PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: There is a manufacturing business called Vicpole in Bayswater on the edge of my electorate. It is a very successful business which has been manufacturing for over 20 years now. It manufactures street poles, street bollards and other street furniture. It employs about 40 people, many of whom have been working in the firm for 12 years or more. Alan Vickery, the Managing Director of Vicpole, says that after 20 years of operation, due to the impact of the carbon tax, he may have to cease manufacturing and start importing instead, the same as all his competitors do. He says:
The proposed carbon tax could be very damaging for Vicpole. What concerns me is that we’ve got 40 employees working for Vicpole who depend on the fact that we are competitive when we make our poles in Australia.
He goes on to say:
I can’t build-in a measure to counter a 20% price increase when my competitors don’t have that same cost.
He concludes by saying:
It would not be the end of Vicpole, but it would be the end of the 40 jobs. There would be no requirement to have 40 employees to unload containers.
In this instance, we have a small to medium-sized manufacturer who will be put in great jeopardy due to the Prime Minister’s carbon tax. Jobs will be lost; potentially 40 jobs—40 good workers who have been loyal to this firm for over 10 years. And emissions will probably go up as a result.
I raise this particular business to show that in order to determine the impacts of a carbon tax on business you would need to look at the individual enterprise level and the impacts that the tax will have on that individual enterprise. It is all very well to have grandiose models which suggest that X, Y or Z might be happening, but you have to look at the enterprise level to determine what the impact on that enterprise will be from the imposition of a carbon tax. In this instance, the impact will be 40 jobs on the line.
Vicpole is not the only manufacturing business like this in Australia or even in my own electorate. There are many small and medium-sized manufacturers operating at global best practice level, both in their operations and in their emissions intensity, who will be hit by this carbon tax and who will be reduced in size and have to lay off workers as a result of it. None of these small and medium-sized enterprises will receive compensation. All will face increased costs. All will face competitive disadvantage against imports on which there is no carbon tax. Therefore, all will face pressure on jobs—and for what impact? Will Australian emissions go down as a result of that? Yes, in part—if an enterprise goes out of business and stops manufacturing, that business will produce fewer emissions.
It will produce fewer emissions if businesses close down. The government has got that right. But when you actually look at it at a global level, which is what is important, emissions will frequently go up globally because our manufacturers in Australia often have better emissions intensity than our competitors do, certainly in China. And of course you have to add to that the extra emissions resulting from transportation.
This is the ridiculousness of the carbon tax, as even some on the Labor side now acknowledge: if you put a tax on our manufacturing in a context where there is no tax on competitor imports, you will simply cost Australian jobs and have no impact on global emissions. Indeed, you may increase global emissions. This is the farce. I invite the member for La Trobe and the member for Deakin to come with me to the manufacturing belts in Bayswater—some of it overlaps into their electorates—and explain to the manufacturers the impact that the carbon tax will have on them and their employees.
Mrs Mirabella: I will come with you.
Mr TUDGE: The member for Indi has kindly agreed to join us as well, so potentially we can have a team of four going. I invite them to come with me, even to visit Vicpole, as soon as possible. The implementation of the carbon tax would be bad enough if the situation for Australian manufacturers were not so dire in the first place. Close to 90,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last three years alone. That is 550 jobs lost each and every week. One in 12 workers in the manufacturing sector in Australia has lost their job in the last three years. Despite manufacturing being under significant pressure—it is declining and jobs are being lost and it is suffering from the high Australian dollar and higher interest rates, compared to overseas countries—the government seeks to make things worse.
And of course they come into this place and have the temerity to say that the carbon tax is actually all about jobs. Almost day in and day out the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have had the temerity to come into this place and say that the carbon tax is actually all about creating jobs.
An opposition member: It is about imaginary jobs.
Mr TUDGE: Exactly. They are imaginary jobs in their own imagination. In fact the only jobs they appear to be interested in are their own.
Are so many manufacturing businesses wrong when they say that the carbon tax is going to hurt them. Are they simply not listening to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer when they say that this tax is actually about job creation. I do not think so. I do not think that Kate Carnell from the Australian Food and Grocery Council is incorrect when she says:
For Julia Gillard to say that food companies who aren’t in the top 1,000 emitters won’t be affected by a carbon tax is simply wrong.
I do not think Kate Carnell is incorrect in saying that. And I do not think Manufacturing Australia is incorrect when it says:
it tolls the death knell for manufacturing in Australia. It represents the introduction of a multi-billion dollar tax that will impact on every Australian financially, far in excess of the capacity of many businesses and everyday Australians to pay.
I do not think they are wrong in saying that. And I do not think that Paul Howes is wrong when he says:
Carbon pricing could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back as far as (some) industries are concerned.
I do not think he is wrong in that regard. I could go on. The chairman of BlueScope Steel says:
Why is (the government) prepared to sacrifice a key sector of the Australian economy by introducing a carbon tax on Australian manufacturers, with little impact on world CO2 generation?
I invite the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the climate change minister, the industry minister and, indeed, all members on the other side of this House to listen to the words of those industry leaders and to the words of the union leaders, who have been supporting them to date. These industry leaders, and Paul Howes, are not wrong. They know of the impacts a carbon tax would have on their businesses. They know it will cost jobs. They know it will have very, very little impact, if any, on global emissions. They also know, like every Australian, that no matter what the carbon tax starts at—whether it is $15, $20 or $25 a tonne—that will just be the beginning. Over time it will continue to go up and go up and go up.
Let us not forget that this carbon tax has no mandate. None of us will ever forget that. It was introduced on the basis of a lie. The day before the election last year the Prime Minister went to the Australian public and said there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads. Each of us in this House knows that, had she been honest on that day and said that there would be a carbon tax under a government that she leads, she would not be Prime Minister today. We all know that. The tax is being introduced on the basis of a lie. It has no mandate. It is going to affect our manufacturers right across Australia, including in my own electorate of Aston.
We call on the Prime Minister to call an election to get a mandate if she honestly believes this is the answer for the manufacturing sector. (Time expired)