Carbon tax to hurt Riverina: McCormack

The Nationals’ Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has told Parliament how a carbon tax will hurt Riverina families and damage local agriculture and industries.

Mr McCormack was the final speaker in the debate but was restricted to just five of his allotted 15 minutes as Labor imposed a gag on Coalition MPs speaking on the Bills.

“It is a disgrace that some Coalition members were given only five minutes when the Government MPs who wished to speak were given 15 minutes,” Mr McCormack said.

In his speech Mr McCormack said a carbon tax, based on a pre-election untruth, would be a devastating blow to the Riverina which was “already reeling from this Government’s abject failure to bring about certainty in the water debate and thereby grinding all investment and hope in the Coleambally and Murrumbidgee Irrigation Areas to a dead halt”.

He said a carbon tax would do nothing to help the environment but would drive up electricity, gas, fuel and grocery prices and strain already stretched everyday household budgets to the limit.

“This is a region which is proudly home to Wagga Wagga-based airline Regional Express which says a carbon tax it will add $2 to the price of every ticket and the impost on aviation fuel would cost the company $2 million in the first year,” Mr McCormack said. 
“Abattoirs at Wagga Wagga and Yanco, employers of hundreds of locals, will bear a huge burden under a carbon tax as will the Hyne timber mill at Tumbarumba.

“A carbon tax will cost Visy, which has a state-of-the-art, already eco-friendly pulp and paper mill at Tumut, at least $12 million in its first year.”

“We need to invest in renewable energy, improve soils, ensure we have enough productive water to meet the global food task while maintaining healthy rivers and fund research and development in new technologies to bring about outcomes to help the environment,” Mr McCormack said. “But this carbon tax should be rejected.”

The carbon tax is being debated in parliament today, with a final vote in the House of Representatives due at 9am tomorrow.

Despite Mr McCormack’s words, Labor's carbon tax package passed its initial hurdle to becoming law, with an initial vote on the Clean Energy Future Bill 2011, plus 17 associated bills, passing 74-73.

The Coalition will put forward an amendment to the carbon tax legislation, calling for the tax to be deferred until after the next election.

Cristy Houghton