Monday, 25 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. What does the government say to businesspeople around Australia like the operators of a garden nursery and rural supply business in Sorell, in my home state of Tasmania, who are putting up signs telling their customers that they are being forced to increase their prices as a result of the introduction of Labor's carbon tax on 1 July?
I will see whether there is anything further I can get in relation to nurseries per se, but in terms of increases in prices I think the government has been very upfront about the fact that the introduction of a carbon price will have an effect on prices—but it is a small effect; it is an average impact on the CPI of 0.7 per cent, and we are reflecting that fact in the tax cuts and additional assistance we are providing to families.
I will take the interjections from the other side, because they really demonstrate a lack of understanding of two things. One is the concept of relative prices—and I suggest they read a very good speech by Mr Turnbull, on the CPRS from memory, where he actually went through this, for those who might have forgotten why price signals are efficient. The second is that the government has always been upfront about there being an impact on prices. It is not a significant impact—as I said, it is substantially less than the GST impact—and that is reflected in the assistance package the government has put into place, which includes, amongst other things, as the senator would be aware, a tripling of the tax-free threshold. I don't have the figures with me about the number of Tasmanians we estimate who would benefit from that, but I would suggest to the senator they would be substantial. We also are increasing the pension and the Disability Support Pension, and there are additional payments to people who receive family tax benefits and other allowances, to reflect the additional price impact.
There is no cost-free way to reduce emissions. The coalition's policy would cost Australians more. The government's policy is economically efficient and lowest cost and ensures, particularly, that low- and middle-income Australia are assisted.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the minister agree with her colleague Mr Combet that a business, such as this one, displaying such a sign is quite frankly ridiculous? Does she believe Mr Combet acted appropriately when he said, 'If you give me their name and address I will have the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission talk to them today, because that is utterly ridiculous. It is like misleading conduct'?
I am being called precious and my mother always told me that I am! What I was trying to say is that Minister Combet is absolutely right in suggesting that the ACCC will obviously consider any misleading statements made by businesses, whether it is in the context of carbon pricing or otherwise, and the government has provided additional resources to ensure that those claims are able to be considered.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that the company concerned has spoken to the ACCC and explained that Labor's carbon tax will significantly increase freight costs, because sea freight is subject to the carbon tax—a fact that Mr Combet seems blissfully ignorant of—and Tasmania is surrounded by water, surprisingly, and they have been told there is nothing wrong with their sign, does the minister still agree that Mr Combet acted appropriately, or is this just another example of the jackboot bullying that small business can expect from this government if the carbon tax forces them to increase prices?
I can confirm that I am aware, and I am sure Mr Combet is, that Tasmania is surrounded by water. I reject absolutely the 'jackboot' reference, and I think that is absolutely tasteless.
I again remind those opposite that they are guilty in this debate of massively overestimating and massively overstating the impact of a carbon price. I think Australians will see next week and beyond that the scare campaign those opposite have been engaged in has been massively dishonest. That is what people will see. To suggest that whole towns would be wiped off the map and whole industries would be shut down will be demonstrated to have been utterly dishonest. (Time expired)