, Deputy Speaker, from the misrepresentation and distortion that has been undertaken by the shadow minister for climate change, environment and heritage, the member for Flinders, the Leader of the Opposition and other members on the other side of the House.
Nowhere is the subterfuge more evident than some statements by opposition members claiming that 85 per cent of the increased price of electricity supplied by Integral Energy is due to the so-called carbon tax. According to the report of the New South Wales Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which I referred to earlier, electricity prices in New South Wales will rise by approximately 18 per cent. The report states that regulated retail electricity prices for typical households will rise from 1 July 2012 by $7 per week for Energy Australia residential customers, $4 per week for Integral Energy residential customers and $8 per week for Country Energy residential customers. These figures show that Integral Energy's increases in prices are the lowest of all the major providers; yet some members of the opposition seek to alarm the public by pronouncing the increase to 85 per cent.
The other big hoax being peddled by the opposition is that Australia's carbon price is the biggest in the world. Well, it simply is not. It lies roughly in the middle of the field—which stretches from $130 per tonne in Sweden to less than $10 per tonne for a few other countries—and the member for Flinders knows that.
Unless measures such as the carbon price are adopted, there is little doubt that the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels will certainly lead to more frequent real national disasters on the scale of the Black Sunday bushfires in Victoria or the Queensland floods. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, current weather patterns were proceeding as predicted in the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990, which stated, amongst other things:
We calculate with confidence that:
- carbon dioxide has been responsible for over half the enhanced greenhouse effect caused ...
The long-lived gases would require immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% to stabilize the concentrations at today's levels, methane would require 15 to 20% reduction.
Further, Karl Braganza, a Bureau of Meteorology climatologist, has said:
Since about 1990, all the climate models have been producing the same or similar results, and that's what we are seeing now.
There is more heavy rain in the tropics, as well as more drought in southern Australia.
Of course, deceptive claims by the opposition about that effects of carbon dioxide emissions and the carbon price are nothing new to us—a prime example being the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian steel industry would be destroyed by the carbon price, notwithstanding the fact that the global steel industry is moving to reduce carbon dioxide emissions even without the encouragement of a price on carbon.
Those who believe that Australia's coal exporters, such as the major sponsor of the opposition, Mr Clive Palmer, will continue to ride on an unending conveyor belt of money should realise that, according to the International Energy Agency, energy consumption in the global steel industry could be readily cut by one-third by the adoption of proven technology that would save and recycle heat within the steel-making process, even without significant changes to existing steel mills. Quite possibly the demand for coal will decline as overseas steelmakers become even more efficient and reduce emissions. Yet none of that matters to the opposition or their supporters, keen to dip up as much of Australia's natural resources as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Although the opposition may claim that nothing can be done to reduce emissions because of the nature of the process, for some reason overseas steelmakers do not seem to be bound by the same natural laws that apparently apply only in our country and are actually moving to halve emissions, despite the denials of the opposition. There are those that may think that such a goal is unattainable, yet according to the United States Department of Energy, the US steel industry has already reduced its energy and carbon intensity by almost half over the past 30 years. Thanks to process improvements, carbon dioxide emissions declined from 2.2 metric tonnes per tonne of steel produced in the early 1970s to one metric tonne per tonne of steel produced in 2011. And the member for Flinders and the shadow minister knows that. (Time expired)
The most important word in this MPI before us today is the word 'accurately'—that Australians be informed accurately of the impact of the carbon tax. In May this year the government began what by Saturday will be a $46 million advertising campaign—rising to another $24 million—to explain that the Gillard government was actually doing something. The ads indicated that, out of the kindness of the government's heart, Australians will receive 'extra help with their everyday expenses'. The government told Australians that they did not have to do anything—the money would just magically appear in their bank account and appear regularly. Earlier this month the Prime Minister and other Labor ministers decided to come up with a handy hashtag on Twitter: 'cash for you'. There was no mention of where this money was coming from or even why they were doing it.
