MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Carbon Pricing

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (15:35): I am pleased the House can consider this matter of public importance. I am looking forward to the contributions from the member for Moreton and the member for Robertson on this critical issue because we are in the process of taking action on an issue that has been dodged by federal parliaments for successive decades: action on climate change and meeting our international commitment. It is worth noting that this is an existing bipartisan commitment to meet a medium-term target of reducing emissions by 5 to 15 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020. Both sides of the House committed to reducing emissions. In doing so, we have sought to do this in a way that will cut pollution and drive investment in clean energy. To ensure that we target this action to those that are contributing most to pollution, all the money that is raised by bringing in a price on carbon will go to jobs, will go to clean energy, will go to households. We recognise too that a lot of other parts of the world are acting on this critical issue. As much as we structure our plans in a specific way, it is important to note as well that, under the proposals put forward by those opposite, families would actually be worse off and would be required to pay more.

Introducing this price on carbon, I would reinforce this point: in tackling pollution we are targeting the top 500 polluters. But, along the way, we have admitted and have acknowledged that there will be price impacts. We asked Treasury to model that impact so as not to rely on hunches or to work off guesswork but to rely on facts and reality.

It was a significant body of work in terms of the modelling that was undertaken by Treasury, and not just that; it was then tested further and refined to ensure that this work, which would form the bedrock of work in terms of other initiatives, would be solid. As I said, this modelling forms the bedrock of our plans to provide thorough household assistance as we transition to a cleaner energy future. It is used to shape the type of assistance that is also provided through our Jobs and Competitiveness Program to help industry in the transition process too. Both measures are vitally important for the people that I am proud to represent and champion in this place, and I will come back to that later.

Let me go back to the modelling. On that modelling alone, it is indicated that the impact on prices and the cost of living is 0.7 per cent. If you contrast that to other major initiatives—for example, when those opposite were in government and introduced the goods and services tax—bear in mind that we predict prices will move 0.7 per cent as a result of a price on carbon, and when the GST was introduced there was a 2.5 per cent lift in prices. The 500 polluters that are being targeted are the only ones targeted, and again it is worth noting. The myths peddled by those opposite suggest that all businesses will pay—every single small business and all businesses in the country will pay. We have 500 of the biggest polluters targeted, and unlike the imposition of the GST, which effectively turned every small business into a small taxation office, ours will only turn to 500 of the biggest polluters. Again, prices are up 0.7 per cent, and it is worth putting it into context. That is less than a cent for every dollar spent. We have estimated as a result of that modelling that the overall impact will be $9.90 per week on average, and the assistance we are providing is $10.10 per week to cover that $9.90 per week impact.

All sorts of claims have been made about what impact putting a price on carbon would have on everyday goods and services. I think it is important, as the matter of public importance suggests, that we base this on fact. It is worth noting and bringing to the House's attention some of the movements. In terms of electricity we have had all sorts of claims made as to what impact this would have. Electricity will be up on average 10 per cent, or $3.30 per week. Gas will be up nine per cent, or $1.50 per week. For fruit and vegetables the average price impact is 10c—that is a 0.4 per cent impact. Rents are the same—a 40c increase, or 0.6 per cent. Utilities I have already gone through.

Pharmaceuticals will go up less than 10c, or 0.3 per cent. In terms of urban transport we have all sorts of claims about what impact that will have in terms of fuel and prices of urban transport. For urban transport there will be less than a 10c impact. Again, we have all sorts of claims made about the impact on airlines and travel, and I want to come back to that further in this contribution, but the impact is about 30c as a result of putting a price on carbon. So again it is important to get facts on the record. These are facts, these are the figures and we have built our household assistance around it.

In terms of that household assistance, families who are receiving family tax benefit part A receive an extra $110 per child, and families on family tax benefit part B receive an extra $69. From July 2013, regular fortnightly or quarterly payments will receive a permanent boost. Pensioners receive an upfront lump sum payment over the next few weeks and over the coming months. Again, it is a fact that single pensioners are receiving about $250 and it is a fact that pensioner couples will receive about $380 combined. We will deliver another permanent boost to regular pension payments from March next year, so overall singles will get about $338 a year and couples an extra $510. That is on top of the increases we have already delivered. For example, a single pensioner on the maximum rate is now $4,000 a year better off because of what we are doing.

For workers, from July everyone earning less than $80,000 will receive a tax cut, and for most people that tax cut is worth about $300 a year. We are also—and this is a tremendous boost to a lot of workers—tripling the tax-free threshold to $18,200. So, if you are a part-time worker earning $25,000, you are going to have an extra $500 in your pocket every year, and if you earn less than $18,200 a year you are not paying any tax at all—none, zip, nothing. Self-funded retirees who hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card receive an upfront lump sum payment in June to help now and over the coming months. Those are just some of the impacts.

