Thursday, 21 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister Representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Is the minister aware that the 2012-13 budget of the Brisbane City Council, Australia's largest municipal authority, which was handed down yesterday, contained an overall rate increase of 4.5 per cent, of which almost half—1.9 per cent—was directly attributable to the additional costs imposed on the BCC by Labor's carbon tax? When will the government be honest with the Australian people and admit that they face increases in municipal rates just as they face higher electricity, gas and fuel and grocery prices because the Prime Minister broke her solemn promise that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads?
It is interesting to have Senator Brandis calling for some honesty in the carbon debate. This is a bloke who walked in here and tried to accuse the carbon price of somehow changing the face of the media in this country. He now comes in here and demands that there be an honest debate about carbon. The government and I are up for an honest debate about carbon but the opposition have not wanted to have it. The opposition have wanted to engage in a factually misleading desperate scare campaign when it comes to the carbon price. That has been the entirety of the opposition's position when it comes to carbon.
I am aware of the announcement by Brisbane City Council. I am aware that there has been assertions made. The facts that I have been advised of are different from those that Senator Brandis put into his question. My advice might be incorrect—and, if so, I will make sure I correct the record—but if Senator Brandis is incorrect I would invite him to do the same. I understand that the Brisbane City Council has stated that the rate increase is made up of $11 million out of $15.8 million to cover an 0.7 per cent increase in the CPI. Even those figures, which are different from the figures that Senator Brandis has put forward, are misleading because, as everyone knows, the consumer price index is a measure of inflation across all goods and services. Councils are subject to a much smaller exposure to cost increases than households as they purchase a much smaller range of goods and services. The advice I have is that, while some costs will increase as a result of the carbon price, this is likely to be less than 0.5 per cent. But the important point is that the government is assisting— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that the Brisbane City Council is one of Australia's greenest local authorities, having halved its carbon footprint since 2000 through direct action and other practical initiatives such as planting two million new trees and fully offsetting the emissions of its entire vehicle fleet? Does the Brisbane City Council's experience demonstrate the superiority and cost-effectiveness of direct action rather than a great new big tax based on a lie?
There is a reason why not a single economist anywhere in the world supports direct action. There is a reason why Treasury has advised about the costliness of direct action. There is a reason why, apart from Mr Hunt, no-one on that side believes it will actually do anything. It is a policy that is designed to get you through an election. It is a policy that you know will not work. It is a policy that will cost Australians more—$1,300 per year extra tax paid by Australian households. So we give tax cuts and you impose a tax hike for a policy that you know will not work.
In terms of the Brisbane City Council rate increases, remember that the proportion associated with carbon is being the subject of assistance by the federal government, unlike every other part of the rate hike. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. If Labor's carbon tax has forced a significant additional rate increase upon one of Australia's most energy-efficient cities, what assurance can the government give that ratepayers in other cities and towns across the length and breadth of Australia will not have even greater rate increases forced upon them by this toxic tax based on the Prime Minister's lie?
I should also add in relation to the Brisbane City Council that they actually received $5 million from this government as part of the Community Energy Efficiency Program—$5 million was granted by this government to the Brisbane City Council. In the face of a suggestion that we are not supporting local government, I remind the Senate that the council in question has been the recipient of a significant grant from the government. I say again to the opposition that Treasury has found very clearly that your policy will cost Australians more. I know you do not want to believe what experts tell you—you do not like what experts tell you because you do not want the truth in this debate—but your policy, to achieve the same outcome, will cost Australians more. (Time expired)