PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: We have just had five minutes from the member for Wakefield as to how fantastic the carbon tax is and the impacts it is having. He says house prices are up, job numbers are up, new companies are being created and cars are running off the line because of the carbon tax at $23 per tonne.
If the carbon tax is so fantastic for house prices, so fantastic for jobs and for new company creation, why not make it $50 per tonne, or $100 per tonne, or $200 per tonne? On the Labor Party’s warped logic, that would mean that house prices would be even higher, there would be even more jobs, there would be even more companies created and the share price would be even higher, according to the member for Wakefield.
But, of course, it is absolute nonsense. The carbon price has no such impact. The carbon price is a dampener on all of those activities, and every economist in the nation will tell you.
I would like to give the member for Wakefield and those opposite, first of all, some cold, sober and tragic facts. Let me just go through what happened last week.
On 12 March 2013, the last wholly Australian-owned cannery, Cowra’s Windsor Farm Foods factory, was placed into voluntary administration, with 70 jobs lost. The day before that, on 11 March, CSR’s Viridian put off 150 jobs. The week before that, on 1 March, the iconic soup manufacturer, Rosella, shut down, with the loss of 70 jobs. The week before that, Amcor announced that over 300 jobs will be lost. The week before that, Penrice Soda announced that it will cease soda ash production and cited the carbon tax as having a big bearing on its decision. A couple of weeks before that Boral announced that 790 jobs will be lost. The week before that BlueScope Steel announced the loss of 170 jobs. That just brings me back to mid-January. I could continue to go through this exhaustive list, going week by week by week, all the way back to find jobs lost after jobs lost after jobs lost in our manufacturers.
I ask the Labor government members, in all seriousness: how many jobs need to be lost before they realise that the manufacturing sector is struggling? And why is it struggling? In part it is because the Aussie dollar is high. But a big part is also because the government’s policies are making it so much harder for Australian manufacturers.
We know that they have re-regulated the labour market, which makes it tougher. We know that they have added 20,000 new regulations and only removed 200. But the worst aspect of it all is the introduction of the world’s largest carbon tax. This diminishes the key competitive advantage of our manufacturers, which is cheap energy. Do not just believe me or the coalition in making these statements, but listen to the businesses themselves as to why they are laying off workers or why they are closing down their businesses. Many will cite that the carbon tax has been a direct contributor to it.
Or you can read yesterday’s ASIC report, which also blamed the carbon tax for contributing to so many businesses closing across Australia. That report found that there were 10,632 company collapses over the last 12 months. That is 12 per cent higher than during the global financial crisis. The member for Wakefield tells us how fantastic everything is, and yet we have had company collapses 12 per cent higher than during the peak of the global financial crisis. This report says that, while the high Aussie dollar is seen as the main factor behind manufacturing closures, experts say the carbon tax is adding to increasing cost burdens for many firms struggling to stay afloat.
You also could listen to what the ACCI chief, Mr Greg Evans, says in relation to the carbon tax:
In energy reliant industries— such as manufacturers—it is already showing up in job losses, deferred investment and in the worst cases, business closures.
That is the reality. The member for Wakefield and those opposite can say for as long as they like how fantastic this carbon tax is, how it is leading to growth and to companies starting up and how it is leading to additional jobs and all sorts of other great things. But the reality is in fact the opposite. The reality is that we have had more companies close than at the peak of the GFC, and almost every week we are having manufacturers laying off workers. The reason this is occurring is very simple.
The carbon tax is damaging to our manufacturers because it makes them less competitive versus their fierce competitors from overseas, because the carbon tax applies to the production here in Australia but does not apply to manufactured goods produced overseas and imported into Australia. In that regard it acts like a reverse tariff. Nearly all manufacturers these days compete against Chinese, Indian or Vietnamese imports. All this does is make the cost burden high for our manufacturers compared to those manufacturers of imports. It is a remarkably simple concept.
The Labor Party do not understand these basic business concepts because they do not have any business people on their benches. They are all union leaders, and it is terrific that they are all union bosses and they are all union members now. But they do not have any people who have had experience in business or in basic economics to understand that if you make our businesses more expensive and you do not put the same costs on our competitor businesses then our businesses will be worse off and will therefore be at a competitive disadvantage.
The member for Wakefield talked about the car industry. PricewaterhouseCoopers examined the impact of the carbon tax on the car industry and it said that there would be a $400 per car cost associated with the carbon tax. That applies to every car manufactured in Australia, but it does not apply to the cars coming in from Japan or from China or from South Korea or from the UK or from Germany. So what does that do to our car manufacturers? It adds $400 to our cars but not to those imported ones.
The Prime Minister talks about sending price signals, but what price signal does this send, when you add $400 to the cost of an Australian made car but that does not apply to an imported car? The price signal it sends is, ‘Go and buy the imported car,’ and that consequently leads to fewer jobs.
In my own electorate I have 1,000 manufacturers, employing about 10,000 people. It is a huge proportion of my electorate. Nearly all of them are competing with overseas players, and many of them have told me that they are struggling because of the high energy costs. Those high energy costs, particularly in the last 12 months, have been driven almost entirely by the carbon tax. This year is just the start of the carbon tax. It is $23 per tonne and it is causing a 10 to 20 per cent increase on electricity prices for businesses. But that is just the start. In two years time it will be $29 per tonne. By 2050 it will be $350 per tonne, according to the government’s own figures. You can look up the government’s own figures and they say it will be $350 per tonne by 2050.
If this carbon tax stays in place and it goes up to $350 per tonne, I would predict that that will be the end of manufacturing in my electorate and almost all manufacturing across Australia. I cannot see how manufacturing in this country could survive if the carbon tax went up fifteenfold to $350. That is what is at stake here in this debate, and that is what is at stake in this election coming up.
We have two competing visions in relation to our manufacturing sector. From our side, we would scrap the carbon tax. Make no bones about that—it would be gone, and we would provide other incentives to boost manufacturing in this country. On the other side of the ledger, the Labor Party are promising to continue with the carbon tax and continue with the upward trajectory of that tax—starting at $23 this year, going to $29 in two years time and going all the way up to $350 in 2050. That is exactly what the government has forecast and exactly what the government actually desires. This carbon tax needs to go, for the benefit of our manufacturers and the benefit of Australian jobs. (Time expired)