Consideration in detail – Carbon Tax Repeal Bills

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (16:01): As a former farmer and small business owner I understand the many difficulties facing the sugar industry and the Hinkler business community more broadly. In a recent submission to government on the repeal of the carbon tax, Queensland cane growers advised that Labor’s tax had increased the cost of production by $20 million since it was introduced, hurting the industry’s international competitiveness.

Sugar cane is Queensland’s largest agricultural crop by volume and value. With 80 per cent of Australia’s sugar exported overseas, it is also Australia’s seventh largest agricultural export. Australia’s sugar exports were worth $1.4 billion last financial year, making us the third largest supplier in the world. The industry also employs 50,000 people, directly and indirectly.

Irrigators have been hardest hit by the carbon tax. Cane growers indicate that repealing the carbon tax will save them up to 10 per cent on their energy bills and save thousands of jobs. It will also bring significant supply chain benefits. The tax inflated the price of goods like fertiliser and chemicals. Industry research shows growers are paying up to 33 cents extra per tonne this financial year to produce the same crop they did in 2010-11, before the introduction of the tax. As cane growers are not able to pass the cost on to their international consumers, the increased cost of production is being paid for directly from the bottom line, in some cases leading to a reduction of wages and the loss of jobs. Cane growers have always opposed the carbon tax, and for good reason. Repealing Labor’s carbon tax will go some way to helping restore profitability to the industry and provide workers with greater job security.

Despite the significant impact of the carbon tax and the relatively high trade exposure of the industry, sugar cane growers did not receive any assistance under the Clean Energy Futures package. The Queensland Cane Growers Organisation argues that they are the only sugar cane growers in the world to operate without some form of subsidy, trade barrier or market control. The only way Australia’s cane farmers remain competitive by global standards is through constantly improving productivity and by containing the cost of production relative to cane producers in Thailand, Brazil and India.

Agribusiness contributes greatly to the economic viability of regional communities like Hinkler and that is why this government is committed to repealing the carbon tax. Like cane growers, Hinkler’s horticulturalists are price-takers and not price-setters, which means they are unable to pass the cost of the carbon tax on to their markets. Peter Hockings, Executive Officer at BFVG, recently told me his members were deeply concerned about their future under Labor’s carbon tax. The tax has been the final nail in the coffin for many.

Many growers are eager to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint, but argue a tax is not the way to go about it. They, like this government, favour direct action, improving productivity and finding efficiencies. They are paying more for fertiliser, more to transport their products to market, and more to dispose of their organic waste material. As well as the increased cost of electricity for irrigators, our growers are paying more for their cold storage.

Our farmers are not the only ones paying more for refrigerant gases. Businesses like the Woodgate Beach General Store, which services a small community, have taken a big hit. Owners, Barry and Rose, are looking to retire and know their prospects for selling the business will be better without a carbon tax. Businesses and community groups already running on tight budgets are feeling the pinch. The carbon tax has impacted on the cost of gas in the bowls club. It affects the electricity costs for the ice-makers who supply our commercial and recreational fishermen. It has increased costs for the local library and community hall.

But the strong opposition to Labor’s tax does not stop there. Allow me to read just one of the many letters my office received in relation to the carbon tax, which said:

l am contacting you to express my concern of the impending rise in the cost of living and loss of industry when the carbon tax is introduced.

As a senior Australian I am finding that my dollar does not perform in the supermarket, petrol bowser or when paying rates.

I am fearful that the increased costs levelled at councils, through the introduction of the carbon tax, will mean I will have trouble finding the funds to meet the financial demands of life.

Being a baby boomer, I bought an investment property in Maryborough, as our superannuation would only support us for about six months in retirement.

There is no work for people my age in Hervey Bay and unfortunately, because we now have an investment property asset, we are not entitled to any Centrelink benefit and miss out on government assistant packages.

To gain employment we left the Bay in 2011 to pursue seasonal work. We cannot afford this tax and I ask that you take steps to prevent its introduction.

I am pleased to say, Madam Speaker, that the removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will save households around $550 a year. At the election, the people voted overwhelmingly for change. It was a referendum on the carbon tax and a referendum on Labor’s $9 billion a year hit to the Australian economy.

