Carbon Pricing

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Defence Materiel) (15:49): What a load of nonsense!

Mr Hunt: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For the benefit of the minister, I seek leave to table a map of the Rooty Hill steel mill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): There is no point of order.

Mr CLARE: For the benefit of the shadow minister, I might table a map of my electorate to show that Rooty Hill is not in it.

Mr Hunt: It’s in Western Sydney!

Opposition members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Honourable members on my left will contain themselves.

Mr CLARE: We heard 15 minutes of diatribe about jobs. It is worth asking yourself the question: if the Leader of the Opposition really cared about jobs, where was he when the stimulus package was voted on in this parliament, a stimulus package that stopped Australia going into recession and protected 200,000 jobs?

Mr Robb interjecting—

Mr CLARE: If you cared about this, you might hang around. It was a stimulus package that stopped Australia going into recession and protected 200,000 jobs. That is the equivalent of two Olympic stadiums worth of people who had their jobs saved because of a stimulus package here. Where was the Leader of the Opposition when that vote was occurring? Was he on this side of the chamber? Was he on that side of the chamber? No. He was asleep on his couch in his office. That is how much the Leader of the Opposition really cares about jobs. He is happy to come in here and talk about it, but when there is a vote to protect jobs he is nowhere to be seen—he is lying on his couch.

Since Adam was a boy, we have always had scare campaigns. One hundred and ten years ago, there were scare campaigns about giving women the vote. Sixty years ago, there were scare campaigns about the 40-hour week. Twenty years ago, there were scare campaigns about native title. We had people on the other side of the chamber saying that you were going to lose your backyard. All of it proved to be false. All of it eventually proved to be nonsense. When we cut tariffs and when we introduced compulsory superannuation, there were exactly the same arguments being made then that were just made by the Leader of the Opposition. Go back and have a look at the Hansard from 1992 and you see Liberal after Liberal after National after Liberal telling us that jobs are going to be lost. Senator Panizza said:

The worst case scenario—

this is on the introduction of compulsory superannuation—

is the loss of 100,000 jobs … there are 100,000 jobs on the line … and I can see those 100,000 jobs quite easily going out the door within a very few years.

Senator Watson said rising unemployment would occur and it would ‘exacerbate poverty and hardship’. Senator Crichton-Browne said superannuation would reduce economic growth, add to unemployment, create inflationary pressures, reduce savings and reduce living standards. Allan Rocher, the then member for Curtin, said it would be ‘a tax on jobs’. All of this was nonsense and was proved eventually to be false. So what occurred? The opposite. Instead of the loss of 100,000 jobs what we got was the creation of 60,000 jobs and a whole new industry with $1.4 trillion in savings, the fourth biggest managed fund in the world. You can see by the arguments that the Liberals made then and by the arguments that they make now that this is just a scare campaign.

The Leader of the Opposition talked about his travels around the country and it went from the sublime to the ridiculous. It probably went from the ridiculous to the ridiculous. He started in Whyalla in April and said that a carbon tax would wipe Whyalla off the map. Then he talked about his trip to Geelong. He went there and said that this will be the final nail in the motor industry’s coffin in Australia. He went on to say this would spell disaster for Australia as a First World economy, so he was basically saying Australia was going to become a Second World or a Third World economy. Then he went off to Weet-Bix andsaid that a carbon price was going to effectively destroy breakfast. This is from Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, who only two years ago—and it puts things in perspective and tells you the type of man he is—said when talking about a carbon price on Sky on 29 July 2009:

I think if you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax.

Now apparently it is the greatest disaster to hit Australia in its history and apparently it will turn Australia into a Third World country. But it is not just the Leader of the Opposition who is making these ludicrous, ridiculous claims. When we were debating this issue in another MPI, in March this year, the member for Indi was speaking opposite and she said this:

The future under a carbon tax is the single greatest disruption to the Australian economy and the destruction of Australian jobs that we have ever seen.

What about the Great Depression with 29 per cent unemployment? But, no, introducing a carbon tax, according to the opposition, would lead to the ‘greatest destruction of Australian jobs that we have ever seen’. Then you have the member for Murray. Remember that on Monday she said that Heinz was moving from Australia to New Zealand because Australia was introducing a carbon tax. The problem with that is that New Zealand already have a carbon price. They introduced an emissions trading scheme in 2008. But that did not stop the member for Murray, because she went out on the doors and said:

Well New Zealand is talking about climate change action, yes, but they’re watching to see what happens in Australia. They have not moved yet, they’re saying what Australia might do we might do but that is, I think, code for we’ll make sure we remain more competitive than Australia when it comes to energy costs.

What a load of baloney! What a load of absolute nonsense! They moved three years ago. So that is where the scare campaign has ended, with an opposition that is just making things up. It is making up nonsense and complete fantasy—just like the bloke last week, Harold Camping, who promised the rapture was coming last month and just like Donald Trump who ran around America calling for the President of the United States to release his birth certificate. Well, now you have the Leader of the Opposition—all Trump, no toupee—running around, really great at making headlines but just speaking nonsense.

