Carbon tax on transport will hurt regional Australians

The motion by the member for Gippsland covers many issues, but I will concentrate on the part that says:


… the carbon price will have a disproportionate impact on small businesses, regional industries, and regional communities …


There is no doubt that regional communities, regional businesses and regional families will bear the brunt of the government’s tax on energy, which basically is Australia’s historic competitive advantage, particularly in overseas markets.

It will be a major blight on rural and regional communities, and it is already.

Everything coming to or going from a regional community will cost more. It will cost more to move anything by truck from July 2014, when diesel is hit by the carbon tax.

There will be a reduction in the diesel fuel rebate of 6.858c a litre on all heavy vehicles delivering vital goods to and from regional communities.

That is expected to cost the industry and its customers $510 million in 2014 and 2015 alone, on top of this year’s 2.4c a litre rise in the diesel fuel excise, and that will mean higher costs and greater impact on regional areas.

People—particularly on the other side—forget what a big country this is. We live in regional areas. In 2007, Australian trucks transported 277 million tonnes of food and animals around the country, and the proposed tax will add cost to every single tonne.

I remind members that in Western Australia, in the south-west, you basically cannot produce, consume or receive any good or service that has not been delivered on the back of a truck.

We know that the ships and trains are already paying additional carbon costs on every litre of fuel, adding cost to every ounce of product they shift.

The House also needs to be aware that the carbon tax is already hitting road transport for perishable goods, including the food that every Australian family needs.

The trucks that need refrigerant gas are facing a massive increase in costs right now. South West Express is a local transport company based in Bunbury, in the south-west of WA.

It has already been hit by the carbon tax. In July this year, South West Express had three trucks whose cooling units broke down, and they needed to be regassed. The cost of the replacement gas has gone up, due to the carbon tax, by $75 a kilogram.

The cost of the replacement gas in July, following the imposition of the carbon tax, for a complete regassing of a truck which had had a breakdown of a cooling unit was $750 more.

Where previously it might have cost South West Express $500 to regas each of its trucks, it is now over $1,000 a unit.

And these costs will have to be passed on to consumers when they buy the fresh food being transported.

Of course, all consumers who need to regas their car air conditioning this summer will discover that they will be paying Labor’s tax again, and the tax keeps hitting families and businesses in ways that they have never envisaged—and it keeps increasing.

That is what people are forgetting.

Regional people rely on transport for everything. The tyranny of distance makes people in regional areas particularly vulnerable. The tyranny of this government, however, is much worse.

I am going to briefly touch on what we have heard today about the numbers of small businesses who literally have had to absorb this tax. They are in such a competitive environment that they have to try to absorb this tax.

That means that each of these businesses is going to have less profit. It could mean that they have to put off workers and it is a great issue to those small businesses.

I look perhaps at those people who are dairy farmers like me. Around Australia we cool about nine billion litres of milk on farm that has to be brought back to about four degrees before it will be collected by a processor.

I cannot find whether it is a processor or one of the major supermarkets at the moment who is standing up and saying, ‘Yes, we understand that this is going to cost you more and, yes, we will increase your price to cover that.’ Famers are going to have no choice but to absorb it.

But that is not all: they are going to cop the tax on diesel as well. They are going to cop the tax on fertiliser—anything that uses energy to produce it, whether it is feed, whether it is fodder, whether it is the irrigation. If they pump they are going to be paying the carbon tax again and again.

It is a compounding, cascading tax. It will be paid over and over, and I would like to see how many times, if you pick, package and send an apple off from one of the orchards in Donnybrook, the carbon tax is going to apply in that refrigerated supply chain.

We know that the best thing we can do is not only get rid of the government but get rid of the carbon tax along with it. We need to repeal this tax to support regional families’ businesses and commitments.