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Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022, second reading

I rise to speak on the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022. And I regret to say, like my colleagues in this debate tonight, as I rise it nearly 20 to three in the morning in this so-called family friendly Parliament that Labor promised, this of course is another broken promise. I rise to say that this is a bill, if passed, which will destroy our competitive advantage, will drive jobs offshore, will destroy investment confidence, and will bring this country to its knees.

This is a bill which demonstrates that Labor and the Greens in this dirty rotten deal could not care less about the average Australian. The average Australian who has been hit so hard with skyrocketing cost of living under Labor, who is battling to pay the bills, to put food on the table, to fill the car with petrol, keep the heater on.

This is a bill which shows all Australians that Labor is all about slogans and not about substance. And I, like some of my colleagues in this debate tonight, I am also convinced that there are some Labor members or senators who don’t believe in this bill, because they know the damage that this does to manufacturing, this does to our important industries, this does to the construction sector, this does to jobs, particularly blue collar jobs.

History is going to judge this Labor-Greens dirty deal as a very bad deal for our nation. Just as I believe this Albanese Labor-Greens coalition will be judged as a very bad government for this nation. Australians and the people of Aston – this is ricocheting every single day in Aston – the people of Australia will never forget the price that they pay under Labor.

The price of broken promises on interest rates, inflation, wages, mortgages, power prices. Let us not forget that Labor, when in opposition, promised on 97 separate occasions that it would reduce Australians’ power bills by an average $275 a year. What a laughing stock. What a joke. Broken promises on superannuation, franking credits, even a schools funding increase which was promised but has now been delayed, much to the disgust of the Australian Education Union.

So, I say to the people of Australia, you will always pay more under Labor. Do not risk Labor. And I say to the people of Aston, look at this basket case of a government. Look what this government is trying to do now. This is such a disgrace that we are talking about amendments to this bill that senators opposite do not have the courage to present to this Senate.

What is going on? Why can’t we see these amendments? The Greens were over there earlier in the night, boasting about how their deal, their amendments are going to stop half the gas and coal projects in this country. They think it’s wonderful, as they bring this country to its knees in partnership with the Albanese Labor government. This is a disgrace; that Labor and the Greens have done a deal.

We are here at 20 to three in the morning and we do not have access to the amendments which form part of the proposed legislation before the Senate. What is going on that Labor will not allow us to scrutinise these amendments, will not allow us to debate them, will not be transparent? Where is Labor’s integrity? Where is Labor’s accountability? Where is the scrutiny and where are the amendments?

In capitulating to the Greens’ demands on the Safeguard Mechanism reforms, and we know that because they’ve been boasting about that here and in their press conferences, but Labor senators opposite haven’t had the courage to hand over their amendments, which is extraordinary – I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Labor has sown the seeds for not only the next energy crisis but the next economic crisis, one that will far exceed the current crisis in severity. The Labor-Greens deal is a hard cap on economic growth. The Labor-Greens deal is a hard cap on new industries. It is a hard cap on jobs.

This is deindustrialisation, not decarbonisation. This is what the experts have warned the government about. Labor’s capitulation could put to an end new mines of any kind, including those which are critical for new critical minerals that will be needed for renewable technology development across the globe. I mean, that is extraordinary. We are a resource-rich nation. Critical minerals are critical to our future, and the mining industry is now just existing in this country with its back to the wall with a government that clearly has no interest in seeing a future of mining and resources in this country.

This is going to do irreparable damage to the energy market and penalise consumers. And let’s not make any mistake, Acting Deputy President, this is a jobs-destroying carbon tax. And as The Australian reports on the front page this morning online, this Labor government has been caught out deceiving and manipulating and not telling the truth about what this will do.

Whitehaven, New Hope, Bowen Coking Coal and Peabody Australia have all condemned Labor’s 11th hour Safeguard Mechanism dirty deal with the Greens. They are concerned it will make it harder and more expensive to reduce emissions. This is climate policy gone mad. Gas producers have warned the Prime Minister that this so-called climate policy, which forces 212 emitters to slash emissions by nearly five per cent – by nearly five per cent each year until 2030, presents such a sovereign risk that this creates a real risk to Australia’s energy security, including for vital international partners such as Japan.