There are two words that this government seem to have forgotten how to say—'carbon tax'. In those taxpayer funded ads , nowhere did the government mention the carbon tax. They did not even mention why Australians would suddenly have higher everyday expenses. Call it what you will—carbon pricing, emissions trading, a tax on carbon dioxide emissions—the Gillard Labor government have minced their language so much that they have deceived even themselves on the fact that they are threatening the Australian economy and the livelihood s of all Australians with the world's only economy-wide carbon tax.
Despite pre-election claims, the Gillard government brought in a carbon tax and then introduced a massive welfare program to cover up the true cost of that tax. The government then misled the Australian people by inaccurately saying that the coalition would take away people's money. Yes, they claimed that we would cut welfare programs, like the schoolkids bonus, because we would repeal what led to their necessity in the first place.
Make no mistake: the next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. If elected, the coalition will repeal the legislation and scrap the carbon tax. The coalition will do this because we know that the carbon tax comes at the worst possible time for Australian businesses and will begin a slow squeeze on the economy, hurting current businesses and driving away future investment. Every Australian in this country will be affected by the carbon tax, and not all Australians will be compensated—duly or otherwise, and never to the extent of their hurt.
In particular, Australians should be accurately informed that the carbon tax will negatively affect senior Australians—a group that constitutes 30 per cent of the population. This is an important group in our society, which this Gillard Labor government constantly disregards. As such, it is absolutely crucial that the parliament is discussing this matter of public importance today. There is no doubt that ther e will be a huge adverse e ffect on senior Australians caused by the carbon tax, for which even this failed government, with its money grabs here and 'cash for you' programs there, will not be able to recompense. The government claims that the carbon tax is not a tax on Australians but that it is a tax on polluters. The real point with that claim is that the Labor Party value the intelligence of Australians so little that they think that they can get away with such a statement.
We need only consider the electricity industry. All Australians, including seniors, will still be using electricity in four days time, from 1 July 2012. All electricity production will face a tax of $23 a tonne and the price elasticity for demand for electricity is so inelastic that close to, if not exactly, 100 per cent of those costs will be passed on—and passed on to seniors. The government do not understand that after 1 July the annual bill for a typical residential household will be around $192 —or 11.2 per cent higher, as calculated by the Queensland Competition Authority. Brisbane has just experienced the longest run of cold days in four years, and senior Australians need to keep warm by using their heaters. There are currently over 1.2 million Australians on the full- rate pension and almost 800,000 Australians are on a part pension. Those people on a fixed Centrelink or pension income are already being frugal with their budget s , and they have already reduced their electricity consumption to the bare minimum. When prices go up, they simply cannot reduce their electricity demand and will be paying the full brunt of the carbon tax.
What do these people do after 1 July? What is the government's accurate advice to senior Australians during a cold winter? On the government's Living Greene r website they suggest that a fun way to save on electricity costs is to 'break out the board games'. Perhaps they should have expressly mentioned when they began the rollout of so-called compe nsation packages, or even thinly- veiled ones such as the s choolkids b onus , that everyone should spend that money buying games of Monopoly.
On top of electricity price rises, seniors in many council areas will be hit harder by the carbon tax. Is the government going to compensate them for the extra costs incurred as a result of residing in the Brisbane City Council local government area? The answer is no.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I asked the Deputy Prime Minister two questions in question time recently about how the carbon tax will add 1.9 per cent to every resident's rates and how the government will assist the council. As is the wont of government ministers in this place, he did not answer those questions directly; instead he responded with half-truths and political nonsense.
The other group which this Gillard Labor government has turned its back on is self-funded retirees, estimated to consist of more than 500,000 Australians. Of these, there are some 285,000 people who are not eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and as such are not eligible for assistance from this government to pay for the price increases as a result of the carbon tax. These are senior Australians who have sacrificed spending and who have done the right thing to save for their retirement. Because they worked hard, they do not have to rely on taxpayers. But this carbon tax and lack of compensation for cost-of-living increases demonstrates the Prime Minister's contempt for self-funded retirees.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that this carbon tax will cause our economy to prosper. Well, he is from Brisbane and lives in the Brisbane City Council area, but he will not explain why one of the largest purchasers of green power in this country, and a council which has spent millions of dollars on real green initiatives, has been branded as one of the top 294 polluters in the country. I encourage him to return to Queensland and explain directly why his government is forcing the Brisbane City Council to pay more than $15 million in the 2012-13 financial year and forcing their rates up at a time of increasing cost-of-living pressures.
