GEOFF MULLINS:  A prediction this afternoon that petrol prices will go through the roof because of the carbon tax. I see today federal Government climate adviser Ross Garnaut says he’ll release additional papers at the end of the month detailing how much money is expected to be raised by Labor’s carbon tax. The Professor has announced he’ll release two supplementary notes on the 31st of May along with the final update of his 2008 Climate Change Review and apparently we can expect details on the revenue to be raised by the carbon tax and how it should be spent. Well, while we hold our breath for that, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham says the carbon tax promises from the Federal Government make it sound like a ‘magic pudding’ when in fact the carbon soufflé will never rise. Simon Birmingham is on the line this afternoon. Good afternoon, Senator.
Are you there, Simon? Looks like we’re having trouble getting the Senator up there, Simon Birmingham is the Liberal Senator in South Australia, he’s the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment but it looks like we don’t have him or we do have him? No, he’s saying that the carbon tax proposed by the Labor Party – this carbon tax that Julia Gillard wants to get in – is just going to cause petrol prices to go through the roof and the question I wanted to ask him, of course, was to find out how that would happen. Are you there, Senator?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I am, Geoff. Good afternoon. Sorry, I could hear you but you couldn’t hear me.
GEOFF MULLINS:  No, I’ve got you. That’s the main thing – we’ve got you back. Senator, can you tell us how this would work? Why would the carbon tax increase the price of petrol?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Geoff, the carbon tax is a tax that will be applied to all manner of goods and services throughout the economy. Companies that emit large amounts of CO2, products that greenhouse gases are emitted in the manufacture of, will all be taxed and fuel will certainly be one of those commodities. Under the Rudd Government’s terrible ETS scheme, they proposed to rebate petrol. However, under the Gillard Government, she is being suspiciously silent when it comes to petrol, meanwhile has made all sorts of other promises about so called household compensation, to industry and about the budget impact. The one thing they’ve been silent on is fuel and it would look very much like, if she’s to honour her other promises, that motorists are going to cop it in the neck with higher fuel prices.
GEOFF MULLINS:  And you’re saying that electricity will cop it as well?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Electricity is certainly already in the firing line. You can’t implement this carbon tax without it having an impact on electricity but, again, she is being suspiciously silent in regards to the electricity generators as to how they will be compensated or offset for the huge impact on their business structures, so these are two areas that households are most vulnerable in where, of course, the Government has been particularly silent about.
GEOFF MULLINS:  Now, you say that Labor has already stated by now that the carbon tax will be a budget neutral tax with zero impact on the bottom line of the budget. What about this news today that Professor Garnaut is going to come out and say how much will be raised and how it’ll be spent?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Geoff, of course, the idea that this Government can do anything in a budget neutral approach is laughable to some. However, they have promised this time that it will be budget neutral. Kevin Rudd’s ETS raked in about $14 billion of income and yet somehow he managed to propose spending $15 billion of it, so in a great big new tax he managed to run it at an amazing deficit. Gillard has promised not to do that and if she is to meet her promises about bringing the federal budget back to surplus, she won’t be able to do that, but of course if she keeps that promise, that means there’s less opportunity to offset the impact on petrol prices, less opportunity to offset the impact on electricity prices and that just means a greater whack for households and for Australian industry and jobs.
GEOFF MULLINS:  And on the issue of petrol, the petrol prices are coming under fire from a whole lot of angles. We’ve got a Griffith University economist, Professor Tony Makin, who says that we’re looking at maybe $2 a litre before too long here in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast. Do you think that the Federal Government might understand that petrol prices are really feeling the pressure from too many other things that they might give it a bit of a break?
 SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think that Australians will make them understand that Australians are feeling enormous cost of living pressures already, that it’s already costly to get to work each week, to get the kids to school or to sport, to go and do the weekly shopping or to get out and simply take a break outside of the city as in the countryside and support our small tourism businesses around the country. These are areas where households will feel the impact of petrol price rises, especially if the dollar goes down and therefore we face higher prices for petrol already. Couple that with a carbon tax thrown on top and people will really question whether they can afford to run their cars like they have before and that will be something that I’ve seen Australians previously stand up and make their voices loud and clear on. They did it, if you might remember, around the time of the GST debate and John Howard heard that message and made changes to the excise indexation of petrol. This Government will hear a similar message but people are already angry. They’re angry about cost of living pressures and they don’t understand why they should face this new carbon tax that will put price pressure on electricity and petrol and yet won’t make any demonstrable difference to the global challenge of tackling climate change.
GEOFF MULLINS:  If you guys were in government and you were left with a carbon tax that was put in there by the people that were there before you, what would you do?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Tony Abbott has made it perfectly clear that we oppose this tax from Opposition and if in government we will repeal it. We don’t believe this is the right way to tackle climate change, we don’t believe it’s a fair impost on Australian households and we don’t think it’s good for Australian jobs and Australian industry so we’re quite clear in our opposition to it and, if elected at the next election, we will do everything we can to repeal it.
GEOFF MULLINS:  Senator, thank you for your time this afternoon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: An absolute pleasure, Geoff.
GEOFF MULLINS:  I’m glad we finally got you on the line.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Indeed, thank you very much.
GEOFF MULLINS:  Okay, Liberal Senator, Senator Simon Birmingham and Simon is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, just talking about the price of petrol going through the roof with a carbon tax. What are your thoughts?