The SPEAKER: I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide, but just for 20 seconds.

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Question Time – Debt Limit

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (14:40): My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer advise the House of any correspondence he has received that will assist the parliament in its deliberations on the increase in the debt limit?

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney—The Treasurer) (14:40): I thank the member for Hinkler. I was kind of hoping that I would be asked this question by the Labor Party and in particular by the member for McMahon because just before question time a letter from the member for McMahon was sent to my office. I read the letter—it is a very interesting letter—and it says:

The Opposition also remains ready to vote for an increase in the debt limit to $500 Billion, if such an increase is supported by revised net debt figures in the Mid-Year Economic Forecast …

Hang on, ‘net debt figures’? He could not have got ‘net debt’ and ‘gross debt’ wrong, could he? Hang on, this is the shadow Treasurer. I know Labor do not understand the difference between deficit and surplus and I know they do not know the difference between Rudd and Gillard, but I thought they would understand the difference between ‘net’ and ‘gross’. I read on and it said:

I note that in Senate Estimates, Senator Wong asked Dr Parkinson to provide an updated iteration of Table 8 of PEFO, showing projected net debt.

I thought I would go to table 8 of PEFO to see what that is and, hang on, it is gross debt. It is gross debt. How did that happen? Then I thought, hang on, gross debt peaking at $370 billion? But I still gave him the benefit of the doubt because surely the shadow Treasurer would know the difference between net debt and gross debt, given that this is such a significant issue for the Australian parliament. I read on, and it gets better. It states:

The latest figure in the forward estimates for net debt is $370 billion …

I hope it is not, because the latest estimate of net debt is $217 billion. No wonder they are concerned. I am going to help the member for McMahon because the last sentence of his letter says:

Given the importance of this as a national issue and debate and in the interests of openness and transparency, I will be publicly releasing this letter.

I am sure he will not, so I am going to help him now. If the former Treasurer of Australia does not understand the difference between net debt and gross debt, no wonder the Labor Party just do not get it. They were incompetent in government and they are incompetent in opposition.

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90 second statement – Export Awards, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (13:46): Earlier this year, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks—the maker of Hinkler’s iconic ginger beer—was named 2013 Queensland Exporter of the Year. As well as winning the award for manufacturing, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks was a finalist in the agribusiness and regional exporter categories.

The family-owned company started out in 1960. Today it employs more than 150 people and is taking its beverage products to 33 countries. The company’s success should be a source of inspiration to other family-owned regional businesses. It is a clear example of how exporting can bring significant benefits to the local economy.

Winners of state and territory export awards automatically qualify as finalists in the Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Award. The national winners will be announced this coming Tuesday at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne. While this year’s finalists represent some of the best performers in Australia’s $300 billion-a-year export sector, I am confident Queensland businesses will do us proud again this year.

Exports comprise about 20 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product and help support about 1.5 million jobs. This year’s finalists earned over $9 billion in export revenue in 2012 and employed more than 22,000 people. The Australian Export Awards recognise their efforts and celebrate their achievements.

I congratulate Bundaberg Brewed Drinks on their success to date and wish them the very best of luck at the Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Award.

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Adjournment – Bundaberg Rum, 125th anniversary

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (10:26): This weekend I will attend the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Bundaberg Distilling Company. To mark the occasion the company will release 4,888 numbered bottles of limited edition Bundaberg rum. The commemorative product is a blend of the company’s oldest and rarest rums. A list of 125 ingenious Australians will also be released coinciding with the arrival of the Bundaberg tall ship into Sydney. Earlier this month, before the tall ship departed on its 1,888-kilometre journey from Bundaberg, I attended an event where the captain was presented with the bottle numbered 1,888.

As the member for Hinkler, I am particularly proud to see our very own Bert Hinkler make it onto the list of ingenious Australians. Known as ‘the Australian Lone Eagle’, Hinkler was the first person to fly solo from England to Australia in 1928 and then the first person to fly solo across the southern Atlantic Ocean in 1931. Just like Bert Hinkler, Bundaberg rum is a local icon. The anniversary marks not only a momentous occasion for the company, but also for the Hinkler electorate and me personally. I worked with Bundaberg sugar and the distillery many years ago as an apprentice, and I clearly recall working around the giant storage facilities.

