SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Late yesterday, Labor Senator Annette Hurley told the Senate chamber that this Government is planning an advertising campaign on Labor’s carbon tax. This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer money. Tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ hard earned money will be use to try to con Australian taxpayers into believing that they need this carbon tax, that somehow they’ll be better off under this carbon tax when nothing could be further from the truth. Today we have the revelations that indeed millions of middle income Australians could, if Professor Garnaut’s recommendations are accepted, face a double whammy. They could be hit with higher income tax rates and they could be hit with this carbon tax cost of living expense. This is an outrageous attack on the cost of living pressures that Australian families are facing. The Government must rule out making people worse [off] under the income tax system and they must of course back away from this carbon tax which is only going to push up electricity prices, petrol prices and the prices of everything for every Australian.
JOURNALIST: That model is just one suggestion, that’s just Ken Henry’s model. There are so many ways they could do these tax cuts. You’re just assuming that they’re going down that route.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, the Government, of course, is the one who has created this void. The Government is the one who has allowed this void to prosper. What we have is, however, their lead adviser, Ross Garnaut, saying that this is an option that should be pursued and this is an option that would leave five or six million Australians worse off with a double whammy a hit to their income tax rates and a hit by paying the carbon tax. This is something the Government must absolutely rule it. It will only hurt more Australians even more than this carbon tax already will.
JOURNALIST: It seems the tax cuts that the Prime Minister’s flagging are finding some favour according to the latest Newspoll.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, there’s only probably three things that are certain in life: death, taxes which this Government loves to put up and that opinion polls will bounce around, but what I hear out there in the community is that people are angry about this carbon tax, people are angry about the cost of living impact it is going to have, that it’s going to drive up electricity prices, drive up petrol prices, hurt the price of everything in everyday society around Australia. That’s why people are angry. I keep hearing those concerns. They want to see an alternative. They’ve got a clear alternative from the Coalition.
JOURNALIST: Is today’s poll a blow to the Coalition at all?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, we’re focused on getting on with the job of prosecuting the case and the case is clear that this is a bad policy measure that will hurt ordinary Australians. We’ll prosecute that case every day from now til whenever the next election is and that’s when the people will decide.
JOURNALIST: Doesn’t this poll show that voters are actually… now that they’ve been given a few weeks to understand a bit more about how it would work, that they’re actually warming to the idea?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I’m not sure how we can think that anybody understands a bit more about how it will work…
JOURNALIST: Wouldn’t they need an advertising campaign, then?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … when of course there is absolutely no detail about this carbon tax. There is no price, no detail on the compensation, no detail on what’s included or who’s excluded. This is a great void the Government has created and they are trying to now prosecute a con job on the Australian people by talking about tax cuts. Well, let me make this prediction. There will be not one change to the rate of income tax, there will be not one change to the thresholds of income tax. This Government may well attempt to play with tax offsets or tax rebates but tweaking at the edges around tax offsets or tax rebates is not tax reform, they’re not tax cuts and they will not be adequate compensation for a life long cost of living whack which the carbon tax will be.
JOURNALIST: Okay, so we don’t know much about the tax. Shouldn’t we then have an advertising campaign? Doesn’t that sound fair?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, perhaps what the Government should do is release all of the details. Release the details. Then we can have the informed debate that Julia Gillard claims she wants. Without the details, how on earth can she think that there is going to be a fully informed debate? We can but work off of what Ross Garnaut says. We can but work off of Henry’s recommendations. This is all the Government’s given for people to work with. We know the impact of this carbon tax. We know it will flow through. A lot of the modelling was done under the ETS and if they take Garnaut’s recommendations to start in the mid-20 dollars [per tonne carbon price] we know that will be 300 dollars a year on electricity, 6 ½ cents a litre on petrol, so there are some ‘knowns’ but they’re ‘knowns’ not because of anything Julia Gillard has done. So the challenge is on her. Release the details and then debate this issue on its merits. If she can’t manage to win this debate without dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to fund an advertising campaign, then clearly the debate isn’t worth being won.