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Thursday, 2 June 2011
Page: 5757

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (Dobell) (13:35): In speaking to the Taxation of Alternative Fuels Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 and cognate bills I start with a quote. It says:

The reforms will establish a fairer and more transparent fuel excise system with improved competitive neutrality between fuels. They will provide the opportunity for currently untaxed fuels to establish their commercial credentials in the market place.

Who would have said that?

Mr Buchholz: Someone from outside parliament.

Mr CRAIG THOMSON: Yes, it was. It was in fact the former Treasurer, the former member for Higgins, who said that in 2003, supporting these pieces of legislation in pretty much their current form, except at that stage the then government was not prepared to give the tax breaks that these bills do to ethanol. We had from the previous government a position that is identical, except for us being more generous in our treatment of ethanol, to what is now proposed. What has changed since then is the Leader of the Opposition. We now have a Leader of the Opposition who has no interest in what is good for this country, has no interest in what is good public policy and whose automatic reaction to any legislation that we put up is no. What we have here is the ridiculous situation that he is opposing the coalition's own policies on these bills. It is not some Labor developed policy that we have suddenly decided that we need to put in place. This is something that your side announced in 2003, something that your side said it was going to do. We have the ridiculous position that the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to his own policies. The House must find that absolutely extraordinary. The Leader of the Opposition is opposed to the opposition's own policy positions. The only reason he is opposed to them is that we have introduced them. How can he ever come into this place and say that he has the interests of Australia at heart when he takes a position like that? How can he ever, on any issue, come in here and say, 'I'm in here to try and better the lot of Australians,' when he takes a position of opposing his own policies? It is an absolutely farcical situation that we find ourselves in. We on this side are absolutely stunned that these are the tactics that those on the other side have employed. We have got used to the negativity that we see from the Leader of the Opposition, but this is in another realm entirely. To oppose your own policy position because the Labor Party brought it into parliament I think must be a first in any Western democracy.

These are important bits of legislation for the reasons that the former Treasurer, Mr Costello, gave when he was the member for Higgins. Of course, it was not just the member for Higgins who had that view, either. The former member for Bennelong said that the reforms 'will result in a more consistent and neutral tax regime for fuels used in vehicles'. So the former Prime Minister and former member for Bennelong in December 2003 also supported these bills. The Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Mr Anderson, said that these bills 'emphasise the importance of investment certainty'. Can I say it is a very rare day that you find anyone on this side quoting the former Prime Minister, the former Treasurer and the former Deputy Prime Minister and saying they were right, but this is one of those days. The reason they were right was that those policies were in the national interest, and that is why we are prosecuting these bills. They are in the national interest. We have an incredible situation of those on the other side opposing their own policy position, which is just unbelievable.

Mr Stephen Jones interjecting

Mr CRAIG THOMSON: As my good friend and colleague the member for Throsby points out, it is because, in the absence of any policy position on the other side, rather than be consistent with their own position in the past they would rather say no. They say, 'Look, we actually don't have any policies other than opposing everything the government puts forward.' That is where we are today. We have a very sorry opposition who have no position other than 'no'. They expect that they can lead this country on a negative position without a policy. It is an unbelievable situation that we are in.

These three bills, which are the ones that those on the other side have decided to oppose even though it is their own policy to support them, do not apply to liquid petroleum gas, compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas. These fuels were not previously subject to excise. These bills will now apply a 50 per cent excise, which is 50 per cent lower than that which applies to petrol. We have seen some incredible claims coming from those on the other side in relation to this, and one of them was that the opposition are opposing these bills because they are environmentally more sound in what they want to do. They say this will encourage people to use petrol. There is a 50 per cent discount on what applies to petrol, and the emissions that come from LPG are only 13 per cent less than those of petrol. So they are getting a 50 per cent discount for emissions that are 13 per cent less.

Mr Lyons: Not a bad deal.

Mr CRAIG THOMSON: That is not a bad deal. That is not a bad situation to be in. You only make 13 per cent less in emissions but you get a 50 per cent discount. Those opposite say that their opposition to this in some way means their green credentials are better, when we know that they do not believe in climate change. They do not have any rational position in relation to making sure that carbon is dealt with properly. They instead want to tax ordinary Australians, costing billions of dollars, and pay the polluters.

The Garnaut report the other day really did bell the cat in terms of the difference between the government's position on climate change and the opposition's. It was clear from the Garnaut report that the proposal from this side of the House is for a low-cost, sensible way of dealing with climate change—one that compensates households, as opposed to the one from the other side that attacks households and compensates big business and polluters. If anyone on that side says that their negativity in relation to these bills is about their green credentials, it just does not stack up against anything else that comes from the opposition. Instead, what we are faced with from those on the other side is a policy vacuum. They have taken the position they have on this bill because it is their standard line. Their standard line is: 'We oppose anything that the government puts up, even if it's our own. We're going to oppose it anyway.' We have this absolutely unbelievable position.

I had the pleasure of chairing the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics inquiry that looked into, investigated and reported on these bills. We received a large degree of evidence on the effects that the bills would have and the way they should be dealt with. In some senses, I am in an ideal position to make some comments about this. I know I will have to save those comments for another time.

Debate interrupted.