Victoria's regional communities, industry and health services want the Australian parliament to respect their wishes and repeal the carbon tax, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said today.
Speaking on legislation to repeal the tax in the senate, Senator McKenzie said the Clean Energy Regulator found the carbon tax hit Victorians with $1.5 billion in additional costs in 2013-14.
“This ill-conceived and ineffective tax has had a damaging effect on increasing costs to households and business, in return for a lousy 0.1 percent reduction in emissions in its first year,” she said.
“In the regions, industries and families have been disproportionally affected by a policy dreamt up in the city by politicians—areas such as Stawell, Ararat, Benalla and Heathcote, struggling with the cost of living.”
The carbon tax is costing households $550 a year in higher living costs.
Electricity costs rose 15.3 per cent in the first quarter after the tax came into effect and household fuel and gas costs rose 14.2 per cent. This was the largest quarterly increase ever.
The increased processing costs for major dairy producers, which have a presence in Victoria, range from $600,000 to $3 million. Tatura Milk, in northern Victoria, incurred a direct cost of $660,000, plus electricity and gas as a result of the carbon tax. It was higher for Devondale Murray Goulburn at around $14 million in its first year.
The carbon tax is costing dairy farmers between $1300 and $6900 a year.
The National Irrigators Council last year reported a carbon tax cost of almost $449,000, adding significant costs to irrigators who cannot pass them on. This is in addition to electricity costs associated with irrigation as farmers strive for efficient use of precious water.
Higher electricity prices due to the carbon tax have had a significant effect on other farmers, such as orchardists, who are battling against the high price of running their cool rooms.
One of Australia's largest apple and pear growers and packers based in Shepparton paid $350,000 in carbon tax in the first year it was introduced alone.
For communities in northern Victoria, the uncertainty of recent droughts, floods, the Murray-Darling Basin plan debate, the increased cost of doing business on dairy farms, and permanent plantings for the longstanding horticulture industry have all been severely impacted by the carbon tax.
Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) modelling shows the savings to average farms from the full repeal of the carbon price would be $4580 for dairy and $4620 for vegetables.
Cheap electricity was once a great strength of the Victorian economy, giving the state the competitive advantage to develop a strong manufacturing sector. The carbon tax has hit the Victorian economy particularly hard, as evidenced by the declining manufacturing base.
Victorian public health, which would be supposedly exempt from the carbon tax, paid around $13.5 million which could have allowed an additional 2700 patients each year to potentially receive elective surgery across the state.
The Bendigo Health Care Group, for example, paid around $500,000 in carbon tax which it says could have provided additional services, such as elective surgery for 100 additional patients over the last year.
There have been increases in hospital supply chains, nitrous oxide supply, capital works, food and energy bills.
In 2012-13, the carbon tax made up between nine and 23 per cent of the total energy spent for individual health services in Victoria.
“It doesn't end. Labor and the Greens claim to support regional Australia and the agriculture industry yet they are increasing our cost of living, stifling job creation and impacting our industries in regional Victoria. The evidence is there in black and white,” Senator McKenzie said.
“This is not about whether climate change is real or imagined. We must act. But we can address climate change without destroying business, agriculture and our health sector.”