Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott fields questions on the carbon tax in Mackay.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott fields questions on the carbon tax in Mackay. Lee Constable

Abbott fields carbon tax questions

THERE was a strong anti-carbon tax sentiment at Mackay’s community forum with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Monday night.

About 150 invited guests attended the forum, with most questions attacking the carbon tax.

Despite this, Mr Abbott and Member for Dawson George Christensen defended their invitation list to media, denying it had been crafted to the LNP’s advantage.

While invitations were sent last week, local media outlets were only informed about the forum Monday afternoon.

Mackay Greens spokesman Jonathon Dykyj was turned away from the event, despite there being several empty seats.

Mr Christensen said invitations were issued to a broad range of business people and community members, and no-one from other political parties was invited.

“Certainly it wasn’t restricted to people with certain voting intentions,” Mr Christensen said.

“We sent out hundreds of invitations to people from all walks of life.”

After the forum, Mr Abbott said it was clear there was “deep, deep hostility towards the carbon tax”.

“I think the message that came out of this forum tonight from the people of Mackay to the Government in Canberra is that there should be no tax collection without an election,” Mr Abbott said.

“I say to the Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) if she really does believe the carbon tax is the way to go… why doesn’t she take it to the people?”

During the forum, Mr Abbott told attendees Ms Gillard was “wearing out her shoe leather” talking about the carbon tax at the expense of other issues like schools, hospitals and the Bruce Hwy.

He said many families would struggle if the carbon tax was introduced.

“We’re often told that our economy is a miracle and Australia’s economy is the envy of the world.

“But I think a lot of people are doing it tough and most families are feeling the rising prices… the carbon tax is going to make it worse.

“I’m all in favour of helping the environment… but the best way to help the environment is not to make the cost of living more expensive.”

THE QUESTIONS

Tony Abbott answered many questions about carbon tax at tonight’s forum, which was held at Magpies Sporting Club. Here’s some of what was said:

Q:  I am concerned about the impact of the carbon tax and the little compensation offered for retirees like myself.

A: A lot of people will be plainly worse off, even under the Government’s figures, but I don’t think we can be absolutely confident the Government’s figures are reliable. Modelling is only as good as the assumptions you build in… I think you are right to be concerned. As time goes by, the carbon price is going to go up and up and up and the compensation is going to be one-off.

Q: Would anybody like to pay more GST because the carbon tax is being implemented?

A: What the carbon tax is increased costs, and then GST is charged on top of that. It does look very much like a tax on a tax.

Q: If you become prime minister I believe you will reverse the carbon tax. What can be done if, by that time, we do have an emissions trading scheme, which I believe is difficult to reverse?

A: I don’t think anyone should assume the carbon tax will get through the parliament, because there are lots of people who don’t like it one little bit, and many of them are in the Labor Party. Just south of here there’s a Labor member of Parliament (Member for Capricornia) Kirsten Livermore, who’s got a lot of coal mines and a lot of agriculture and some tourism in her electorate, all of which is going to be impacted directly or indirectly by the carbon tax. If you want to help nudge the Labor party into a position of common sense, please make contact with Kirsten Livermore’s office.

Q: Do they (the Labor Government) know how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere and how much is caused by humans?

A: My understanding is that currently there is about 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s up from about 300 parts per million 200 years ago, we think. That’s a significant increase… and that’s a pity because we should try to make as little difference to the planet as we can. That’s why I think we should try to reduce our emissions. But you’re right, it is a trace gas in proportions… even some of the staunchest advocates of the Government’s decision say the environmental difference would be minimal. Sure, take prudent precautions against this but let’s not turn our economy upside down.

Q: Please explain the exact impact of the carbon tax on jobs and how sending billions of dollars offshore on carbon credits is going to function, and its impact on the economy.

A: The whole point of the carbon tax is to make that which increases emissions more expensive, and the principal source of man-made emissions is burning coal for electricity… Everyone in Mackay knows that the coal industry is expanding and it has been expanding for a generation. Just in the last few years the expansion has reached break-neck speed because of the massive increase in coal use in China and India. The Prime Minister says the carbon tax won’t hurt the coal industry… but that’s only because other countries aren’t pursuing our policy… if they were the coal industry would be in diabolical trouble… The Coal Association reckons that 18 major mines will close and the investment in the sector will be 37% less than what it would otherwise be. It’s not like Australia is the only place that produces coal… if our prices go up, that impacts on our competitiveness.

Q: Could you give some examples of what you mean by direct action and how much is that going to cost Australian taxpayers?

A: Direct action would cost about $10.5 billion over 10 years or just over $1b a year, and out of Federal Budget of $350b I think we are more than capable of finding that kind of money from savings in the budget…  a lot of businesses are doing intelligent things to reduce their emissions. We are very confident that we can achieve the 5% emissions target through these means.

Q: The carbon tax will be collected from the 500 big polluters. Is it your understanding that this is an entity like, for example, Rio Tinto or is it site-specific?

A: I think it’s site-specific, but it’s not my policy (so I’m not 100% sure).

Q: What are the policies of other first-world countries? I heard the Prime Minister say, “We’re going to lead the world”. I don’t think anyone here cares about leading the world – we want a government that leads our country. (The crowd applauded at this.)

A: The Chinese are not going to go down the path of the carbon tax or emissions trading scheme, the Indians… are not going to go down this path. The Americans… are not going to have an emissions trading scheme… There is a kind of emissions trading scheme in Europe. It’s much smaller than ours is proposed to be. We will raise more money in the first three months of our proposed scheme than the Europeans have raised in five years of their scheme… it hasn’t worked (in Europe). European emissions haven’t really been cut. A lot of emissions have been exported as industry moves from Europe to other parts of the world. A European ETS is not something we should follow.

Q: Why aren’t we having this debate against the Greens because it’s their tax? Julia Gillard said she wouldn’t introduce a carbon tax… she sold us out so she could get into The Lodge and now she’s undermining business confidence in Australia.

A: Julia Gillard is in The Lodge but Bob Brown (of the Greens) is in power... what we’re getting is the real Bob Brown. It was the Greens that put this policy together.

Q: How do we stop this policy? Everyone in Mackay is keeping their hands in their pockets. There’s uncertainty and a feeling of unease in this town. I’m a small business owner. Do I cull staff or pass those costs onto other people?

A: Please don’t give up because we need people like you who are prepared to have a go… I understand why small business feels very badly persecuted at the moment. The Government talks about compensation for big business and for households, but there’s nothing for small business. Your costs will go up, your customers will still demand the lowest prices and you’re going to be squeezed. We stop it by shouting as loudly as we can that this is a bad tax.



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