Bundaberg rum was born in 1888 from the ingenuity of a consortium of Bundaberg sugar mills who found a way to utilise their excess molasses. Today the distillery employs more than 50 people and is responsible for generating many more jobs indirectly. BDC’s legacy has endured thanks to the passion, perseverance and creativity of all those who have worked there. Over the years it has developed into one of Queensland’s most popular destinations. Tourists, both domestic and international, know Bundaberg because of our rum and ginger beer. The white polar bear is a common sight throughout Australia, including here in my parliamentary office. Bundaberg rum is a part of Australia’s heritage.

As well as putting Bundaberg on the map and supporting our local economy, Bundaberg Distilling Company is a member of the Hinkler community. It is a company with a conscience. Bundaberg has flooded twice in the past three years. In 2011 the Bundaberg Distilling Company raised money for Queensland charities with the release of a limited edition collector’s rum, titled ‘Watermark’. Across the country pubs and clubs, including some of those affected by the floods, simultaneously hosted events to raise funds and celebrate the resilient and courageous Queensland spirit. In February this year they announced the Road to Recovery program, calling on Bundaberg rum fans from around the country to help the Bundaberg community get back on its feet. The bottles were labelled with the names of the roads and the streets that were submerged. Each flood-affected household in Bundaberg was offered a complementary bottle, featuring their road or street name. The remaining bottles were sold to the public with all proceeds going towards Bundaberg’s flood recovery efforts. Only available for purchase at the distillery’s tourist centre, Road to Recovery Rum attracted fans and out-of-towners to Bundaberg, injecting much-needed funds into the local economy.

BDC and its parent company Diageo donated a further $200,000 to the Red Cross Queensland Flood Appeal. Even when other companies cut back on sponsorship due to tough market conditions, BDC continued to support local community groups, like the Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club. As a former member, I must say I was very proud to see them donate things from surf boats to wet suits. Their commitment to the local community has never waned. On behalf of all Hinkler residents, I would like to thank the Bundaberg Distilling Company for their support and I congratulate them on reaching 125 years—a very significant milestone indeed.

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Childcare inquiry to improve system for Hinkler residents

Federal Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt has welcomed an inquiry into child care and early childhood learning across Australia.

Mr Pitt said the Productivity Commission inquiry, as promised by the Coalition, would examine ways to make the child care system more flexible, affordable and accessible.

“This inquiry is the first public examination of its type since the 1990s,” Mr Pitt said.

“Hinkler families deserve quality care and early learning at a price they can afford.”

The Productivity Commission will conduct public hearings and invite submissions, and report back by the end of October 2014.

Further details are available at www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/childcare  

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Ballot now open for Anzac Day centenary

Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt is encouraging local residents who wish to attend Anzac Day centenary commemorations in Gallipoli to apply for the official ballot.

Mr Pitt said a fair, open and transparent ballot was being held to enable 8,000 Australians to safely and comfortably attend 100th anniversary commemorations in 2015.

“Of those, 2000 places will be provided to veterans, direct descendants of the fallen and secondary school students,” Mr Pitt said.

“Widows of Australian First World War veterans do not need to apply for the ballot, as they will be contacted directly by the Australian Government.

“Hinkler residents can apply to be among the 6000 Australians (3000 double passes) who visit Gallipoli on April 25, 2015.”

Mr Pitt said the ballot would remain open until January 31 next year.

Applicants will be notified of the outcome by March.

To apply online visit www.gallipoli2015.dva.gov.au or telephone Ticketek on 1300 364 002 to request a paper application form.

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Question Time – Impact of Carbon Tax on Canegrowers

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (14:05): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture. I refer the minister to the report of Queensland cane growers that shows the carbon tax will cost the sugar industry in Queensland $20 million over three years, putting thousands of jobs at risk. How will the government reduce costs and save jobs by abolishing the carbon tax?

Mr JOYCE (New England—Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:05): I would like to thank Mr Pitt, who has won the seat of Hinkler after the very distinguished career of Mr Paul Neville. The problem we have is that over the other side of the chamber we have a very interesting group of people. Over the other side of the chamber we have government-change deniers—a government-change denier there and a government-change denier there. Some of them are not denying there is a change of government, some of them have got queries about a change of government, but generally they are government-change deniers. On a more sombre note, what we have in Queensland is the fact that we have thousands of people whose jobs are at risk because they are denying the change of government.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Those on my left will cease interjecting.

