Senator FIFIELD: (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:01): I rise to move:
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) to questions without notice asked by Senators Cormann, Sinodinos and Williams today relating to the carbon tax.
There was something which was apparent in Senator Wong’s answers to questions today, that she is finding our questioning on the carbon tax a little bit tedious and a little bit wearing. I have got to be honest and say we are actually finding asking those questions a little bit tedious and a little bit wearing because we continue to get no answers from the minister. It is also a little tedious because the facts remain unchanged, that this carbon tax is a massive hit on the Australian economy and that this carbon tax represents a breach of faith with the Australian people and represents a lie. So she had better get used to getting these questions because we will continue to ask them, no matter how tedious and no matter how repetitive, because answers to these questions deserve to be on the public record.
We want to continue to make the point, as Senator Cormann did in his question, that in the first three years of this carbon tax it is going to rake in $18 billion of revenue. We want to continue to make the point that Australia’s 23 million people are going to be paying on average $115 million per week in comparison to the 502 million people in the EU who will only pay $23 million per week. The carbon tax burden is five times higher in Australia than that in the 13 nations of the EU ETS, a grouping whose GDP is 14 times that of Australia’s. This is comparatively a massive burden compared to what Europe is being confronted with. We also had a question from Senator Sinodinos to Senator Wong pointing out that in a survey 66 per cent of small businesses indicated that they were absorbing the cost of the carbon tax rather than passing it on to their customers. Small business is in an invidious position. Do they take it on, absorb it, reduce their profitability and reduce their own viability or do they pass the carbon tax on to their customers, potentially driving customers away, pricing themselves out of the market that they operate in and, again, potentially affecting the profitability and viability of their business? It is a very invidious position to be in.
I want to give you a bit of an indication, Mr Deputy President, of the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to business. I was at a gathering in Dandenong of the South East Melbourne Manufacturers Association last year and the guest speaker was Mr Mark Dreyfus QC on the subject of ‘why the carbon tax is good for your business’. I have got to tell you the people there, the manufacturers from Melbourne’s south-east, were wanting to strip flesh from the body of Mr Dreyfus but they were very restrained and they were very polite in the question-and-answer session.
One manufacturer stood up and said, ‘Mr Dreyfus, my business is that we are a manufacturer and my power bill is going to go up by $100,000 a year,’ and Mark Dreyfus’s response was, ‘Well, that just proves my point, that the effect of the carbon tax is modest.’ Mr Dreyfus was asked another question by a manufacturer of medical devices who said, ‘Look, our main product costs $1,500 to produce and we only have a margin of about $15 on that and the carbon tax is going to completely wipe out our profit on this product,’ and Mark Dreyfus’s response was, ‘Well, I think what that tells me is that your business has other problems, doesn’t it?’ That was the response of Mark Dreyfus QC, man of the people, in touch with local business, in touch with his constituents! He has no idea. I think Mr Dreyfus probably takes some lessons from the Senator Wong school of empathy with the Australian business community.
Mr Deputy President, you only need to talk to Australian businesses, be they small or medium, to find out that in the real world, in the real economy where people actually employ individuals and try and make money to provide for their families, this carbon tax will have a devastating effect. We await with bated breath answers from Senator Wong to the questions we posed.