Repealing the carbon tax will help the South West economy

In spite of the opposition’s continuous spin, as we just heard, and efforts to distract and divert the debate, the bill before the House today is not a debate about climate change. The real question before the House today is: what is the best response to managing the continuous change in climate? Instead of practical action, the Labor Party took the position that a new tax was the best response—in fact an economy-wide tax and the highest carbon tax in the world, not just any tax. Interestingly though, Labor chose not to tell the Australian people this at either the 2010 or the 2013 elections.

The 2010 ‘there will be no carbon tax’ line has gone down in political history as one of the most infamous duplicities this nation has ever witnessed. There was, in quick time, a carbon tax imposed. In the 2013 election, Labor attempted to mislead Australians yet again by claiming they had terminated the carbon tax.

Well, nothing could be further from the truth. The Labor Party had already lost the trust of the Australian community and at the election in 2013 actually was seen for what it was: a desperate attempt to once again hoodwink the community into forgetting their 2010 duplicity. But people were not fooled for a second time. In spite of this, a mere few weeks after the election, here in this House, Labor is again supporting its carbon tax. What rank hypocrisy? This tax needs to go.

The people, the businesses, the industries in my electorate are all paying Labor’s carbon tax in one form or another. It is a tax which has had a disproportionate impact in rural and regional areas on everybody from families to local councils, hospitals, schools, the countless hard-working small businesses, those in primary production, our farmers, our miners, the abattoirs and food manufacturers, those in refrigerated transport, anyone in the aluminate refinery sector, the power generators in my electorate and those producing silicon. It has added to the cost of building houses and roads. It has just been a cascading, compounding tax.

Businesses in my electorate that did not directly have to pay the carbon tax found that there was an additional cost on their businesses of hundreds of thousands of dollars due to carbon tax compounding. Labor want to not only perpetuate this tax but increase it year upon year. It is like Sarah Lee—layer upon layer.

Even worse, Labor are determined to further increase the $9 billion first-year cost of their carbon tax for rural and regional areas like my electorate in the south-west of Western Australia, because their carbon tax will be applied directly to the trucking and transport industry from 1 July next year. Anyone who has even a modicum of understanding about Australia’s size and distances knows that this will add a unilateral additional cost right across the nation but even more so in rural and regional areas. Labor’s carbon tax has to go, and that is what the electors of Forrest voted for.

Alinta Energy has confirmed that the cost to energy providers will be reduced once Labor’s carbon tax goes, but the Labor Party is opposed to making electricity cheaper for families, individuals, businesses and industries. The tax should go not only because of the direct cost for families, businesses, industries and the whole Australian economy but also because Labor’s own modelling shows that domestic emissions continue to rise under the carbon tax.

So not only is the carbon estimated to accrue $16 billion over two years; it is ineffective in its purpose of reducing emissions. In fact, it is just another costly, useless Labor tax—one that makes Australian businesses and industry less competitive.

We know that Australia contributes less than one per cent of global CO2emissions. We also know that China is the largest emitter—I read recently that it could be around 23 per cent—followed by the US, India and Russia. We know that the top 10 emitters produce two-thirds of the world’s emissions, and this number is expected to rise.

As these economies grow rapidly, and they are, their total emissions will continue to rise at a faster rate than the rest of the world—which means their emissions will continue to dwarf those of the rest of the world, including Australia’s. Most importantly, I ask: in practical terms, which of the major emitters are going to have reduced their total emissions by 2050?

The answer, I suspect, is very few. While some countries may try to hide behind lower emissions intensity, this simply ignores the fact that growth in their economies will result in growth in emissions.

Big emitters will become bigger emitters, despite the misleading rhetoric we heard recently from the Greens and Labor, who try to pretend otherwise. That is the practicality. You have to be a realist. This means that, no matter what the outcome of this debate in this Parliament of Australia, global emissions will rise, which reinforces the need for Australia to have what we are suggesting: a practical response that does not damage our economy or our competitive advantage.

We know that Australia is one of the only countries to meet its Kyoto targets. Business and industry have worked hard to reduce their emissions and will continue to do so. Indeed, under our coalition government, we will retain the five per cent reduction target from 2000 levels by 2020. We are committed to reducing our emissions but, given the time wasted by Labor and its flawed carbon tax policy, the challenge is certainly significant. However, Australia will be one of very few nations that actually achieve a reduction.

Global emissions are predicted to rise, predominantly due to increases in the emissions of the top10 emitters. This is why I believe that adaptation needs to be a much greater part in the debate and should have equal consideration with climate change mitigation—a practical approach, as we are suggesting. The failure of the Copenhagen round of climate debates was the greatest example of global failure on the climate issue, but why? It is because the bigger emitters refused to make cuts to their total emissions. There is no sign that this is any different now.