Mr JOYCE: They are denying the mandate of the people. We have people in Queensland who are going to lose millions of dollars in the sugar industry because they deny the change of government

By reason of their denying the change of government, we have a situation where less money is getting back through the farm gate to the people of Hinkler, to the people of Dawson, to the people in the sugar industry. It is not just the sugar industry which is suffering this; it is also the cattle industry, it is the sheep industry and it is the grain industry. Remember, after these government-change deniers, the carbon tax, which was the essence of their government, will come into transport. Therefore, on everything we do, there will be a little legacy of these government-change deniers, unless they decide to accept the truth that the government has changed.

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Condolence Motion – Typhoon Haiyan

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (11:57): In the past week we have seen horrific images coming out of the Philippines. Australians have been shocked by what they have seen and yet in a very small way they understand a little of what the people of the Philippines are going through. In my electorate of Hinkler earlier this year, homes and businesses were destroyed by the remainder of tropical cyclone Oswald. Roads were washed away leaving behind only trenches full of raw sewage. There were no services, no pipes, no cables, no poles and no wires. People stacked their filthy possessions on the kerb. Very little was salvageable.

Events like Supertyphoon Haiyan remind us just how lucky we were in Hinkler. All but a few families were reunited quickly. Some residents may have been frustrated by the time taken to restore services, but the rescue and initial recovery effort was swift in comparison to the devastating situation in the Philippines. In Hinkler, people had immediate access to shelter, medical supplies and clean drinking water. The generosity of our fellow Australians helped us through. I am proud to live in a country that so willingly helps others in their time of need.

So far, the federal government has committed $30 million to address nutrition and child health and to provide logistics support. This support is commensurate with what other nations have provided. The funds will go towards the United Nations appeal, the international and Australian Red Cross as well as Australian and local NGOs. With the help of the Australian Defence Force, we have deployed a medical team, AFP disaster management specialists and DFAT humanitarian consular experts. With the rescue and retrieval efforts still underway, we stand ready to provide further assistance when it is needed. The statistics continue to rapidly change, with often conflicting reports. The UN puts the number of fatalities at about 4,500 but the Philippines government says the number is closer to 3,600. Just this morning, news reports indicated a further 50 bodies had been found overnight in one town alone. The Philippines government estimates 12,500 people have been injured and 1,200 remain missing. Almost 73,000 families are being assisted at 1,500 evacuation centres.

Debate adjourned.

 

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Hinkler MP encourages locals to show their support to troops

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt is encouraging local residents to support Australia’s Defence personnel and their families by sending them a message of thanks in the lead up to Christmas.

“As Christmas approaches – my first as the Member for Hinkler – I am mindful there are many ADF families who will spend this Christmas without their loved ones,” Mr Pitt said.

“Christmas is an important time for all families, and that’s why it is so incredibly important that we show our support to those service men and women who make significant personal sacrifices while helping secure the interests of all Australians.

“On behalf of my family, I would like to thank the thousands of Australians who have chosen to serve this great Nation.

“We wish them all a safe and enjoyable Christmas,  both here and abroad.”

You can send a message of support to the troops by emailing supportthetroops@defence.gov.au

You can also help ADF families whose loved ones have died or been injured in the line of duty by making a donation at www.legacy.com.au or www.soldieron.org.au  

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Hinkler MP extends sympathies to people affected by Typhoon Haiyan

November 18, 2013

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt has spoken is support of a motion, welcoming the Australian Government’s contribution to the rescue and recovery effort in the Philippines.

“ABS data shows more than 700 Hinkler residents were born in the Philippines, making up the fifth largest migrant group in the electorate,” Mr Pitt said.

“About 171,000 Australians were born in the Philippines.

“I assure Hinkler’s Filipino-Australian community that the Australian Government will remain in close dialogue with the Philippines Government, to provide further assistance when and where it’s needed.

“The people of the Philippines have a long, hard road ahead of them.
“I offer them my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for all they have lost.

“I speak on behalf of the people of Hinkler when I say our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

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