Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:47):
The opposition has asked questions today on the carbon tax and is seeking to take note of answers to those questions for the very simple reason that every Labor member and senator who was elected at the last election-every single one-was elected on the basis of a lie. In the House of Representatives, of 150 members, 148 presented themselves to the electorate on a platform of there being no carbon tax-because I assume that Mr Oakeshott and Mr Bandt presented themselves on a platform of a carbon tax. The entire economic policy of this government is therefore also based on a lie.
I take a particular interest in the effect of this socalled economic reform because my state of Victoria will be hit first and hit hardest by the carbon tax. You may know, Mr Deputy President, that my office is in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the south-east of Melbourne is the home of manufacturing in Australia. Somewhere in the order of 44 per cent of manufacturing output comes from the southeast region. There are 70,000 people employed in manufacturing in that region. I have been visiting manufacturer after manufacturer during the break, with Mrs Mirabella from the other place, the shadow minister for industry, innovation and science, and when you talk to manufacturers it is not a pretty story that you hear. They tell you in detail the number of employees they will have to lay off if a carbon tax comes into place and about how much their energy bills will go up. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased costs for many of these businesses.
I do want to acknowledge, however, that one Labor member, Mr Dreyfus from the other place, who is the parliamentary secretary for climate change and a carbon tax, has been visiting manufacturers in the south-east. Indeed, when I went to the annual general meeting of SEMMA, the South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance, a week or two back, Mr Dreyfus was addressing the meeting on the topic of ‘Why a carbon tax is good for you’. He did not receive a terribly good reception, it would be fair to say. He did not persuade the audience. I recall that one manufacturer stood up and said, ‘In my business we’re going to have to pay $120,000 a year more in electricity because of the carbon tax,’ and Mr Dreyfus’s response was, ‘That just goes to prove my point that the impact of a carbon tax will only be modest.’ What Mr Dreyfus considers to be modest is something entirely different from what a business considers to be modest.
We have spoken a bit about the manufacturing sector and we have spoken about the steel industry and other industry sectors, but there is one area that has received scant attention from this government in relation to the impact of a carbon tax. That is the area of disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector. The government, when it comes to people with disabilities, says: ‘Trust us. We’ll give compensation. It’ll be sorted.’
The government is offering an increase to the disability support pension. That sounds fine if you accept that that compensation is adequate-which I do not, but let’s just put that to one side for a second. There are over four million Australians with a disability. There are 813,000-odd people on the disability support pension. That means there are in excess of 3.2 million Australians with a disability who will receive no direct compensation as a result of the carbon tax. It is ironic in the extreme that at a time when the government is talking about improving long-term care and support for people with disabilities through the idea of a national disability insurance scheme-and that is something I am very supportive of-and making the lives of people with a disability easier, it is also looking at a way, a method, that will impact directly on the living standards of people with disabilities. Carers, according to the government, will receive an increase in their carers payment, but there are many millions more
carers than there are people on the carers payment. This tax will hit the south-east of Melbourne hard. It will also hit people in my portfolio hard.