House of Representatives Speech- Carbon Pricing 2012

I welcome the oppor­tunity to rise today to speak on one more desperate attempt by those opposite to maintain their debunked campaign of fear, their debunked campaign of negativity, their debunked campaign that is crumbling with their crumbling credibility. In fact, it is not crumbling; it has crumbled. And if it had not crumbled before this afternoon, it has crumbled now that we have heard from the member for New England. I hope those opposite listened to what he said the Leader of the Opposition did when he was negotiating for you to form government after the last election. You need to bear in mind that we had, after the last election, a hung parliament in this place. We needed to form a government, as the constitution requires, and all members of this parliament participated in what is called a negotiation.

I welcome the oppor­tunity to rise today to speak on one more desperate attempt by those opposite to maintain their debunked campaign of fear, their debunked campaign of negativity, their debunked campaign that is crumbling with their crumbling credibility. In fact, it is not crumbling; it has crumbled. And if it had not crumbled before this afternoon, it has crumbled now that we have heard from the member for New England. I hope those opposite listened to what he said the Leader of the Opposition did when he was negotiating for you to form government after the last election. You need to bear in mind that we had, after the last election, a hung parliament in this place. We needed to form a government, as the constitution requires, and all members of this parliament participated in what is called a negotiation.

And in that negotiation—as the member for New England has explained; I hope you were all listening—your leader, the man who took the leadership of your party by one vote, was prepared to do anything. He was prepared to do anything, including putting a price on carbon—including introducing a carbon tax. Anything means anything, and it is quite clear to us here—and it should be clear to you—what the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to do.

We have rarely seen in Australia's political history a political opportunist of the character of the present Leader of the Opposition, who ought to be apologising to the Australian people for the deceit. Nearly two years of deceit we have had from him now, where he has raised false claims and made appalling misrepresentations, not just about what happened in that negotiation that he was conducting with the member for New England, but about every single aspect of the price on carbon.

This Leader of the Opposition might well have been prepared to agree to put a price on carbon, because he, along with every other living Liberal leader, has supported a price on carbon—has supported an emissions trading scheme. Those opposite who came to the election in 2007 will recall—I know they want to blot it out of their minds—that they supported an emissions trading scheme at the 2007 election. They supported an emissions trading scheme that would by now be in place had John Howard won that election, which of course he did not.

That support for an emissions trading scheme continued from those opposite right up to the time when the present Leader of the Opposition, with his campaign of untruths and misrepresentations, become leader at the end of November 2009. And since then this country has had to endure rubbish, day after day. We have had to endure nonsensical statements made about climate science and nonsensical statements made about the effect of an emissions trading scheme that is recognised by economists around the world—by the OECD, the IMF and the 32 countries in western Europe—as the least-cost, most effective means to reduce carbon pollution.

Those opposite who have any economic literacy—there are not very many of them—know that the right way to go is to put a price on carbon and to have a range of complementary programs. That was the position that the Liberal Party of Australia had in 2007. It remained the position of the Liberal Party of Australia right through to the end of November. It will again be the position of the Liberal Party of Australia, because countries around the world—most notably countries to whom we are very culturally close, like New Zealand or the United Kingdom; part of the Anglosphere that the Leader of the Opposition likes to speak of—have reached a bipartisan agreement on emissions trading. The result of them reaching that bipartisan agreement on emissions trading is that, rightly, it has become a third or fourth order issue, because it is just part of the economic machinery of their countries that has put their countries on the trajectory of lowering carbon pollution, which is where we need to go.

This Leader of the Opposition has wasted years of Australian political debate on putting forward false claims about the effect of pricing carbon—the effect of this mechanism and the scheme that we announced we were going to introduce on 10 July last year—which we have now legislated for and which came into force, I am very pleased to say, on 1 July. What have we seen since 1 July? We have not seen the wrecking ball going through the Australian economy, as was threatened by the Leader of the Opposition, who probably wishes that there was a wrecking ball. Indeed, we have seen their desperation—we have seen it just now from the Leader of the Nationals—to see price rises. Those opposite are desperate to see economic damage so as to make good the false claims that they have been making now for nearly two years. And they are not going to see them.

