I wish to take this time to talk about the implications of the federal government’s carbon tax, which is to come into effect on 1 July. The point of a punitive tax is to change behaviour, and the Gillard government is of the belief that certain industries and companies need to be punished for doing exactly what they are meant to be doing. The government is changing the goalposts on crucial Australian industries in a way never seen before.
Industries which were welcomed with open arms five years ago are now being demonised as Labor is held to ransom by the socialist left. This is the key here. Because of the precarious nature of the government and its standing in a hung parliament, as well as the bleeding of Labor votes to the Greens, Labor is forced to sell out its former base of hardworking blue-collar workers to ensure its own political survival.
My government colleagues might say that the tax only punishes the ‘biggest polluters’ but these so-called biggest polluters are also major employers in Australia, and the harder the government makes it for these companies to compete in an already strained economy the more we will see industry closures. This kind of rhetoric, along with that about the budget, shows that the Gillard government is purely about pitting sections of the community against each other for their own political gain.
The government criticises the federal opposition for being climate change deniers, conspiracy theorists and the like in an already volatile public debate where even reasonable concerned people, dubbed sceptics, are treated as criminals. Yet that is not what is the most contentious here. The tax is poor economics. The Gillard government says the best way to deal with the problem, according to economists, is through an emissions trading scheme, so why has the original bill for an ETS been shelved?
The government blamed the opposition for blocking the bill, but the then Rudd government had a double dissolution trigger and could have used section 57 of the constitution for exactly what it was intended for, but it did not. The reality is that the government’s polling was not the greatest at the time and there was a fear that the result of a double dissolution election would not have been favourable to the government and it was therefore overlooked.
Again, the government is all about short-term political survival, not about core values or conviction. It is only about the perks of government; that is Labor. That brings me to the point that, even if you are truly concerned about climate change and want something done about it, you should not support this tax, as it will not help. To those who say it is a start and when the ETS component kicks in all will be well, I ask: will it?
It is generally believed that companies will be able to buy up enough carbon credits to continue production unabated. In other words, carbon emissions will not be reduced, yet companies have outlaid significant funds to the government in the form of carbon tax followed by carbon credits to continue to emit carbon dioxide, completely against the intention of the tax. How does this make any sense? The other flaw is: where are these carbon credits coming from?
The government has said that eventually there will be a global trading system, but will developing countries sign up to this? Which industrialised nations will sign up? How many have already? We know that Europe has a trading system, however, with a price almost a quarter of what Australia’s will be per tonne. It is also largely ineffective, as there are apparently ample credits for companies to acquire and to continue to operate as they had before: a farce of a scheme.
This is what ours will be: a farce. It will not lead to a net reduction in emissions and it will certainly not meet the government’s intended targets. In tough economic times all the government is doing is giving good companies and key industries a reason to shut the gates. Honourable members may know that my hometown of Whyalla has featured heavily in the rhetoric in Canberra. In particular, the Nyrstar plant under threat in Port Pirie is of grave concern.
Whilst closure may not happen straight away, the long-term viability of the plant is being threatened. As I have stated previously, the point of the tax is to punish these industries at the very least, and at best kill them, as, I suspect, is the Greens’ desire. Industry is the backbone of this country. Unfortunately for some, Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel did not sing about shipping soy beans: they sang about shipping steel.
I could go on, but I am limited by time. I will conclude by imploring the people of South Australia to support the Liberal Party’s efforts to repeal this tax and help save Australian industry and Australian jobs—real jobs, created by private enterprise and not phony positions created from the growing climate change industry by government.