Thursday, 28 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. I refer the Assistant Treasurer to his statement on Tuesday threatening small-business owners with prosecution by the ACCC and fines of up to $1.1 million for displaying this poster.
Opposition members interjecting—
Order! All the posters are coming down. The member for Dunkley will resume his seat and the props will disappear.
Mrs Griggs interjecting—
The member for Solomon has had my patience. No props. The member for Dunkley has the call. He will ask his question again without assistance from his colleagues.
Thank you for leaving it with me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I refer the Assistant Treasurer to his statement on Tuesday threatening small-business owners with prosecution by the ACCC and fines of up to $1.1 million for displaying this poster. How does he reconcile this threat to small business with the fact that the government's own modelling indicates a 10 per cent rise in electricity prices because of the carbon tax with the statement by the ACCC that this poster is in no way misleading?
Thanks very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is just a shame they did not get the member for Mitchell to ask this one. The pamphlet that was enclosed in the letter that has been distributed to small businesses all around this country is a pamphlet that has the potential to mislead consumers. The ACCC has made it clear that businesses that jack up their prices and falsely blame the carbon price for those price increases may be subject to the provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act. The sanctions that apply to offences under that act include a fine of, in the case of individuals, up to $6,600 or, in the case of a corporation, $1.1 million. This is a very serious matter. The truth of this particular matter is that the Leader of the Opposition, in encouraging businesses to put up a pamphlet that suggests that any price increases that the businesses may pass on may in fact be a direct result of the carbon price, is potentially misleading. The ACCC has confirmed as much.
What is most important in relation to this matter is that the people who are likely to be in the firing line include, in fact, not the Leader of the Opposition—we know that he has been misleading at every stage of this debate—but the people who could unwittingly be drawn into this particular matter are those small businesses that may, if they act upon the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, put this pamphlet up in their window. If they increase prices by more than what is attributable to the carbon price, in those cases they may well be guilty of misleading their consumers.
We make no apologies on this side for standing up for the rights of consumers. We do not believe that it is appropriate for businesses to jack up their prices unfairly and to falsely blame that on the carbon price.
Mrs Mirabella interjecting—
The difference between the government and the opposition on this issue is that the Leader of the Opposition wants businesses to jack up their prices. He has decided that it is in his political interest for businesses to jack up their prices so that his campaign of gloom and doom—
Mr Tony Smith interjecting—
which we all know has been hyperbole, can have some justification. The fact of the matter is that 1 July is coming around very soon and we will see that it will not be the cobra strike; it will not even be a python squeeze. At that point the Leader of the Opposition will be exposed for the fraud that he is.
My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Minister for Industry and Innovation. With the carbon price coming into effect from 1 July, why is it important for Australians to have accurate information about this important economic and environmental reform?
I thank the member for Parramatta for her question. When it comes to important economic and environmental reforms like carbon pricing, the community expect leadership and they do not expect the silly sort of nonsense that the Leader of the Opposition has gone on with. What we have heard over the last 12 or 18 months from the Leader of the Opposition is an extraordinary number of reckless, irresponsible and downright deceitful statements about carbon pricing. With carbon pricing coming in from this Sunday—
Dr Jensen interjecting—
and with his two-week tour of doom and gloom that we have heard about upcoming, it is worthwhile just reflecting upon some of the deceitful statements that the Leader of the Opposition has made. Let's start with the contention that carbon dioxide has no weight at all. We are trying to encourage students into maths and science. What sort of leadership is that type of silliness? A year ago he forecast that, from Sunday, 45,000 jobs would be lost in energy intensive industries and another 126,000 jobs lost mainly in regional Australia. They are all gone from Sunday—nearly 200,000 jobs gone from Sunday, forecast by the prophet of doom. The facts, of course, are pretty different. The economy is in good position. It is growing well. Jobs are forecast to grow by 1.6 million through to 2020. Jobs will grow under carbon pricing.
Another one of his claims is:
I've never been in favour of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.
But, in fact, on the record, on camera, he has supported both on different occasions. Try this old favourite. He said that the price increases from carbon pricing will be 'unimaginable'. It might betray a lack of imagination, but really it is just completely deceitful, because we know, of course, that the price impacts will be very modest. According to reports just yesterday, both Coles and Woolworths, from which most Australians buy their produce, have ruled out price increases on 1 July and have said that energy savings will allow them to absorb the costs. It is not any wonder that the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for small business are now trying to incite price rises, because their position is so fraudulent and so deceitful. They should be ashamed and they will be exposed.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. The minister has discussed the importance of accurate information about the carbon price. Is he aware of examples where Australians have thoroughly assessed the impact of the carbon price and then taken action?
Thank you to the member for Parramatta for the question once more. As a member representing a lot of coal workers I have taken a keen interest in the resources sector and the coal industry in particular. Something that has always fascinated me is the prediction by the Leader of the Opposition that, from Sunday, the coal industry will die. It is doomed. Everyone is gone. It is all over, gone, faster than the run out of the House of Representatives the other week—all gone.
But it has been puzzling because, after the Leader of the Opposition had made this forecast, a prominent Liberal with years of government service took on the role as chairman of a coalmining company. Why would you head up a coalmining company after the leader of your own party has predicted that it would be destroyed?
A government member: Who would that be?
It was none other than now Senator Arthur Sinodinos—New South Wales Liberal heavyweight, New South Wales Liberal Party finance director and state president, John Howard's right-hand man and the opposition's economics brains trust.
Opposition members interjecting—
Well, you would not credit it to you mob, would you? Fair dinkum! Arthur Sinodinos knew what was going on and he knew that the Leader of the Opposition's claims were a total fraud.
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her concession today that small businesses will directly pay the carbon tax on synthetic greenhouse gases. I also refer to the statement from the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association that at least 800 companies from the refrigeration industry will be paying this tax direct to the government. Will the Prime Minister now apologise for quadrupling the price of gases such as R404A and for misleading the parliament when she says that fewer than 500 companies will pay the carbon tax? (Time expired)
Mr Champion interjecting—
There are synthetic greenhouse gases that have a global warming impact more than a thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Howard government had the courage to recognise that and impose a levy—
Mr Truss interjecting—
I see, so they are into an amount of money that businesses pay for the Leader of the Opposition. He voted for it, he supported it when he was in government—more hypocrisy, more ridiculousness from the Leader of the Opposition and his team.