That is why we published the most detailed economic modelling that the Treasury of our country has ever undertaken. We published that, in conjunction with the details of the scheme, in July last year. That economic modelling showed with extraordinary clarity the predicted price rises for electricity, the predicted price rices for gas and the predicted price rises for food and other items in the economy. Now that we have had the carbon price in place, as of 1 July, those predictions have come to pass. We have seen electricity price increases, as predicted, in the order of 10 per cent—except in Tasmania, where they are considerably lower. We have seen gas price rises of about eight per cent, as predicted, and, most importantly, we have seen a rise in the cost of living of less than one cent in the dollar. The prediction by Treasury was 0.7 per cent, and so far, six weeks in, much to the regret of those opposite, there is nothing that suggests that the modelled outcomes of the carbon price are anything other than accurate.

We have the Leader of the Opposition wanting to say that the carbon price would be like a cobra strike. When that tag failed to stick—when he realised that that was going to be nonsense because there was not going to be anything happening—he wanted to say that it was something you cannot really see. He wanted to call it a 'python squeeze'. That is yet another untrue claim. That is the problem that the opposition has: month by month it is going to be seen that these endless claims that they have made, since the Leader of the Opposition became leader at the end of November 2009, are false. They are false; they will not be borne out by what is going to happen in the Australian economy. They are not being borne out now.

That is why I will request—I will repeat this request although I have little hope that the Leader of the Opposition is going to meet this request—that the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, including the member for Flinders, make the Australian people an apology, quite a big apology, for the misleading claims and for scaring people, particularly needy and vulnerable people in the community.

They have been going around and saying, for example, that the carbon price would hurt older people.

The fact is, pensioners and self-funded retirees will get an increase in support each year under the government's household assistance package, and that is assistance that this Leader of the Opposition and those opposite would rip away by cutting family payments and pensions if they got elected. We have had the Leader of the Opposition saying that there would be no compensation for small business. In fact, small businesses will benefit from a $6½ thousand instant asset tax write-off, which they will be able to make multiple times, as well as from a $40 million energy efficiency program. Again, that is a benefit for small business that this Leader of the Opposition opposes. He opposes this ability for small business to claim $6½ thousand instant asset tax write-offs.

Here is another good one. The Leader of the Opposition said:

We won’t be able to get on a bus or a train, ultimately to drive our cars, without being impacted by this tax.

I can hardly read it out with a straight face because it is so laughable. I will repeat the facts for what feels like the umpteenth time: there is no carbon price on fuel used by household cars or light commercial vehicles. I do not know what cannot be understood about that. I will repeat it for the benefit of those opposite: there is no carbon price on fuel used by household cars or light commercial vehicles, and buses using less polluting fuels, LPG, LNG and biofuels, will not face a carbon price.

We have had similar claims in the transport area about farms. The Leader of the Opposition has said: 'Every farm uses fuel for its trucks and all of that is going to be hit by'—the—'carbon tax.' I will just state some facts for the member for Flinders. Farmers will not pay a cent.

These claims have gone on and on. We had 12 months ago, and he has repeated this several times, the Leader of the Opposition saying that the carbon price would send grocery prices up five per cent. That is linked to this other claim that we get that it is going to go up and up and up. Get this: last month a report by TD Securities, Melbourne Institute, found that food prices were unaffected—not much to not understand about that—by the carbon price.

 

 I have been everywhere in the country explaining the misrepresentations made by those opposite. The opposition hope to blame all electricity price rises on the carbon price, knowing that that is not true. It is true that the average electricity bill went up by approximately 50 per cent in the last four years. There has been a massive increase in electricity costs in our country, but it has been caused by other things. It has not been caused by the carbon price and it could not have been caused by the carbon price because the carbon price only came in on 1 July. As the Prime Minister has said, the most important driver of rising electricity prices is investment in network infrastructure, not the carbon price.

I will repeat a few more facts. Without taking into account the modest impact of carbon pricing, electricity prices in New South Wales have increased by almost 70 per cent since 2008, while they have increased by over 60 per cent in South Australia and Western Australia. In New South Wales the O'Farrell government is taking 60 per cent larger dividends than did the previous state government. I am not for a moment suggesting that there were not dividends taken by the previous Labor state govern­ment in New South Wales, but the present O'Farrell government, the Liberal govern­ment in New South Wales, is taking 60 per cent larger dividends. This govern­ment is also taking $587 million in tax equivalent payments from the same businesses, bringing the total money grab of Premier O'Farrell to around $570 for every household in New South Wales.

The Leader of the Opposition does put great faith in the unique brand of economics practised by the shadow Treasurer, 'Hockeynomics'—perhaps even more aptly described as 'sloppynomics'—but even he would understand that $570 is larger than zero dollars and represents a massive gouge on the people of New South Wales.