I rise to speak on the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011. The objects clause of the bill states:
(1) This section sets out the objects of the Act.
Climate Change Convention and Kyoto Protocol
(2) The first object of this Act is to implement a certain obligations that Australia has under
(a) the Climate Change Convention; and
(b) the Kyoto Protocol.
(3) The second object of this Act is to create incentives for people to carry on certain offsets projects.
(4) The third object of this Act is to increase Carbon abatement in a manner that:
(a) is consistent with the protection of Australia's natural environment; and
(b) improves resilience to the effects of climate change.
When read in its entirety, I do not really have a problem with that. It is a well-thought-out overview of what the act intends to do and it is not that far removed from the intentions of our own direct action plan for sequestration. However, if we go to the simplified outline of the bill, we see:
The following is a simplified outline of this Act:
This Act sets up a scheme for the issue of Australian carbon credit units in relation to eligible offsets projects.
An Australian carbon credit unit is personal property and is generally transferable.
The main eligibility requirements for eligible offsets projects are as follows:
(a) the project must be carried out in Australia;
(b) the project must be covered by a methodology determination made under this Act.
A methodology determination must comply with the offsets integrity standards set out in this Act.
This Act is administered by the Carbon Credits Administrator.
This is where the wheels start to fall off the bill. This should be a relatively straightforward bill. I agree with supporting our farmers to generate revenue from sequestration and capturing carbon but I am not completely convinced that this bill is the right mechanism. I will try to go through that during my speech.
In my electorate of Wright farming practices have come a long way. I believe our farmers, particularly in the Scenic Rim and the Lockyer Valley, have been guilty of not marketing the progress and the advancement in carbon capture in our industry in recent years. Take, for example, the practice of zero tilling. The advancements in carbon capture in that single practice alone have stood the industry in good stead. But we are very poor at selling the positive attributes of our industry. The farms in my electorate are predominantly high- to medium-intensity farms, and they produce all the leafy vegetables—broccoli, cabbage, beetroot—and other vegetables such as onions. They are all great carbon abatement plants that are not included under this bill.
These businesses are struggling to meet the already escalating input costs in an environment where big business, mostly the oligopolies, are squeezing the processors and then the processors are squeezing the producers. At the end of the day, all that squeeze is coming out of the wallets of the mums and dads and the pensioners and families not only in the electorate of Wright but around Australia. For example, with the expectation of a carbon tax Heinz Australia, who owns Golden Circle, an iconic Queensland company, told my farmers they would be sourcing their beetroot offshore as of next year and that my growers would need to make other arrangements. There will be job losses although this government has repeatedly said that this carbon tax will actually create jobs. When we highlight the examples we are accused of scaremongering. The Prime Minister is on the record stating that she will be assisting Australian households, but why will she if the polluters are going to pay? I hope she intends to assist the 160 Golden Circle employees who soon will not have a job in Queensland, the 146 who will not have a job in Victoria and the 38 who will not have a job in New South Wales. Will her household compensation package top up their unemployment benefits to what they were earning when they were gainfully employed at Golden Circle? Maybe she would like to direct them to this wonderful world of green jobs that she often speaks about. The truth is that she will not top those people up and she cannot direct them to any green jobs because there are none. My people need to put food on the table and feed their kids next week. I challenge anyone from the other side of this House to direct me to the 138 green jobs which I can steer these people into, notwithstanding the flow-on effects that will have on my community.
I resent the fact that we continue to be told that we are scaremongering. Will the Prime Minister assist my farmers and the many people they used to employ to harvest the beetroots by directing them to the clean jobs that we are told about? I think not. As for my farmers who operate high- and medium-intensity farms, please do not tell me that the contents of this bill are the answer and that the government wants them to plant trees. These are high-intensity production farms. It is simply not feasible for these guys to plough their fields, plant a row of blue gums and think they are going to be able to pay the leases on their tractors and machinery in 12 months. It is just ludicrous.
When you go out to some of our more broader catchment areas that do not have those intense farming practices we have certain grasses that I believe abate carbon but which are not included under this bill. If you are going to use scientific research as a basis for moving this debate forward you lose the right to pick and choose the bits of research that suit you. When you look at the scientific advice I encourage you to take it as a whole picture. I would encourage grasses, particularly legumes and certain other varieties, to be included in this legislation.
