Thursday, 3 November 2011
Matters of Public Importance
A letter has been received from Senator Fifield:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:
The economic and job prospects that would be lost as a result of the Gillard Government's carbon tax.
Is the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today’s debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the Clerk to set the clock accordingly.
This is not my first speech; it is a premaiden speech, if you like. It is an opportunity to talk on this very important matter. Thank you to Senator Fifield for suggesting it. I take as my text, in part, an excellent report around the impact of the carbon tax, which was produced by the Select Committee on Scrutiny of New Taxes under the chairmanship of Senator Mathias Cormann. It is a very forensic report.
Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, talks about how the first duty of government is to do no harm. In the carbon context, that means a policy of no regrets, avoiding irreversible damage to our economy. The carbon tax does not meet that test.
One furphy the government, and the Prime Minister in particular, has raised about this carbon tax is that it is the greatest economic reform in a generation. This tax is not an economic reform in the way of, say, removing tariffs or, say, the introduction of the GST. They would be classified as reforms. When we removed tariffs we took certain costs off certain sectors, and that improved our overall national output and productivity and so on. It was the same with the GST, which replaced a whole ramshackle array of indirect taxes. It reallocated resources from lower valued uses to higher valued uses. That raised our GDP and our productivity. It underpinned higher real wages, higher tax collections and higher living standards for all Australians.
The carbon tax, the highest in the world, fails any sensible cost-benefit test. It is high enough to impact significantly on family living costs, industry competitiveness and regional communities for very little environmental gain.
Let us try to put these numbers into perspective. According the Treasury's updated carbon tax modelling, the tax will reduce our GDP by an allegedly modest 2.8 per cent by 2050. (Time expired)
In the time that I am permitted it is very difficult to pronounce all the opportunities that are available for this great nation of ours through the Clean Energy Future. I want to reflect on a particular report, which Senator Sinodinos did as well. The reflection I want to give is on the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy, wherein a number of coalition and government senators explored the opportunities available to us as a nation, and they were unbelievable. Entrepreneurs gave evidence about the great green opportunities of renewable energies and the jobs that will be provided through the policies we will deliver as a government. I challenge the opposition to go back and read that report and remind themselves of it, including Senator Macdonald and Senator Boswell—the name of the able chair of the committee escapes me at the present. It was an opportunity to talk about the endless ability for jobs to be created. In fact, Treasury modelling indicates that we will create 1.6 million jobs out of this particular venture by 2020. That is certainly a great initiative. People should recognise and understand the opportunities in this area. And the $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program will provide incentives for companies to reduce their emissions over the first three years. Naturally, as time progresses and as people realise the opportunities that are available, I am certain that they will recognise the benefits of our government's clean energy program and our initiatives to protect our environment.