Seniors were ignored in this year's budget. The Gillard government reduced the amount that someone over 50 is able to voluntarily contribute to their superannuation. They introduced means testing of the medical expenses tax offset. They are phasing out the mature age worker tax offset, and they had already abolished the More Help for Mature Age Workers election promise. Instead, they propose to spend an extra $56.9 million to hold yet another talkfest.
The failure of this Prime Minister to honour her promise before the election that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads is another example of her lack of commitment to senior Australians. This Labor government have also failed on many other fronts. They opposed the opposition's bill to abolish the superannuation age limit. They have continually failed to listen to the opposition's commitment to the fair indexation of the DFRB and DFRDB schemes for military superannuants. They have failed to support workers experiencing age discrimination. They failed to take up the opposition's commitment to indexing the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and they have failed to recognise the contribution of self-funded retirees to this country. The coalition will look after senior Australians, as we have always done in government. It was the coalition that ensured the pension would always be maintained at 25 per cent of male total average weekly earnings and that the pension would be indexed to that level rather than the lower CPI. The coalition introduced the utilities allowance to assist seniors to be independent. Not only will the coalition rescind the carbon tax, the coalition if it is elected will implement our Supporting Seniors policy. The coalition will create a Minister for Ageing and Seniors because we want senior Australians to have their voice heard, and because the coalition values their contribution and their input. We want to hear their opinion, while the government obviously does not.
The next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. Should the coalition be elected by the people of Australia at the next election to form government, my message to the Prime Minister and the Labor-Greens coalition is simple: 'You ignored the will of the Australian people at the last election; you deceived all Australians. Get out of the way and let the coalition repair the damage you have caused to our economy.'
The coalition has a plan to rescind this disastrous tax. The tax can and will be removed early in the life of a coalition government. By rescinding the government tax, the coalition will once again provide hope, reward and opportunity to all Australians because they need to know about the accuracy of the impact of the carbon tax on all Australians.
I am glad to see there are a few young people in the gallery. The reason this important MPI has been brought on today is because there have been all sorts of inaccuracies spread all around this country. Indeed, it reminds me of a terrible fairytale designed to teach people a lesson. It goes something like this. Once upon a time there was a little chicken called Abbott who wanted a big job. Abbott hatched a negative plan to scare all the people of the land. He decided to travel the land and tell people—
If the member for Robertson wishes to refer to the Leader of the Opposition, she should refer to him as the Leader of the Opposition. It is a matter for the member for Robertson as to whether she is making that reference or not.
The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition has been getting around the whole country scaring people, in the same way as that very famous story about the sky falling in, saying it is going to fall nowhere harder or further than in the place we have been hearing about here, Whyalla. The reality is that we need to get some facts on the record here for Australian people. In my seat there is a pensioner who has gone recently to a tax agent and actually asked, 'How do I pay my carbon tax?' That is how misled she has been by the members of the opposition absolutely misleading and fear-mongering when the reality is that in the seat of Robertson we have got so many people set to benefit by the assistance we will give them by taking the money from those who will be polluting, helping them to change their behaviours, and assisting families as we move to a clean future.
About 10,600 families in the seat of Robertson have received a lump sum payment in their bank accounts, which means $2.2 million to assist them as we make this transition. That is money from polluters to families to help them manage this change. Families on family tax benefit A are going to get $110 per child and those on family tax benefit B are going to get $69 per child. I inform the member who has just been on her feet that in the seat of Ryan there are 6,200 families that she does not want to assist, that she is rejecting any assistance for. A typical family with a household income of $75,000 with two kids in school is going to see an expected impact of $549 a year from the carbon price. This is the fact. It will not be astronomical. In contrast to the increases we have seen in electricity prices to today, we as a federal Labor government are giving assistance to people to make this very significant change.
