Thankyou Deputy Speaker,
We are at a time of great uncertainty, where costs are rising and business owners are talking to me about their viability.
Mallee businesses a large contributor to Australia’s foodbowl.
Against some of the strongest economic headwinds in decades, the policies of the Labor Government are ensuring businesses struggle even more.
The last thing businesses need right now are additional costs imposed by poor legislation by the Federal Government.
But lo and behold this is what we have in front of us.
We have a new Carbon Tax, and this isn’t just the Julia Gillard version.
When then-Prime Minister Gillard introduced her Carbon Tax it was priced at $23 a tonne.
Anthony Albanese was in her Cabinet and must have had grand plans of not only emulating his predecessor, but overshadowing her.
The current Prime Minister’s carbon price is starting at $75 a tonne – and it is rising to $100 a tonne by 2030, as the Government looks to cut Australia’s emissions by 43 per cent at that time.
Is this in the best interest of Australian businesses, including manufacturing?
Especially when financial pressure is increasing every day for Australian families and businesses.
Why does this Government think a carbon tax three times larger than the Gillard Government introduced is good for Australian businesses and households?
The $75 carbon tax is significantly higher than our trading partners and basically leaves Australian businesses competitively dead in the water.
Labor’s carbon price will drive up the cost of living at a time Australian workers and families can least afford it.
Businesses will pass the additional costs straight on to consumers through higher electricity prices, higher food prices and higher prices for building materials. What choice do they have?
The cost of fuel, fertilizer, and construction will go up as companies try to buy their way out of emissions reduction obligations forced onto them.
Think of the cost to farmers, so central to the livelihoods of many in regional Australia – including in Mallee.
They are already facing issues with workforce – finding pickers to get fruit off the vine before it falls to the ground.
They are already being hampered by supply chain issues – which severely hamper growth and productivity.
And all the while they are paying increasingly high energy costs, or in the case of some such as Ian Mortlock, a large scale tomato grower in my electorate, whose only option has been to cut back on his energy use to keep his operation viable, despite the long term impact on production.
Businesses having to pass on their costs to their consumer is a best case scenario – because what happens if these higher costs push those same businesses to the wall?
People lose their jobs. Families are suddenly deprived of income at a time when the pressure is mounting just to make ends meet.
It is a horrendous thought, and not something we need the Government actively contributing to through bad policy.
And we know full well it is the regions that will be hit the worst by this – after all, that is where we see most of our agricultural and mining businesses are located.
This Government is willing to heedlessly risk livelihoods to meet their emissions targets.
It is a recipe for an economic and social disaster.
On our side of the chamber, we support achieving net zero emissions by 2050, but this needs to be delivered in a responsible way that balances emissions reduction with economic growth.
The way to deliver those emissions reductions is through technology, not taxes.
That is why in 2016 we introduced the Safeguard Mechanism, ensuring Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitters kept their net emissions below an emissions limit.
This mechanism was working just as it was intended.
It encouraged businesses, and it backed technology.
But Labor are now looking to put their own stamp on the that mechanism with potentially disastrous results.
Their new signature policy is just a rehash of what Labor Governments have been doing right throughout history.
They are going back to the Australian Labor Party textbook, penalizing businesses that don’t meet their agenda and imposing higher taxes on them.
We won’t sign up to Labor’s heavy taxing, big government agenda that guarantees everyone pays more under Labor.
As the Coalition in government has shown – and delivered – you can grow the economy and do the right thing on climate change.
You don’t botch the economy and hurt Australians in the process. That’s what this Government is doing.
The Coalition in government supported a carbon trading system that rewarded businesses that voluntarily reduced their emissions.
It brought the emitters along and incentivized them to cut back, while this Government has decided to go the sledgehammer approach.
In January, Labor announced changes to the regulations managing the Safeguard Mechanism. These will reduce the emissions baseline for every facility by 4.9 per cent every year to 2030 – a 30 per cent reduction in total.
This is a huge drop, the largest Government-enforced reduction anywhere in the world.
To meet the lower baseline, a facility can either invest in technology that reduces its carbon emissions, purchase an Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) for $75 that offsets its emissions; or acquire one of the proposed Safeguard Mechanism credits.
A non-compliance penalty will be imposed on facilities that do not meet their baseline emissions and do not purchase sufficient ACCU’s or Safeguard Mechanism credits to offset the shortfall. The proposed penalty will be on business to pay $275 per tonne of carbon dioxide.
Essentially, Labor want to use a carbon trading system to force businesses to buy carbon credits. Any way you dress it up, that’s a tax.
The Coalition offered the carrot to businesses, Labor is threatening them with the stick.
What’s more, unsurprisingly, Labor deliberately tried to hide what they are doing.
They refused to release modelling on the impact of their Safeguard Mechanism, with Minister Bowen claiming it would reveal deliberations of cabinet.
Thankfully the Senate intervened, a win for transparency that this Government was attempting to deny. So much for a more transparent government.
We were very clear about our concerns with Labor’s proposal before the election – it was another sneaky attempt to impose a carbon tax on the Australian economy.
The Coalition Government mapped out a plan to achieve net zero by 2050, without new taxes.
In government, we committed $22 billion to bring down the cost of low emissions technologies such as hydrogen, ultra-low-cost solar, green steel and aluminum, leveraging up to $132 billion in private sector investment and supporting 160,000 jobs.
Once these technologies are cost competitive with the existing alternative, people will voluntarily make the change.
When the Government acts sensibly without bowing to a Green agenda and balances climate policy with economic growth, that’s when we see desirable outcomes.
This was the Coalition’s approach in government, and since 2005 emissions fell by more than 20% while our economy grew by 45%.
It is why companies were reducing their emissions already, using carbon capture and renewable energy.
Now this Government seeks to fast track this, creating chaos in energy markets and increasing the costs of the transition to renewables.
This is amid rising electricity prices and reliability risk as fossil fuels exits the system before reliable replacement renewable generation and backup is in place.
We have seen this government interfere with markets to create a price cap that has just created confusion and dented business and investor confidence in Australia.
Now we have the Government coming after business again looking to levy new taxes unless the businesses come on board with their policy.
Mr Speaker, policy works best when it brings business and people along.
It does not work when you hit them with unnecessary taxes at a time when they are most vulnerable.