The coalition government is determined in its commitment to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The government is also committed to funding and supporting an area that I think is extremely important, and that is adaptation. This is evidenced by the election commitment from the minister to continue the work of the climate change adaptation research centre at Griffith University.

I congratulate the minister for this decision. I look forward to greater engagement with the natural resource management system in what could well be a nationally co-ordinated program, and it works down to the local level through direct action. These are things that actually happen and work on the ground. This is not talk, not paper shuffling but things that work on the ground.

I also believe that a more practical adaptation mechanism will be a nationally co-ordinated approach to managing some of the issues we see with feral pests and weeds. I am talking about practical actions on the ground that you can see that actually work. We need to future-proof our ecosystems to ensure they not only survive but thrive in what will be a changing environment.

The south-west of Western Australia has its own vulnerable ecosystems. The jarrah forests of the northern and eastern parts of the south-west have seen some stress because of the drying climate. We have had much better rainfall this year, but water stress is still apparent and it is noticeable around the Darling Scarp at Collie. Our iconic karri forests are also vulnerable. Karri trees are, as we know, highly water dependent so they will require monitoring and potential action.

The remaining Tuart forests on the coastal plain of the south-west are also at risk. So we need to better understand our environment and, of course, protect it into the future through adaptation. This presents us with great opportunities. Ecosystems, as we know, are alive and changing, and the planet can adapt. We can make use of this adaptive mechanism to drive good outcomes. For example, warmer water pushing south down the WA coast via the Leeuwin Current brings with it coral spawn that could represent the beginnings of new coral reefs.

Right now there is not much structure off the south-west coast for the spawn to lodge and grow on. However, a trial by the WA state government has seen concrete frames deposited on the ocean floor from the substructure that the coral requires to grow. That is going to provide the framework for that growth. That type of action and practical action should be the basis of Australia’s climate change adaptation response and the WA government is to be commended for its foresight.

This is a project that could be expanded exponentially. Let us look for practical outcomes for the changes. Such projects should be happening, to future-proof Australia and leave a real legacy for future generations—not the cost of a carbon tax, practical applications that work. This is a worthy task for government: the practical actions that we are focusing on, real things that work on the ground where you can see what is happening and making a difference.

The carbon tax did nothing to achieve any of that. The carbon tax would not, as we know by the government’s own reckoning, have reduced Australia’s carbon emissions. In fact, it increased. Labor’s own modelling showed that our emissions would have risen under the carbon tax—no practical action that I am talking about on the ground. Australia’s emissions would have risen, and global emissions would continue to grow.

So our response to climate change has to be adaptive and I have confidence that this government will make sure that that is exactly what we do: adaptive processes, practical outcomes that actually work on the ground. We will see harnessing of new technology. The world does not stand still. There is a challenge out there and there is a lot that we can do. We need to continue to invest in adaptation so that we ensure that our descendants have the same benefits that we do through living in the way that we live.

I have great concerns for every single day that Labor hangs on to this flawed carbon tax. Every day is another cost for the people, for the businesses, for the industries in my electorate—and for no benefit. So the additional cost that we see in rural and regional areas, the exponential cost, has been compounding and cascading, and my electorate in the south-west of Western Australia has felt this particularly badly. I have talked to so many. We provide some of the manufacturing, the only secondary value-adding to resources in my electorate. We have seen the increasing costs.

We have looked right across the primary sector. For instance, one thing that has been overlooked in this debate often is the impact on the dairy industry, one that I know a lot about. In this country about 11 billion litres of milk are produced on an annual basis, and all of that milk has to be refrigerated on farm before it is collected and transported to the manufacturers. So the dairy farmers in Australia have all had to absorb this cost of the carbon tax added to their daily business.

It was not just that, because every other input basically involved an additional electricity cost. So there was the cost for farmers in the primary sector in the dairy industry. Then you move on to the actual manufacturers of the product, one that uses electricity significantly to produce some of the best and the highest quality products in the world, some of the best dairy products in the world, and yet they have had to bear this additional carbon tax.

I talk to small businesses frequently on the cost of doing business has increased, and often they operate in a market where they have been unable to pass on those costs. So these same small businesses have had to constantly try to reduce their costs, and often it is a mum and dad type business, who have to do the work themselves. They have no way of passing any of these costs on. So it is more costs and more work for them.

I am fully supportive of removing this carbon tax. It has not achieved the objectives that it was supposed to have had. I support the practical actions that we will be taking on the ground to bring about a genuine change.