Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:50):
I do not need to tell you, Mr Deputy President, that the carbon tax is a bad tax and that it is a tax that is based on a lie. That is something that is being canvassed each and every day in this chamber and will be canvassed each and every day until the carbon tax package is put to a vote. I still have my fingers crossed that it will be defeated. We do know as well that this tax will have a devastating economy-wide impact.
There has been a significant focus on particular sectors of the economy; most notably, there has been a great focus on manufacturing, and I know this as a senator for Victoria, particularly given the location of my office in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The south-eastern suburbs are the heart of manufacturing in Victoria. Forty-four per cent of Australia’s manufacturing output comes from the region and 70,000 people are directly employed by manufacturing in the region. Victoria will be hit if first, it will be hit hardest and south-east Melbourne is the front line of the battle against the carbon tax. We also learned today from the Australian Trade and Industry Alliance that nine out of 10 jobs in the manufacturing sector are in firms that will face the full impact of the carbon tax.
There are other sectors about which the government has largely been silent during the carbon tax debate. The sectors that I refer to are those that are in the portfolio that I shadow-the portfolio of
disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector. There are four million Australians who have a disability of some form. There are also 2.6 million carers. The government say in relation to people with disabilities and carers, ‘Trust us. We have a compensation package. Don’t worry. Australians with disabilities and their carers will be adequately taken care of.’ What the government propose is that there be compensation through increased pensions and increased income support payments. Even if you accept that those increased payments will be sufficient to offset the cost increases as a result of a carbon tax-which I do not-you have to look at how many people actually receive those payments. There are 800,000-plus people on the disability support pension. Compare that to the figure of four million Australians with a disability. There are 180,000-plus Australians on the carer payment. Compare that with the 2.6 million Australians who are carers. What that means is that there are 3.2 millions Australians with a disability who will not get any direct benefit in recognition of the additional costs they face as a person with a disability. It means that there are 2.4 million carers who will not get any compensation, above and beyond anyone else in the community, in recognition of the additional costs that they face as people who undertake caring activities.
As I mentioned, the government claims that increased payments will compensate these groups and that tax cuts will compensate for others. Even if you accept-and, as I said before, I do not-that there would be adequate compensation to start with, the carbon tax will continue to rise and the value of that compensation will be eroded over time. It is very clear that Australians with a disability and their carers have been largely forgotten in the formulation of this carbon tax.
Related to these Australians who face additional challenges, often for reasons beyond their control, is the broader not-for-profit sector, the broader charitable sector and the broader voluntary sector. The government have, in their formulation of this carbon tax-which is wrong in the first place-and in looking at compensation arrangements, completely forgotten not-for-profit groups, voluntary groups and charitable organisations. If you take the sorts of voluntary organisations that most immediately come to mind-scout groups, the local footy club, the local netball club, the surf-lifesaving club-they will all have increased cost pressures as a result of the carbon tax.
We know that electricity prices alone will go up by 10 per cent at least, so the power bills of the footy clubs, the scout groups and the surf-lifesaving clubs will all go up by 10 per cent. Those organisations are going to have a choice. They will either have to do more fundraising-and they will be fundraising at a time when people have less money in their pockets to donate-or they will have to cut back some of the activities or services that they provide. They are the options facing these organisations.
Also, if you consider in the broader social policy context Australian disability enterprises, the organisations that employ individuals who have an intellectual impairment, they are terrific organisations and provide a great workplace for the individuals. They also provide respite for the families of the people who work in the disability enterprise. Many of the disability enterprises have very significant electricity bills. Some of the disability enterprises will be in light manufacturing, some will be in the laundry business, and they have quite high power costs. So, if you are increasing the power costs of some of these organisations by 10 per cent, you are looking at tens and tens of thousands of dollars of additional costs. A lot of the disability enterprises do not have a terribly big margin. The gap between surviving and continuing to provide those services or not is very narrow. There is no direct compensation for these particular organisations.
It is not just Australians with a disability and it is not just carers who have been forgotten in the design of this carbon tax; it is also the not-for-profit sector, the voluntary sector and community organisations. You would have thought, if you were designing such a farreaching, economy-wide change as the carbon tax, that one of the first things you would think about would be the effect on some of the most vulnerable Australians and the effect on those organisations that seek to lend a hand to them to make life easier.
The carbon tax has been completely flawed from its inception. It is not going to lead to a change in
global temperatures-no action will in the absence of a concerted effort by the rest of the world. It is not the most effective way of seeking to reduce Australia’s emissions. It is a tax that is going to penalise almost every sector of the Australian economy and almost every group in the Australian community. It has been flawed in design from its inception. I know every time we get to our feet in this place and talk about the carbon tax we say that it is based on a lie, but the reason we say that is because it does bear repeating. The Prime Minister went to the election, she put her hand on her heart and she vowed, ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.’ I can guarantee that there are many thousands of Australians who have a disability, thousands of Australians who are carers and thousands of Australians who work in the charitable, not-for-profit and voluntary sector who, if they had known that a carbon tax was going to be imposed on the Australian economy-a tax that was going to directly affect them and the organisations I have referred to-would have cast a ballot for a political party other than the Australian Labor Party. I think it is a great shame that the Australian Labor Party, which has a long history, some of it proud, is embarking on this tax which is based on a lie and which will affect vulnerable Australians.