As a person living in New South Wales I have paid incredibly increased electricity bills. Anybody listening to this broadcast should remember that to this day there is no carbon price. At this point of time in New South Wales power has gone up in the last three years by 55 per cent. Where is my assistance, Barry O'Farrell? Where is the Liberal government assisting with that in any way? We have made sure that we give assistance not only to families.
The member for Ryan speaks of her great concern for pensioners. She has got 11,600 of them in her electorate, and we are helping them by giving them $338 extra per year if they are a single and an extra $510 per year for couples combined. I hope she writes to those 11,600 people and lets them know that she is not going to help them. I am very pleased to say that in my electorate of Robertson we have 26,500 pensioners who are getting assistance to the tune of $5.8 million to make sure that they are going to be well looked after while we make this transition.
So when 1 July rolls around we will be making sure that the sky is not falling, because we understand that ordinary people, ordinary working Australians, need a hand as we make massive reform in our economy. When we put in superannuation everybody on the other side said it could not be done, it should not be done, and there could not be a worse time. And now we hear that it could not be done, it should not be done and there could not be a worse time. It is always the same relentless, destructive negativity. We have got on the record here a plan for the future, hope for our country, opportunities for lots of businesses to get on and reward for ordinary working Australians, who get to share in the benefit of this great country.
It is interesting that the member for Robertson only had five minutes of debate. She is clearly suffering from lack of information. I have got a little fairy story of my own. Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth and everyone was living happily on this planet. But all of a sudden the citizens became concerned because the seas were going to rise, the temperature was going to increase, the crops were going to die, the cities were going to be inundated. But the Gillard government imposed a carbon tax, the earth cooled down, the sea levels calmed and we all lived happily ever after. The end. That was a short precis of the member for Robertson's speech!
This MPI is 'The urgent need ahead of 1 July 2012 for all Australians to be informed accurately of the impact of the carbon price and of the assistance being delivered in relation thereto'. We are seeing plenty of information being delivered to the public, but very little of it, if any, is about the carbon tax. The advertisements we have been seeing on the television and in the papers and hearing on the radio do not mention the carbon tax. It is something you do not mention. But, as a diligent member of parliament, I have been giving my constituents a bit of advice, seeing as the government will not. I am saying: 'This is not a gift from the government. This is not largesse. Please do not squander this payment, because you will need it, because your costs are going to go up.'
The member for Robertson said that her accountant could not tell her constituent how she was going to pay the carbon tax. I can tell her how she is going to pay the carbon tax. She is going to pay it through her power bill. She is going to pay it through her food bill. When she goes shopping, she is going to pay her share of keeping the air-conditioner going. When she pays her shire rates, she is going to pay her share for the bitumen that makes our roads. When her grandkids go to the pool, she will be paying her share for the extra energy it costs to keep the pool clean and the water circulating. When she goes walking at night-time, she will be paying her share for the streetlights that keep the place safe. How can the member for Robertson say she does not know how her constituent is going to pay the carbon tax? Everyone knows how they are going to pay it. The only people in this debate that seem to be clueless are the government.
I was at the tip last Sunday. It is a little tragic that, when you become a member of parliament, one of the great pleasures in life is going to the tip on Sunday. But tragically it is. I was speaking to a good friend of mine called Grant. Grant works in the local council, and he said, 'Hey, come over here; I want to talk to you.' He said, 'This carbon tax—they're telling us that all the big polluters are going to pay. That's what they're telling us, aren’t they?' I said, 'Yeah, Grant; that's what they're telling you.' He said, 'But that's not true, is it?' I will not say exactly what he said. Grant had worked it out. He said, 'We're going to be paying, aren't we?' Grant is a single bloke. Grant does not earn a lot of money. There is no compensation for Grant. Grant did not get a schoolkids bonus and he did not get a pension bonus. But he still has to pay for his electricity. In the little council that he works at, a council with fewer than 10,000 people, the increase from the carbon tax will be $365,000. Grant has worked it out, but the members over there cannot.
