Carbon Pricing

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

Carbon Pricing

SPEECH

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Defence Materiel) (3.47 pm)—I welcome the opportunity to have this debate about jobs, the most important thing in Australia. This is a debate about jobs, and every time we have a debate in this place about jobs the opposition get it wrong. We had debates in this place in 2008 and 2009 about jobs, about what it would take to make sure the economy did not go into recession and to protect Australian jobs. We took the action that was necessary to stop a recession and to protect Australian jobs. The opposition took the opposite position. They decided to oppose the stimulus package, which would, if we had accepted the opposition’s advice, have cost 200,000 Australians their jobs—that is two Olympic stadiums full of people, or two electorates represented in this parliament.

In that debate, back in April 2009, the member for North Sydney, the shadow Treasurer, said:

… 300,000 Australians are going to lose their job in its— the government’s—first term.

What happened? Because of the action that the government took, faced with the greatest economic crisis in 75 years, more than 700,000 more Australians have a job today than when the government took office just over three years ago—despite the GFC.

They have made the same mistakes when it comes to the mineral resource rent tax. The scare campaign has been running now for close to 12 months. We keep hearing the story about how miners are going to lose their jobs. Since the government has announced the mineral resource rent tax, employment in mining has already grown by 10.3 per cent. Despite the Liberal scare campaign, companies are still investing in mining because they know it has a strong future. There are 18,690 more mining jobs today than before that tax was announced.

If you want to go into history to have a look at how the Liberal Party performs when you have great economic structural debates about how to improve the economy, you need go no further than the debate that this parliament had in the early nineties about compulsory superannuation. I went back and looked at those debates to see what the Liberal Party said then.

Mr Ramsey interjecting—

Mr Briggs—What about the GST, Jason?

Mr CLARE—This is what some of your comrades said back in the nineties. David Connolly MP said compulsory superannuation was ‘absolutely abhorrent’. He said, ‘Australia does not need, and cannot afford, these proposals at this time.’ That sounds similar to what we are hearing now. Wilson Tuckey—well missed!—said that superannuation was ‘stupid and dishonest’. Senator Alston said it would ‘be little short of lunacy to introduce a massive new cost burden on employers’. Remember Senator Panizza? This is a good one:

The worst case scenario is the loss of 100,000 jobs ……

… …Businesses and organisations will simply not be able to affordit ……

… …Small businesses will be closed down ……

… …… 100,000 jobs are on the line …… … …

I can see those 100,000 jobs quite easily going out the door within a very few years.

Senator Watson said there would ‘be rising unemploymentas a result of this levy’. Senator Crichton-Brownesaid compulsory superannuation was yet another threatto Australia’s future economic prosperity. Allan Rochersaid it would ‘have a disastrous impact on business’and it was ‘a tax on jobs’.

Mr Buchholz interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper) — The honourable member for Wright will return to his seat or remain silent.

Mr CLARE—What happened—did compulsory superannuation destroy the Australian economy? No, people did not get sacked. New businesses and new jobs were created and it proved to be one of the most important economic reforms of the last century. It created new industries, and it now funds more than a trillion dollars worth of funds under management, making Australia’s superannuation savings the fourth-largest capital pool in the world. It created new jobs and more jobs. A report that was released in 2009 by the Association of Superannuation Funds estimated that 60,000 people are now directly employed in the superannuation industry. That is structural reform of the economy, creating new jobs.

The same scare campaign that we heard then, in the early nineties, is back and running again on climate change. The member for Indi, in her contribution to the debate, started with, ‘1,000 Australian jobs exposed overseas’. Then she ramped up the tempo and said that there would be no manufacturing left. But that was not good enough; as she got towards the end of her contribution she said that 10,000 Australians would be unemployed. Then, just before the end—

Mrs Mirabella—I rise on a point of order. Perhaps the member should check Hansard before inaccurately—

The SPEAKER—The honourable member for Indi will resume her seat.

Mr CLARE—I am sure Hansard will prove this quote is correct. You went on to talk about the biggest destroyer of jobs in Australian history. Forget the Great Depression! That is right up there with comments about Gaddafi. Absolutely ridiculous!

Mrs Mirabella—You should speak to Australian businesses.

Mr CLARE—Is that right? The contribution was about the biggest destroyer of jobs in Australian history.You just have to go back to quotes from previous debates to see how ludicrous those comments were in the past and how ludicrous these comments are today. They should be dealt with the derision they deserve.

Economic reforms—structural changes to our economy— create new industries and new jobs. That was the lesson of the eighties and the nineties. Remember the fear campaigns about tariff reductions and other reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments. It was said that those governments were selling out, that industries would be destroyed, that jobs would be destroyed and that businesses would close. What did those reforms do? They did the reverse. Big economic reforms in the eighties and nineties made Australian businesses more competitive by forcing them to innovate.