I just want to reference as a senator for Victoria, let’s have a look at what this Safeguard Mechanism would do in Victoria to some of the companies that are being targeted. The first one and one that I spoke about this morning in my speech on the National Reconstruction Fund, another reckless Labor policy, is Viva Energy’s Geelong refinery – one of the top emitters that are being targeted by this policy.

Australian Gas Networks, AusNet, of course Virgin and Qantas – our two major airlines, Oceana Glass in Dandenong, Esso in the Gippsland Basin, Beach Energy in Lang Lang and south west Victoria, Liberty OneSteel at Laverton, Mobil Altona refinery, the Opal Australia paper mill at Maryvale, Alcoa Aluminium in Portland, Qenos Altona Manufacturing, Melbourne Water – because of the emissions when it comes to treatment of sewerage, T-T Line, V/Line, CSL Australia – a global biotech powerhouse, BlueScope Steel Western Port. They’re some of the companies on the hit list in Victoria which will be badly hurt by this obscene policy.

And I just want to dwell on the Viva Energy’s Geelong refinery. This is a refinery that we backed to the hilt when we were in government through measures such as our fuel security package which ensured that Viva was prepared for any emergency, increased our onshore diesel stock holding and locked in jobs of our fuel dependent industries, such as our truckies, our farmers and miners and our tradies. We invested also through ARENA, some $22 million for the country’s first hydrogen refuelling facility. We’ve backed Viva every step of the way, including the 700 workers, most of whom are covered by the Australian Workers Union.

And yet this is a refinery which is critical for Victoria and Australia’s energy security. It supplies over 50 per cent of Victoria’s and 10 per cent of Australia’s fuel. It can process up to 120,000 barrels a day. It manufactures petrol, diesel, LPG, jet fuel, avgas, bitumen, specialty solvents and also low aromatic fuel to support the federal government’s petrol sniffing prevention programme. And yet it now wants to build a gas import terminal which is capable of importing half of all of Victoria’s gas at a time when we know there is a gas crisis in this country.

The Daniel Andrews state government in Victoria refuses to give Viva the consent it requires and also the gas cap legislation passed by the Albanese government has created enormous uncertainty for Viva. So while we backed Viva every step of the way, on the watch of the Deputy Prime Minister, the missing-in-action member for Corio – this is a very large employer in his electorate – he has never once stood up and fought for Viva on these really important issues, on keeping energy prices low, on ensuring that they have industrial harmony and not the horrendous collective bargaining laws which are coming their way, and now of course in relation to this horrendous policy. We’ve not heard an absolute peep from the member for Corio.

Like Senator Reynolds, she gave a wonderful outline of our work on taking strong action on climate change, the Safeguard Mechanism under us was working well for years as a system to cap emissions while the economy grew. But now what is happening is Labor is changing the purpose of the scheme from one that stops emissions by encouraging businesses and backs technology to a scheme which penalises businesses and increases taxes.

The government is determined to see Australia tax its way to so called prosperity, a plan that history shows will fail. This climate policy, along with Labor’s other climate policies, will put a wrecking ball through the economy. Despite the strongest economic headwinds in decades and having already whacked businesses with higher energy prices, Labor now plans to hit them with a carbon tax. By pricing carbon dioxide at $75, Australia will have a price that is three times higher than the one set by the previous Labor government, and it is set to rise to $100 by 2030. Labor is determined to make Australian businesses uncompetitive.

The $75 carbon tax is significantly higher than the carbon price of eight of Australia’s top ten two-way trading partners, putting our industries at a significant disadvantage on the global stage. Australian businesses are at risk of closing down after being rendered uncompetitive and thousands of jobs are at risk. This is a hidden tax which will hit everyone.

As I say, this is absolutely dreadful policy. This constitutes a true betrayal of the Australian people, including blue collar workers across this country. The government could not care less about manufacturing, about construction, about mining, about resources, about energy security. This bill must be rejected, and if it passes we will fight it. We will fight to reverse this terrible legislation every single day. 

29 March 2023

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