I have concerns when I see explanatory memoranda of more than three pages for any bill. However, the explanatory memorandum to this bill is 360 pages. Mr Deputy Speaker, my intention when I read the brief to you was that I thought any like-minded person reading that would not pick up the intentions or objectives of this bill. It is obscured in the detail, and it is the detail that I have trouble getting my head around, as do a lot of my colleagues.
We hear often from the government that businesses tell them that they want certainty and that businesses want a carbon tax. I suggest that those businesses that are telling the government they want a carbon tax are the very businesses that look to prosper and profit from a carbon tax. Those are the very businesses that will have the capacity to pass it on because no-one in their right mind who is responsible to shareholders would stand up to a government and say, 'Please give me an extra expense that I have no capacity to pass on.' Hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions will be paid on the trading of these permits and these will go to those very businesses: the bankers, the traders and the commission takers. Those businesses are telling the government that they want a carbon tax because they are going to profit from it. Do you know what they are going to do with their profits? They are going to rush down to Sydney and buy those beautiful big mansions around Sydney Harbour—the very mansions that we are told by this government are going to be two metres underwater as a result of climate change if we do not introduce a carbon tax. It beggars belief how this will help us move forward in a logical way.
I was at the Logan Chamber of Commerce business awards the other day. There were 300 people who attended. There were 120 businesses nominated and over 3,000 people from the area voted for those businesses—coffee houses, hairdressers, real estate agents, hotels and the other normal businesses that you would have in a community. Not one of them came up to me and said: 'Scotty, I have a great idea. To try to stimulate the retail sector we need you to go back to Canberra and get us a new tax straight away because we think that is what is going to kick things along.' No-one said that to me.
Large businesses and the polluters will pass the costs on, but my small businesses and their suppliers will be the ones who are going to cop it. Do you know what? They are going to pass those costs on to mums and dads, pensioners and the people who are already struggling. This government made an announcement of $500 for pensioners the other day. According to my estimates, that is going to put a carbon permit price in at around $4.50 because if it comes in at anything more than $4.50 that $500 will disappear in a heartbeat. I look forward to having that debate if and when it ever comes. I stand by the coalition's perspective that we will rescind a carbon tax if in government. The silent majority are slowly awakening to this tax and the web of deception being spun by this government.
I want to look 12 months into the future on a hypothetical, but in order to do that we need to look 12 months into the past to see this government's performance in this debate. I recall 12 months ago that we had a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who was committed to a carbon tax but who was assassinated as the polls spiralled downwards. The new Prime Minister was chosen on the pretence that there would still be a carbon tax, but just before the election she made the announcement, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. She then had the audacity to come into this House and say that they had backflipped and that they did not have a position on this. Our position has been clear all the way through this process.
Who really stands to benefit from the introduction of a carbon tax, which the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 relies upon? As I said, it will be the brokers and the trading houses. The true irony is that they will profit from it at the expense of our mums and dads. This debate is unable to progress in a logical, concise and informed manner without a thorough understanding of the regulations that speak to this bill. The bill is also dependent on a carbon tax debate. A number of concerns have been raised by parts of the farming community and by the peak bodies within the agricultural sector. Price is what underlies the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011.
Talking about fearmongering, I will make the sweeping assumption that the majority of the allegations of fearmongering directed at us stem from the uncertainty created by the government in the marketplace by not linking a price to their basic policy. I am under no illusion that the government does not already have a price in its head. I suggest it will probably be in line with the ETS that was going to come in at a $10 cap and then let market forces take it out over the following couple of years. A cost of $11 billion in the first year brings in a cap of around $10. If that is the intention, just say that. The government is adopting the boiling frog approach at the moment. Stick the frog in the water, slowly let the costs get up around it and the frog slowly dies.
This is going to come down to an issue of trust. I remind the House that the Prime Minister said, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' There were also comments along the line of, 'Business tell us that they want a trading system.' Businesses in my electorate are not saying that. 'A carbon trading system will create jobs.' I have people who are going to be looking for jobs and those opposite cannot direct me to where those green jobs are. 'Businesses want certainty.' If they want certainty, tell them what the carbon price is. 'No-one will be worse off under a carbon tax system.' Who can believe that one when no-one believes any of the other statements?