MPI: Energy and Small Business

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) (15:29): If you believe any of that, Mr Deputy Speaker, you must have had the Senator Doug Cameron lobotomy he says members of the backbench in the Labor Party have to have. If you have watched federal politics for the last 10 years you would understand that so much of what the Leader of the Opposition just said is completely at odds with the position of the Labor Party in government. Of course, we do not accept that they believe any of what the Leader of the Opposition just said because we know from history that when they were in government they did the exact opposite.

We know the member for McMahon's position on company tax cuts—company tax cuts for small and medium Australian businesses that this government has passed. Those tax cuts for small and medium Australian family-owned and operated businesses mean that they will have more money in their pockets to pay the very wages that the Leader of the Opposition talks about.

There is only one kind of wage the Leader of the Opposition means when he talks about wages, and that is increasing government wages. We know that when they were in government they blew the budget sky high. We are supposed to believe that the Labor Party now cares about debt and deficit—that they suddenly discovered a long-lost care for the debt and the deficit. If we had continued spending at the same rate as the Australian Labor Party it would not be half a trillion, it would be $1 trillion of debt. If the Labor Party had stayed in office and continued spending like drunken sailors, it would be $1 trillion. This is the only government—that of the Liberal and National parties—that has proposed savings and cuts and has delivered them.

Ms Owens: That didn't work very well!

Mr HAWKE: The member for Parramatta said it did not work very well. That is because you have been opposing them, member for Parramatta. You have blocked the government's cuts and savings measures. In spite of the Labor Party's opposition, it is the Turnbull government that has cut $26 billion since the last election. The only government—the only parties—in this House that proposes savings is this government. At the same time as we have done so, we have cut tax for small and medium Aussie businesses. We have taken measures to ensure income tax cuts. Half a million Australians will no longer go into the second-highest tax bracket because of this government.

Every time the Leader of the Opposition gets up and says: 'What about the debt? What about the deficit?' he needs to get a big mirror and look in it because it was they who ran up the debts, ran up the government spending and delivered the conditions we inherited. We will not take a lecture. He says he will not take a lecture from us, but we will not take a lecture from him on debt and deficit. We will not take a lecture from the Labor Party—the absolute vandals of this parliament, the vandals of Australian politics and the people who ran up more government spending, more government debt and more government deficit than any other government in Australian history. We are the ones proposing to do something about it.

At the same time, we have delivered an education policy which delivers more money to schools—$18. 6 billion—which is proposed to go through this House today. It is an $18.6 billion increase which the Labor Party says is a cut to school funding. Only a Labor Party completely and utterly at odds with its own policy could believe—

Ms Owens interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The member for Parramatta will be silent!

Mr HAWKE: that an $18.6 billion increase in education funding is actually a cut. I do not believe any teacher or any member of the public would believe it. We have seen the Australian Education Union break ranks in recent days to say an $18.6 billion increase is an $18.6 billion increase. Go figure! No amount of untruths, half-facts and misleading questions we have seen day after day in this chamber can erase the fact that the Turnbull government is solving the education wars in this country and making sure we have a genuine, needs-based national model.

Nothing could convince Australians that the Labor Party and this Leader of the Opposition are not genuine about their approach to politics more than this Leader of the Opposition coming into this chamber and saying that he is concerned about energy prices. A Labor Party brought in the world's highest carbon tax to Australia—the world's highest carbon tax applied to Australian businesses. Now, we are supposed to believe that, after decades of Labor governments, state and federal, applying policies that have lifted power prices in this country, they care about your power bill. This is the only government that removed the carbon tax. It was this government that removed the carbon tax.

Ms Owens interjecting—

Mr HAWKE: The world's highest carbon tax, the member for Parramatta says. She is criticising our approach We know, if they were ever returned to government, policies like the carbon tax would come back. How do we know that? Well, they are proposing—variously, depending on what day it is—a 50 per cent renewable energy target with no idea about how they would meet that renewable energy target. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to address power prices, if he is ever elected, how is he going to do it when his own government would have a 50 per cent renewable energy target?

Ms Owens: Don't talk about your own record.

Mr HAWKE: That is depending on what day it is, Member for Parramatta. We know, of course, that it has been 40 per cent and it has been 50 per cent. They have no idea how they would do such a target. We need to introduce a spot price for the renewable energy target over there. We do not know what it is. We would have to look it up depending on the day of the week it was; how high they would do it. One thing we do know is that you would increase the renewable energy target in such dramatic ways that you would increase power prices for end users.

Contrast that approach with the Turnbull coalition government. We are taking action on gas. We are taking action on gas once again, following a decade of Labor, state and federal, who had recklessly run up the ability for people to export gas overseas. It is actually easier to export that gas than it is to supply our own domestic market. Today in question time, the member for McMahon, no matter what he likes to say, was yelling out 'sovereign risk' when the Prime Minister was talking about the gas supply. He might want to make a personal explanation and say, 'Oh, I meant some other sophisticated thing,' realising he had been badly embarrassed. He says that when the Turnbull government acts on gas, reserving domestic supply and ensuring that the price pressure on gas comes down, he describes it as sovereign risk. That is what he said. I heard him say it. He says, 'Oh, no, I didn't mean that; I meant something else.' But he was yelling out 'sovereign risk'.

This government removed the carbon tax and lowered the RET. It was the coalition government that proposed to lower the RET because there was no way that we could feasibly meet the RET at the target the Labor Party had left us with. Labor agreed, of course, to the reduction, even though their policy now says—variously, depending on what day it is—it will go up. You know that the Leader of the Opposition is being his most disingenuous when he comes into this House and says: 'I'm really worried about your power bill. I'm really worried about the price you're paying for power. I'm so concerned. It is this mob that's been in government.' Well, we know that the South Australian state Labor government is the cause of the blackouts that we have seen. The reckless pursuit of renewable energy at the expense of base-load generation has meant a disaster for the economy of South Australia.

We know that the Victorian Labor state government has said not that you cannot frack for gas—you cannot in various rural or regional areas; we do not want to do that on prime farmland; they have banned non-conventional gas and they have also banned conventional gas exploration. Why would you ban conventional gas exploration and, at the same time, build a port to import the very same gas into your state? We have more gas under Australia than Saudi Arabia has under oil, but we cannot supply our domestic market because of the decisions of Labor state governments. That is before we turn to the Queensland state Labor government and look at their ownership of the energy assets in Queensland. How much do they take out of those assets, those utilities, each year in dividends?

When the Labor Party comes in here with one of the highest renewable energy targets in the world, with a carbon tax at the highest rate in the world, all of the pressures that the state Labor governments have put on power prices, we know that the Leader of the Opposition is not genuine about your power price. He has no idea how to lower your power bill. Any policy that the Labor Party pursues will mean higher power prices for business and higher power prices for households. We will not be lectured by this man on power prices. It is a Turnbull coalition government that is acting to lower people's power prices. We are governing in the national interest. We are delivering to schools genuine national, needs based funding. We are tackling debt and deficit in this country, with no help from the Labor Party. Their approach will deliver a debt and deficit disaster. We will not be lectured by this kind of Labor Party that has no regard for the Australian people.