It is time that we talked about the two plans that are at stake here in this parliament, because there are two plans. Both parties have committed to doing something about climate change and both have committed to cutting carbon pollution by five per cent. Both have got a plan to do this and the focus of this debate should be on the relative merits of both plans as to which one is the best for Australia. With the government’s plan, we have proposed to introduce a carbon price. It would be fixed for three to five years and after that period of time we would move to an emissions trading scheme. The advice from Treasury is that this is the cheapest way to cut carbon pollution. That is why John Howard adopted the same approach. To help families and pensioners deal with any changes, we will provide generous household assistance. One of the ways to do this, and the Prime Minister has said this, could be through tax cuts.

There is another plan, as the Leader of the Opposition also has a plan to cut carbon pollution. Under his plan, the government taxes all Australians and uses that money to give big polluters an incentive to cut their own emissions. According to the Leader of the Opposition, this will cost about $10 billion of taxpayers’ money. Of course, there is no guarantee that it would work. According to Treasury, the opposition’s scheme will increase emissions by 13 per cent, not reduce them. To actually cut emissions by five per cent, which is the opposition’s target, would cost taxpayers about $30 billion. The member for Wentworth was on Lateline a few weeks ago and he explained why this is the case. He said:

… a direct action policy where the Government—where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the Government was just spending more and more taxpayers’ money to offset it, that would become a very expensive charge on the budget in the years ahead …

Mr Fitzgibbon: I think Joe understands that.

Mr CLARE: I think he does. In effect, this explains why the member for Wentworth, in his contribution to the CPRS debate last year, said this would be fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. So companies keep polluting and taxpayers keep paying and potentially a whole lot of taxpayers’ money is flushed down the toilet and the pollution goes up rather than down. It is the sort of plan that you have when you do not think that climate change is real. Well, it is real. Climate change is happening and human beings are contributing to it and it is a serious challenge. Cutting carbon pollution in our economy is not an easy task. It involves hard economic reform, effectively severing the link between economic growth and the growth in the amount of carbon dioxide that the economy produces. It is not easy but we have to do it. It is simply in our economic interests to do it. There will be a binding international agreement in the years ahead and Australia will have to comply. If we act now, Australian companies will have time to adjust. We can reduce the amount of carbon pollution we produce gradually, over time, and that will help to support Australian companies and support Australian jobs, but the longer we wait, the faster, eventually, we will have to cut our emissions, and that invariably will hurt Australian companies and hurt Australian jobs. That is why it makes economic sense to act now.

There has been some discussion here about what other countries are doing. India has a carbon tax on coal. China is launching a pilot emissions trading scheme in six provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai, in 2013. The US has committed to a 17 per cent reduction in emission levels by 2020. The United Kingdom produces about the same amount of emissions as Australia. Their Conservative government announced just last week that they will cut their emissions by 50 per cent by 2027. And here we are, producing roughly the same amount of emissions as the United Kingdom, and we are having a fight about cutting emissions by five per cent.

The British Prime Minister, of course, is not the only conservative leader to be doing something serious about climate change. As Paul Kelly pointed out in the Australian today, it is conservative governments around the world that have been leading the fight to tackle climate change. Whether it is Germany, Britain, France or South Korea, or the former Governor of California, it is conservatives who have led the way. Even in Australia, every single former leader of the Liberal Party supports taking action to cut climate change through putting a price on carbon—but not the current Leader of the Opposition. Andrew Peacock, John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser, Malcolm Turnbull and even John Howard all support putting a price on carbon. If Robert Menzies were alive today, I suspect he would back it as well.

But not this Leader of the Opposition, because he is in the embrace of the same people who thought that smoking did not cause cancer. Remember those debates in 1995 about whether smoking was addictive and whether smoking caused cancer? Senator Minchin, the man who put in a dissenting report to a Senate report in 1995, said he did not believe that smoking was addictive and did not believe that passive smoking caused cancer—the same person who helped the Leader of the Opposition get a job. There is another member of this parliament who in 1995 said: ‘I say to those people who believe tobacco is a dreadful product: make your case. They have not done so.’ These people in the House and in the Senate, the people who thought smoking did not cause cancer, are the same people who think that climate change is not real. And they are the same people who in the party room last week said to the Leader of the Opposition that even they thought he was being too negative, because now the Leader of the Opposition does not even support the Howard government’s policies. Things he supported when he was a member of the Howard government he is now opposing—proof, if you ever needed any, that this is all just about politics.

The Leader of the Opposition is very different to John Howard. He opposes everything and stands for nothing. Remember what John Howard was like when he was the Leader of the Opposition? He supported reforms like floating the dollar. He supported reforms like cutting tariffs. But not this Leader of the Opposition. The answer to every single question we ask of this Leader of the Opposition is no. If we put a motion into this House supporting motherhood, the answer would be no. If we put a motion into this parliament supporting the Queen Mother, the answer would be no. If we put a motion into this parliament supporting the Queen and the Queen Mother, if we had a motion that entrenched the constitutional monarchy forever, he would oppose it. If we had a motion supporting budgie smugglers at the beach, he would oppose it. He opposes everything and stands for nothing. He is like that guy in drag in Little Britain: ‘Computer says no’—except that in this case it is, Abbott says no.’

The people of Australia deserve better than that. They pay us money to come to Canberra to work together on the big reforms and the big issues to make this a better place. They expect us to work together. They expect something better than somebody who sleeps on a couch during important divisions and when he is awake just says no. (Time expired)