Carbon Pricing Take Note of Answers

I also rise to take note of answers given by Senator Conroy to questions asked today by Senators Cormann, Ryan, Williams and Ruston. I rise to talk about the people who create jobs in this country, particularly those who create jobs in South Australia, and provide a future for our young people, our children.

The problem with this government, according to Mr Crean, one of the previous ministers who was sacked, is that the Prime Minister has a tin ear because she does not listen. When it comes to the carbon tax, we see no clearer case of this tin ear. On radio in South Australia, the Prime Minister was asked by Mr David Basham, head of South Australian dairy farmers, about the impact of the carbon tax on dairy. He highlighted the fact that this was costing small businesses in South Australia between $14,000 and $25,000, which is a significant impact. The Prime Minister’s response? Did she listen? Did she care? No, her response was mere rhetoric: ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘the industry will thrive.’ Have all those scary stories come true? Here was somebody telling her about the real impact on small business and about the fact that dairy farmers were losing money. When they go out of business, not only is that product not available but the jobs that are supported, both on the farms and in the associated industries, go with it.

In terms of small business, we heard Senator Conroy today say, ‘Oh, well, that impact is only about two per cent to a small business.’ Does he not understand that the net profit margin for many small businesses is well under 10 per cent? That is a significant hit to a small business looking to fund investment in the business and growth, as well as quite often taking their salaries out of their profit margin. It is small business that creates jobs and opportunities for young people in South Australia and it is small businesses being impacted by the carbon tax, particularly when it goes up by five per cent in July. Small businesses are often the ones who are driving vehicles powered by diesel. With the abolition of the diesel rebate in July, their costs will increase further. In a competitive market, they have very little opportunity, if any, to pass that on to their customers, which means that there are more jobs at risk.

With small businesses in South Australia that work in the area of refrigerants and with the gas R404A, the ACCC has found that, of the original price of $98 per kilogram, the carbon tax was directly responsible for a 76 per cent rise in the price of that gas—some $74.98 that the ACCC found was directly attributable to the carbon tax. For larger business, just this month the head of GMH in South Australia, responding to the closure of Ford and to calls by unions that they should manufacture the Captiva SUV in South Australia, was talking about the fact that the input costs for manufacturing in Australia are too high for them to remain competitive. He was looking at all sorts of options, including reducing wages of both executives and workers, to achieve that. But the alternative, he said, would be for the Gillard government to scrap the carbon tax. From small business, from the agricultural sector with dairy farmers through to large business, people who create jobs for South Australians have one message for this government, which is demonstrating yet again its tin ear: the carbon tax is hurting business and damaging jobs for people in South Australia.

Lastly, I come to BHP and Olympic Dam. South Australia was devastated in April 2012 when BHP announced that they were shelving plans to expand Olympic Dam. There was a lot of talk about why that might be. One of the factors people do not often look at is that in the electrolytic refining of copper, which was one of the main products coming out of Olympic Dam, electricity availability and price is one of the top considerations for the viability of that copper-mining activity. You only have to go online and look at prospectuses of people who are looking to set up mines in places like Laos and South America and you see that availability and price of electricity rates very high. When BHP made that decision to shelve their option for expanding Olympic Dam, the carbon tax was $23 a tonne and it was planned to increase by 2020 to $37 a tonne. Just at a time when BHP would be hoping to see a return on their investment and the creation of lots of jobs, the carbon tax will be $350 a tonne by 2050. Is it any wonder that industry, from miners to big business to small business, is saying that the carbon tax is a job-destroying tax for South Australians?

Question agreed to.