Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 - Second Reading 03/03/2014

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:50): I am delighted to take part in this debate. Before the previous speaker leaves, I would like to ask her and her party—and anyone in the Labor Party—a question I would conservatively say I have asked in this chamber at least 100 times but which no-one will ever answer. A carbon tax that was supported by the Greens was introduced despite a firm and sincere promise by the then Leader of the Labor Party that they would never introduce a carbon tax. It was the world's biggest carbon tax. As a result of that carbon tax, thousands of Australian jobs have gone overseas and tens of thousands of Australian jobs have been lost because Australia has simply priced itself out of the market. One of the major reasons is the implementation of a carbon tax that no-one else in the world is implementing. Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, but under the Labor Party scheme, the world's biggest carbon tax, we were to reduce our emissions by five per cent—that is, five per cent of 1.4 per cent. No other nation in the world, including the big emitters, America and China, has a carbon tax or has any intention of implementing a carbon tax anything close to that of Australia. Yet Australia has this carbon tax; it has lost all these jobs and for what result? A supposed reduction in carbon emissions of five per cent of 1.4 per cent.

You do not have to be very clever—and I confess I am not very clever—to work out that that means there will be absolutely no impact on whatever man-made emissions do to the changing climate of the world. To me, it is an absolute no-brainer. It will do nothing for whatever is the perceived impact of man's carbon emissions. Yet for no environmental gain there was this significant economic pain and the loss of jobs of my fellow Australians.

As you know, Madam Acting Deputy President Ruston, I, like you, come from regional Australia and in my part of regional Australia there are tens of thousands of jobs in the coalmining industry. Not only that, many communities live off those mining industries. Throughout the north of Queensland and the north of Australia, our mining industries have been the saviour of Australia during the time of the global economic downturn. The mining industries contributed to Australia getting through that time.

But what did the Labor Party, with their mates the Greens, do? They brought in the world's largest carbon tax and they brought in a sovereign-risk-inducing minerals tax, which closed down mines and mineral processing. Also, many jobs in manufacturing jobs were lost in Australia. You have only to read what Mr Borghetti from Virgin Airlines has said about the impact of the carbon tax. Again, we all knew that. Some of our business leaders, regrettably, have been a bit reticent in explaining the reality of the carbon tax. But we now know what the carbon tax has done to the airline industry.

You will remember that, under the Labor days in government, we even had Australian airlines being penalised more heavily than other airlines throughout the world. No wonder Qantas is experiencing difficulties in profit making. No wonder Virgin is experiencing difficulties in profit making. No wonder Rex and the other regional airlines throughout Australia are having difficulties staying in the air. Their costs are increasing exponentially because of the carbon tax on fuel. But, again, I emphasise that this is a carbon tax, the biggest in the world, that does nothing for the environment. It reduces our emissions by five per cent of 1.4 per cent. I have asked the Greens and the Labor Party, as I say, conservatively 100 times in this chamber since these debates began, the question: please explain to me how a reduction of five per cent of 1.4 per cent will make any difference whatsoever?

Government senators interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As my colleagues say, it will make absolutely no difference at all.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Leadership!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay, leadership; thank you, Senator Whish-Wilson. I hope you are speaking after me, because you will be able to elaborate on how Australia's leadership will lead the world. I am a great Australian. I would say anywhere that we are the best country in the world. There is no doubt about that. But, regrettably, Senator Whish-Wilson, very few other countries have the same sort of regard for Australia that you and I have. I am sorry, Senator Whish-Wilson, but the fact that we reduce our emissions by five per cent of 1.4 per cent hardly rated an eye flick in China; it did not rate an eye flick in most of the United States. And the Europeans just laughed at us, wondering why a country such as Australia, which was a real competitor with parts of Europe, was pricing itself out of every market for, according to Senator Whish-Wilson, 'leadership,' which nobody else was going to follow.

Senator Whish-Wilson, if you are right, and it was a case of leadership, what happened to our leadership? How many other countries seriously did anything? You will get up and quote some dodgy figures about some state in America putting on a two per cent tax or something and claim that that is what is happening. You will tell me that China is doing something in a very small way. What you will not tell me is that China sets up a new coal fired power station every week and that is just part of it.

Yet Senator Whish-Wilson is part of the group that supported the Labor government in introducing the world's biggest carbon tax, a carbon tax that has cost the jobs of my fellow Australians for no appreciable gain to the environment. I ask Senator Wilson and anyone in the Labor Party—I have asked this question, conservatively, 100 times before and no-one has yet answered me—to tell me what happens when Australia reduces its carbon emissions by five per cent of 1.4 per cent? Tell me how that will make any difference whatsoever to the changing climate of the world? I will wait, as I have waited for about four years, for anyone to answer that question seriously. And I look forward to Senator Whish-Wilson telling me how Australia having the biggest carbon tax in the world in order to reduce our emissions by five per cent of 1.4 per cent is good policy. That is why the majority of Australians at the last election rejected the Labor-Greens approach to carbon tax and voted in a government that would seriously look at these things—an adult government that really understands the economy and the environment.

Debate interrupted.

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