It is interesting that the members on this side of the House generally represent some of the electorates that have low levels of income. The members on that side of the House, with green leanings, tend to represent electorates that have people with high income. This inner city urban elite that are pushing, through the Greens, for a carbon tax are expecting the constituents of those of us on this side to pay it. This is not just me speaking; it is also Professor Garnaut, the great champion of climate change reform, the one that did the white paper for the government. Professor Garnaut said that regional Australia will face an economic downturn of 20 per cent and the cities will face a downturn of eight per cent. When you want to bring a tax into this House under which my constituents pay the same as everyone else, maybe we will start to talk about it, but you are expecting regional Australia to carry the can for this tax—and no-one is saying that that is not the truth; even Professor Garnaut has predicted it.
The member for Reid talked about how many cents for groceries. That is a bit of an academic argument if you happen to be a cement worker from Kandos. Kandos was in the seat of Parkes; it is now in the seat of Hunter—and I wonder what that change of boundaries in 2010 has done for them. In Kandos, there were 106 workers at the cement plant—four or five generations had been working at the same plant—and that plant is now gone, closed down. The members on the government side are saying, 'It's not the carbon tax; it's the dollar and everything else.' Ask Cement Australia, who have been knocking my door down since 2007. They will tell you it was the carbon tax. If you go to Kandos and ask those retrenched workers what caused this, they will tell you it was the carbon tax. The great irony of this is that, not far from Kandos, on the other side of Mudgee, they are building great big wind farms—wind turbines 170 metres high with blades 60 metres across. They are mostly made out of steel coming from China, which does not have a carbon tax. Underneath those wind turbines there are quite a few hundred tonnes of concrete to keep them up—they are big heavy things. That concrete has not been made from cement from Kandos. That cement now is coming on a boat from Asia into Sydney Harbour, where it is unloaded as clinker, ground up and sent out over the mountains to build these wind farms. What on earth have we come to?
This is a grand gesture. That side have stopped talking about saving the climate. They are talking about compensation and micro-economics, but they have actually stopped talking about saving the environment. If this is not going to change the environment, why the heck are we doing it? We talk about agriculture, and they say, 'Oh no; agriculture's been exempted.' The member for New England, who sits up here and whinges and whines and carries on all day in our ears, supporting the government, says, 'We've got the Carbon Farming Initiative.' Anyone that knows anything about agriculture knows that zero-till farming, increasing the amount of carbon in the soil, which is basically organic material, has been going on for years. Indeed, my brothers and I were undertaking trials with the New South Wales department of agriculture in the late seventies, with Roundup when it was first invented. This is not a new thing. Graziers have been changing the way they manage the grazing of their pastures to keep a higher level of organic material. But this is being sold as some sort of a windfall for farmers. Any money that is to be made out of carbon farming cannot possibly compensate for the increase in the costs of fuel, fertiliser, electricity and, for dairy farmers, refrigeration. There is no way that that can actually balance out. The interest of this is that the incentive—the incentive to use less energy, the incentive to sequester the carbon—has always been there, without the tax. There are the productivity gains, the extra production and the extra use of water. Australian farmers are growing more kilograms of grain, fibre and meat per litre of water and per unit of electricity now than they ever have. They are far more efficient now than they have ever been. They are the most efficient farmers in the world. They did not need a tax. They did not need the government to come with its Carbon Farming Initiative to show them the new way. People come from all over the world to see the farmers of my electorate, to see how things are done. They did not need a tax to do that. Indeed, the shadow minister at the table, the member for Flinders, has been and seen what I am talking about.
As to the idea that we are going to tax these farmers to make them more profitable by some sort of a payoff, look at the carbon trading on the Chicago Board of Trade that was brought in by Al Gore. That landscape-style trading has ceased to exist because the value of those carbon credits got so low that they stopped trading. So this idea that agriculture is somehow going to benefit from the carbon tax is an absolute nonsense.
In my electorate, a lot of people are suffering. They are not getting any sort of compensation. The self-funded retirees, the small businesses, the low-income earners, the people who do not have families, the farmers—all those sorts of people are paying the price for this carbon tax. On the last sitting day before this tax comes in, it is with a heavy heart that I stand here and believe that I am actually saying these things. The Australian people have had their pockets filled up with lead. They have a ball and chain around their ankles. They have been told to go out and compete with the rest of the world while they are dragging this heavy burden, which is nothing but a grand gesture, which is this carbon tax. (Time expired)