For people who live in Chifley, in the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill, Blacktown and Marsden Park, there are around 65,000 taxpayers in Chifley and around 58,000 receive a tax cut. Out of those 58,000, 49,000 receive a tax cut of at least $300. In total, more than 52,700 people in the electorate I am proud to represent in this place will receive household assistance through income support payments. More than 19,000 will receive extra cash through their family assistance payments. This means, for example, that a typical family with a household income of about $75,000 a year, two kids in school and a price impact of about $549 a year as a result of a carbon price will receive, through what we are doing on family tax payments and tax cuts, an extra $1,179 a year. They are $630 better off.

These are facts. This is reality. That is what we are doing: lifting payments, cutting taxes, boosting pensions and lifting the tax-free threshold. Under the response of those opposite, extra payments are gone, taxes back up, pensions reduced and the tax-free threshold lowered. A million people will benefit from our lowering of the tax-free threshold, 60 per cent of them women. Hundreds of thousands of young people will benefit from that move. As I reflected in the House last week, imagine a political party going to those young people and saying, 'We will actually make you pay more tax so we can cut tax for the wealthiest in this country.' It is a ridiculous proposition, but it is actually reality because that is what those opposite are saying. This is fact. This is what they said they would do.

And what else have they done? Not only have they said they would take away the things we support or we are proposing to do, they are also out there pumping mistruths, peddling myths and relying on fear. Sure, fear gets you someplace fast, but it does not get you very far. At some point, once you have scared people, you have to come up with a solution. And if you are going to meet that bipartisan target that both sides committed to, the solution cannot be the biggest tree-planting program in the country. They have told whoppers—no-one can accuse them of a lack of imagination! We have had the Leader of the Opposition saying that the price rise and the effects of the carbon price will be unimaginable, but he himself has been quite imaginative in making up all sorts of myths about its impact. At some point, he has to stop the self-delusion and get with the reality—not say, again, that the price rises will be unimaginable. Listen to some of the things that the Leader of the Opposition has said:

This will destroy the steel industry, the cement industry, the aluminium industry, the motor industry. It will be, over time, the death of heavy manufacturing in Australia.
Anthony Abbott has morphed into Anthony Robbins, the biggest and greatest motivator of people in this country! Anything that he touches—anything that he turns up to—dies! Apparently, he can go to Whyalla and say, 'We had the AWU in South Australia just today predict Whyalla and Port Pirie would be wiped off the map'. This is what the Leader of the Opposition said: wiped off the map. How does he propose to be the leader of this country and go around the country saying to people that their town will be wiped off the map? It sounds more like a disaster movie—

Mr Fitzgibbon: We'll all be rooned!

Mr HUSIC: Exactly, rooned indeed. Thank you, Chief Government Whip. It is worth noting some of the other myths. I said before that one result of the price on carbon will be to add 0.7 per cent to the costs of living. State-based regulators have confirmed key aspects of that forecast. The Treasury analysis said that electricity prices will be up by 10 per cent. The New South Wales pricing regulator, IPART, confirmed that electricity prices would rise by $3.30 per week. IPART also said the impact on council rates would be 0.4 per cent less than under Treasury modelling. Those opposite have been saying all sorts of things about what the impact would be. It is quite astounding, when you match the reality against the myth, to see what will really be the case.

We have had all sorts of claims made about what effect the carbon price will have on councils. IPART and the New South Wales Minister for Local Government confirm that council rates will rise 0.4 per cent as a result of the carbon price. For average households, how much does that add per week? When it is applied to council rates, 0.4 per cent is just six cents a week—that is all that it will lead to. This has been an incredible attempt to spread fear about the carbon price. The New South Wales government has now confirmed the Treasury forecast, and after all that modelling and all the work that we have done, we are in a position to be able to provide facts instead of the fear that has been provided by those opposite.

What about some of the other claims that we have had? We have had the member for Wide Bay, who at some point is actually going to ask the member for Grayndler a portfolio-related question—

Mr Jenkins interjecting—

Mr HUSIC: You are right, the member for Scullin, it is highly unlikely, but we live in hope. Let us look at the impact on flights. Virgin, for example, has announced that on most flights it will only add $1.50. We had a scare campaign yesterday by those opposite, who said that aviation would be doomed—and rooned—yet we have had Rex put out a release for their 2011 full year results which quotes its Executive Chairman, Lim Kim Hai, as saying:

I am actually more optimistic and confident of the outlook and potential of the Rex Group than I have ever been for the past nine years.

And what about the claims in relation to Brindabella where—and I have never seen this before—we had the shadow Treasurer going to table a document, then folding the document in half, tearing it and handing up the convenient part but leaving out the inconvenient part. These are improvements to the House practice that I have been happy to see as a new member!

It is important, as the MPI states, to rely on fact instead of fiction. It is incumbent on those opposite to not only demonstrate exactly what they intend to do but also, importantly, to represent properly what impact this will have. As well as rate rises, they have talked about the cost of landfills and how that would be affected. The biggest move in relation to increases in landfill costs has come as a result of the waste management levies in New South Wales, not as a result of anything to do with the carbon price.
We have taken action on an issue affecting the nation. In the past, we have had delay—governments have delayed, deferred action on this and put it in the too-hard basket. We have acted. Those opposite agree that we need to act. It is a bipartisan target. It is time to get to work, instead of wilting under the pressure.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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