The lesson for us here, when we are contemplating these reforms, is that economic reform and structural reform create new jobs. The Hawke and Keating reforms set the Australian economy up for this century, to compete in new markets like China and East Asia, to make sure that we did not become the poor white trash of Asia. Creating new jobs is all about identifying the challenges of the future and acting upon them to give businesses the certainty they need. This reform is not easy; we do not say that it is. It is going to require a lot of hard work by all of us, but the longer we wait the more this will cost. If carbon pollution is going to be capped in the future businesses want to know what the rules are as soon as possible. They want certainty. The sooner that we set the rules the sooner they can make long-term investment decisions that will create the jobs of the future.

If we fail here the cost of our indifference will be paid by our children and our grandchildren in their jobs, because the longer we take the more it will cost and the harder it will be to cut emissions and transform our economy to a low-carbon economy. The cheapest and most effective way to do that is by putting a price on carbon. That is what the member for Wentworth has said on many occasions. He has tried to convince his party of that. That is what John Howard, the former Prime Minister said on many occasions, and tried to convince his party of. That is what the member for Flinders said when he was at university. In his honours thesis he said:

… a pollution tax is both desirable, and, in some form, isinevitable …

He said:

… even if some of the Liberal’s constituents do respondnegatively, a pollution tax does need to be introduced to properly serve the public interest.

Mrs Mirabella—Mr Deputy Speaker, I would liketo draw your attention to the state of the House.

The bells having been rung—

Mr Mitchell interjecting—

Mr Dutton—I rise on a point of order. I draw your attention to offensive statements made just then by a Member who is out of his seat. I ask that you ask him to withdraw that offensive statement.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—What were the offensive statements?

Mr Dutton—I am not of a mind to repeat them but they related to the member for Indi. I think they are out of order. I took offence and he should withdraw them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER—I did not hear the remarks. If I am not told what the remarks are obviously I cannot have them withdrawn. If the member did make an offensive comment I would ask him to assist the House but unless I actually know what was alleged to have been said I cannot take any action under the standing orders. I thought I was listening to him. He certainly should not have been interjecting from outside his seat but I did not hear anything that was unparliamentary.

(Quorum formed)

Mr CLARE—As you will recall, I was just quoting from the thesis of the member for Flinders. It says that a pollution tax is desirable and that even if Liberals respond to it negatively a pollution tax needs to be introduced to properly serve the public interest.

I think that if he were true to himself he would admit that today. Unfortunately, because of the extremists that have been involved in getting rid of the member for Wentworth and taking over the Liberal Party, he has now got to put together another plan, which will cost taxpayers $10 million, and to be effective would cost $30 billion. It would mean that the taxpayers that we represent would end up paying an extra $720 a year on their bills because of an ineffective, badly designed, carbon pricing mechanism.

What is clear—and you only need to see what the member for Wentworth said on Q&A the other night— is that no-one supports the opposition’s plan on carbon pricing. He was asked if there were any economists that support it and he could not mention any of them. No wonder economists do not support the opposition’s plan, because it is a carbon plan designed by One Nation. The same people who sent the emails to the Liberal MPs about the flood levy and Indonesian schools are from the same One Nation that sent emails to try to scare the pants off the Liberal Party to get rid of the member for Wentworth.

If you go to the One Nation website and you hear them talk about times when Greenland was ice free and now you can grow melons in England and in the 1600s London’s Thames River froze over, and then you go to 2009 and you see Tony Abbott saying the same things, what is clear is that they are now more One Nation than they are one Liberal Party. That is why when they were interviewed by Phil Coorey they were saying that they were now being run by One Nation. Another member said that they were in the thrall of right-wing nut jobs. That is what they are saying about their own side to the journalists. Robert Menzies would not recognise this party if he were alive today, and one thing you can be sure of, Malcolm Fraser would not vote for it. It is a party so right wing now that it makes John Howard look like Che Guevara. John Howard did a lot of things but he never took advice from Pauline Hanson.

Mrs Mirabella—I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, on relevance.

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

Mrs Mirabella—He has not mentioned—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER—The member for Indi will resume her seat. This is a wide-ranging debate.

Mrs Mirabella interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER—I warn the honourable member for Indi!

Mr CLARE—They do not like it. They can hand it out but they cannot take it, can they? The truth hurts. They are more One Nation than one Liberal Party. As your own colleagues say, you are now run by a band of lunatics and right-wing nut jobs. (Time expired)