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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 7795


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (17:11): This report of the Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes Secrecy and spin cannot hide carbon tax flaws, presented by the opposition, continues the fraudulent fear campaign undertaken by the opposition on the issue of carbon pricing. They rolled out their tame economist, Professor Henry Ergas, to tell us how we should run the country, to tell us how we should—

Senator Boswell: Madam Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. That reference to Professor Ergas as a 'tame economist' is offensive.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Pratt ): Senator Boswell, there is no point of order.

Senator Boswell: Madam Acting Deputy President, there is; you cannot call someone tame, which implies that he is on the take.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Boswell, you are now putting words into the senator's mouth. It is not a point of order.

Senator CAMERON: The coalition rolled out their tame economist, Professor Henry Ergas, to present an argument against the Treasury modelling. This is the same Professor Ergas who tries to tell us how to run the economy, who tries to tell Treasury where they have it right and wrong, and it is the same Professor Ergas who could not even run his own small business and ended up in liquidation. So I do not really think that Professor Ergas has got much credibility to lecture the Treasury or the government on how to run the economy, when he could not even run his own business. What an absolute joke. This is the same Professor Ergas who wrote the coalition's tax policy that never saw the light of day. It was so good that it was ditched. So I really do not take much notice of Professor Henry Ergas as some guru, telling government or the Treasury how they should be doing business. That is the first point.

The second point is that climate change denial by the coalition continues. They attempt to build up some conspiracy theory that the same Treasury which did the modelling for the GST, the same Treasury which used the same modelling on the GST, is involved in some kind of conspiracy against the Australian public. I know Senator Birmingham always gets agitated when we talk about climate change, because Senator Birmingham used to actually believe in doing something.

Senator Birmingham: Do you support the GST? Answer the question.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron has the call, Senator Birmingham. Make your interjections through the chair, please.

Senator CAMERON: Senator Birmingham, you are pathetic. You are not only pathetic in terms of your policy backflips; you are pathetic in terms of trying to tell the chair how to run the show here. It just won't work. No wonder you are all getting agitated, because what this report does is actually expose the climate change deniers in the coalition. They do not believe that we should do anything about climate change. They do not believe that anything is happening in relation to climate change. They listen to Alan Jones and they come back and regurgitate Alan Jones's rants on climate change. Senator Birmingham came into this Senate advocating to do something on climate change, but what do we get from him now? We get backflips—a big backflip on climate change. He has absolutely no credibility. I will not be lectured by Senator Birmingham on climate change or on any position on any issue in this parliament. One of the biggest backflips ever seen in this chamber was this backflip by Senator Birmingham.

When Senator Birmingham came into parliament he did support doing something about climate change. He would have supported the view of the former coalition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, that the market should determine how you deal with climate change. He would support that. But, unfortunately, when the extremists in the National Party—maybe they are one and the same thing—got together and rolled their former leader, Malcolm Turnbull, Senator Birmingham said, 'Well, I'd better ditch all my values, ditch all of the positions I've adopted on climate change and adopt direct action'—a position the coalition puts in this report, a position that has been condemned by anyone who looks at it as absolutely environmentally unachievable and as economic nonsense. That was what came out of this report—that direct action does not work.

We had many people giving evidence on direct action. We had the department basically say that the coalition's abatement figures were nonsense, that they were never going to get any abatement worth anything like what they were seeing. They were saying that their projections of 160 megatonnes of abatement would not be achieved, that their abatement figure is 20 million tonnes shy of reaching a five per cent abatement. What people have to remember is that the coalition have got the same target as the government. The difference between the government and the coalition is that we have got a plan and a policy that will deliver the abatement, and the coalition have got a con job. Malcolm Turnbull said that basically the best thing about it is that you could just close it down.

I know that the coalition always get a bit agitated when you mention their former leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who at least has some principle on this issue—far more principle than Senator Birmingham, who would backflip at the change of a leader. Change the leader; change the policy. That is Senator Birmingham's position—absolutely no credibility. But that is not unusual in the coalition. I respect the National Party because they do not make any bones about not believing in climate change. They do not make any bones about it. They say it is all a nonsense and they stand up and argue that position. Senator Birmingham knows their position is absolute nonsense but will not take them on in the party room, will not take them on in debates on this issue.

Senator Brandis: How do you know what goes on in our party room?

Senator CAMERON: Because I hear a lot about what happens in your party room. We do know that your party room is riven with division on a whole range of issues. It is riven with division on economic issues, because the National Party are leading you by the nose on economic issues. Imagine: Senator Joyce might be running your economic policy. He demanded that he wanted to run the economic policy, and what happened? The Leader of the Opposition said, 'Oh, Senator Joyce, you can have what you like.' What happened? Six weeks later he had to be sacked. But Senator Joyce will be back. He will out-muscle the Liberals on this. He will be back trying to run the economic policy of Australia, and what a horror story that would be. Imagine the National Party holding the economic levers of this country. The supine, absolutely hopeless Liberal Party are allowing the National Party to drag them by the nose. We know what is happening in the coalition party room. We know there are debates about who is going to run the show and we know that Senator Joyce wants to run the show and that the Leader of the Opposition will do anything to maintain his position as Leader of the Opposition. The Liberals dislike the Nationals, the Nationals do not like the Liberals, and the Liberals do not like each other. That is the clear position of the coalition. They are an absolute rabble.

This report is simply about trying to ignore the environmental challenges and the economic challenges. It is the Liberals being led around by the nose by the extremists in the Liberal Party and the National Party, who do not believe there is a problem with climate change. You are an absolutely weak bunch of nonentities over there. You are never going to deal with the big issues for this country, because you allow Senator Joyce and the National Party to lead you about by the nose. You do not have the courage, you do not have the conviction and you do not have the backbone to stand up for your own principles.No wonder we call you Backflip Birmingham, because you have done the biggest backflip ever. You are a disgrace.