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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 4136


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (15:14): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Senator Conroy) to questions without notice asked by Senator Cormann, Ryan, Ruston and Williams today relating to the carbon tax.

Three years ago, we were told by Ms Julia Gillard, the then new Prime Minister, that she was taking charge of a good government that had lost its way. That was the justification given by Ms Gillard for her unprecedented seizing of the reins of the Labor Party leadership and the prime ministership of this country from Mr Kevin Rudd. She claimed that it was a good government that had lost its way; that caused people like Senator Farrell, Senator Feeney and Mr Shorten to engineer unprecedented change; and that saw the Australian people effectively go to bed one night with one prime minister and wake up the following morning to discover they had a different prime minister. The Australian people had absolutely no say in the matter, which was decided by the factional controllers of the Labor Party.

It may then have been a good government that had lost its way, but now it is simply a government that is lost. Whether it is under Mr Rudd or Ms Gillard, this Labor government long ago lost any sense of unity. As the old saying goes: 'If you can't govern yourselves, you can't govern the country.' That is clear from what we see from those opposite. The ongoing civil war in this government really knows no boundaries. Long ago, this government equally lost any credibility for its financial management of the country, with the record debts we have seen, the record levels of deficit and the promises to return the country to surplus this year, only to have those promises broken. This government long ago lost the confidence of the Australian people in its ability to successfully deliver any of its programs—be they the school halls program, which saw massive cost blow-outs and caused a great waste of taxpayer money; be it the pink batts program—

Senator Carol Brown: On a point of order, Mr Deputy President: my understanding was that Senator Birmingham was taking note of the answers by Senator Conroy to questions in question time today, except for Senator Abetz's question. So far, Senator Birmingham has got nowhere near the questions or the answers given. I ask you to draw him back to the questions.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Birmingham is in order. He is responding to some of the content of the answers given by Senator Conroy. As you know, there is some latitude to the debate, providing you stick to the topic. Senator Birmingham is relevant.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: This government long ago lost any ability to claim to be making Australia more competitive, especially because of its carbon price. It is one of the many features of how this government has lost its way and its credibility—the carbon tax, the mining tax and making Australia's business environment one of the least cost competitive places in the Western world to do business. It is to the shame of this government that its policies, including those discussed today, are such a demonstration of how much it has lost its way. We now have the reality that this government has lost any sense of moral compass whatsoever, as each of its members spends far more time worrying about their own jobs than they do about the jobs of other Australians. Every single member of this government seems completely preoccupied, not with the impact of the carbon tax, not with the hurt to levels of confidence in the Australian business community and not with the hurt to the competitiveness of Australian business but with the bad polls that are afflicting their government and what they can do about it by changing the Labor leadership. Now, to be frank, the government have reached the point where they have lost any right to be taken seriously at all.

The cannibalisation of the Labor government is an amazing feat to watch. We have now seen leadership ballots and battles in June 2010, in February 2012, in March 2013 and now, again, in June 2013. It would all be a big joke if it were not so serious in terms of the harm it is doing to the country and if it were not for the fact that, with the sideshow happening opposite, the government have completely lost sight of the important policies and the harm that some of their policies, like the carbon tax, are doing to the Australian people. While the sideshow continues, Australia continues to suffer, with the highest carbon tax in the world and the broadest coverage of any carbon tax in the world, with an increase next year, an increase the year after that, with the expansion of the coverage to the trucking industry and with Senator Conroy today failing to rule out hitting the family farm or family car as well.