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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10749


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (10:33): Here we are, debating a bill that both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer promised, on the eve of the last election, that they would not introduce. What an absolute affront to our democracy. As the Prime Minister has noted:

… the judgment of history comes sooner than we expect.

I suggest that the Prime Minister should be careful what she wishes for. When the vote on this bill comes next month, anyone who sits on that side of the chamber and says yes to introducing a tax that they explicitly promised before the last election they would not introduce, says yes to higher electricity prices, says yes to placing Australian industry at a competitive disadvantage—putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk—and says yes to enriching foreign carbon traders by sending billions of dollars offshore will be remembered by history as trashing our democratic principles.

Last Wednesday, 15 September, was the International Day of Democracy. The preamble of the UN resolution for that day states:

Democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems …

The imposition of the world's biggest carbon tax on this economy is not the free will of the Australian people; it is an assault on our democratic principles.

While everyone remembers that infamous misleading statement, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead', for which history will forever remember this Prime Minister, history should also remember this Prime Minister for another, equally misleading statement. She pledged not to introduce carbon trading until a time 'when the Australian economy is ready and when the Australian people are ready'. The Australian people are certainly not ready for this big tax, having voted against it at an election, and the Australian economy is not ready. Just look at the results of the recent Sensis small business index for September. It found that business confidence is plummeting, with small business profitability falling sharply during the quarter and now standing at record lows. It also found that all key performance indicators fell in the last quarter, and there has been a substantial increase in the number of small businesses looking to either close their doors or sell up. In this climate, how can anyone come into this chamber and even contemplate slugging this economy with the world's biggest carbon tax?

Back in high school, one of the books I studied was George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. It painted a frightening picture of a future in which an authoritarian government maintained power through the systematic use of propaganda and disinformation. Ultimately, Orwell's writings warn us about the fragility of democracy. The parallels between Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and the practices of those peddling this carbon tax would have Orwell spinning in his grave. In his novel, the 'Ministry of Truth' was the official government department for telling lies to deceive the population. The parallel with today is that we have a Prime Minister who once stood up before this parliament and proclaimed that 'the Labor Party is the party of truth-telling'. That is right: the same political party that promised, in order to get itself elected, that there would be no carbon tax and that is now introducing one is the very same party that claims to be the party of truth-telling.

In Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the character Syme, admiring the shrinking volume of a new dictionary, says:

'It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.'

Today, this government has destroyed the word 'dioxide'. Every government spokesman corrupts the language by referring to carbon pollution, which creates the false impression that the carbon tax is about preventing carbon pollution—that is, black soot being emitted into the atmosphere. But the theory of global warming is all about that clear, odourless gas that makes plants grow: carbon dioxide. According to this logic of carbon pollution, champagne is just chardonnay infused with carbon pollution. So, according to this government, if we want to reduce our emissions of carbon pollution, we could just drink chardonnay instead of champagne. I find the repeated Orwellian chants of 'carbon pollution' and 'big polluters' both offensive and dangerous. In truth, carbon pollution is black soot, also known as particulate matter. Numerous recent studies have found that these substances cause a variety of serious diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. For the Liverpool area of Sydney, which I represent—where the local council will need to find another $330,000 for electricity costs under this carbon tax—statistics show that people aged between 16 and 24 have a 50 per cent greater chance of suffering from asthma. This is most likely the result of true carbon pollution through particulate matter from diesel exhaust.

However, the government's proposal for a carbon tax—or, more correctly, for a tax on carbon dioxide—will do nothing to address the very serious health concerns associated with particulate matter. It will do nothing to tackle the problem of diesel exhaust. In truth, if we trained our guns on carbon dioxide, we would simply weaken our economy, burdening it with higher costs of producing electricity. By doing so we would in fact weaken our ability to tackle real pollution that is causing harm to human health today and that will cause harm to human health for our next generation.

Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four also gave us the concept of 'doublespeak', language that deliberately disguises, distorts or reverses the meaning of words. If Orwell were alive today he might well have used the term 'greenspeak'. By using doublespeak or 'greenspeak', global warming has now morphed into climate change. No less an authority than Professor Phil Jones confirmed in a BBC interview that from 1995 to 2010 there was no statistically significant warming and that since January 2010 there has in fact been slight global cooling. So with no global warming occurring since 1995 in the land of droughts and flooding rains, we can always have a perpetual war against climate change. Using doublespeak—or greenspeak—taxing carbon dioxide emissions has now become the mantra of 'putting a price on carbon,' as this government simply refuses to tell the truth and use the word 'tax'. But if it looks like a tax, if it works like a tax, if it puts prices up like a tax and if this Labor-Greens government has anything to do with it, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is a tax. And—using doublespeak or greenspeak—attempts to control global temperatures by forestalling global warming is twisted into the often repeated Orwellian chant of 'taking action on climate change'. The claim of taking action of climate change implies that something is actually being done that will achieve something to reduce global temperatures, but that is simply a myth that is being spun.

Firstly, even on this government's own figures, under this carbon tax, emissions of carbon dioxide will actually increase. This carbon tax will do nothing to change the temperature. It will do nothing to change the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. The Orwellian mantra of 'taking action on climate change' also implies that this carbon tax will somehow stop the sea levels from rising, the rise that has been occurring for the last thousand years. But the truth is that this carbon tax will have as much effect on sea levels as King Canute did when he had his throne carried down to the seashore and when the tide came in he commanded the waves to advance no further. So what we have is a carbon tax that is all pain for absolutely no environmental gain.

In Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government use memory holes to manipulate the past by rewriting history and changing facts to fit the party doctrine—and just look at the parallels today and at how past scare campaigns of the preachers of global warming have been sent down the memory hole. Remember the prediction by the UN climate body that claimed that, by 2010, the world would be flooded with 50 million climate refugees because of rising sea levels. The science was certain, we were told, the time for debate was over! So certain was this prediction, a website affiliated with the UN even had a map showing where these climate refugees would come from. But with 2010 having come and gone, and without any climate refugees—let alone the promised 50 million—this map has now been sent down one of Orwell's memory holes and has been deleted from the World Wide Web.

Then look at one of the other predictions: that climate change had caused the endless drought. We had Tim Flannery telling us, 'Even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams and rivers.' The science was certain; the time for debate was over. So government spent billions of dollars which have now been wasted on useless and mothballed desalination plants, money that should have been spent and invested elsewhere on badly needed infrastructure. So now the endless drought has ended and we have Lake Eyre in Central Australia full, something that has only happened three times in the last century.

Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Fouralso warned us of the psychological manipulation of institutionalised brainwashing with the quote:

Who controls the past controls the future.

Look at the parallels today, with claims by a group pedalling this carbon tax and trashing our democracy under the name of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Their website states:

… we want to be able to enjoy a stable climate similar to that which our parents and grandparents enjoyed … we need … a safe climate for our future.

There is no such thing as a safe climate or a stable climate. There has never been one in the past and there will never be one in the future. Our grandparents never enjoyed a safe or stable climate. Just look at some of the facts and disasters from our history: between 1803 and 1992, at least 4,200 people in Australia died as a direct result of heatwaves, including the 1895-96 heatwave, which killed 437 people. As well as heatwaves, our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents have had to live with severe storms and floods. For example, on 24 June in 1852, 89 people were drowned in a flood in Gundagai; in March 1899, 410 people were killed when Cyclone Mahina hit Bathurst Bay; in March 1934 another cyclone killed 99 people by creating a nine-metre storm surge in northern Queensland; and, on 29 November 1934, torrential rain turned Melbourne's Yarra River into a raging torrent, leaving 35 dead, 250 injured and 3,000 homeless. As sure as night follows day these heatwaves, floods and severe storms—these unsafe and unstable climatic conditions of the past—will simply continue to occur again in the future. Whether or not Australia introduces a carbon tax will make absolutely no difference.

Another misleading claim that we often hear is that this carbon tax will build competitive industries. We simply cannot build a competitive economy by generating electricity with Chinese solar panels or by building giant steel windmills while at the same time sending Australian black coal off to China and India where it is turned into low-cost electricity. Let us be clear: this tax will place Australian industry at an internationally competitive disadvantage. It will lower our standard of living and it will reduce our ability to tackle many other pressing environmental problems.

Next, we have the doublespeak or greenspeak of the compensation. The compensation under this bill is little more than a bribe funded by the government borrowing another $4 billion, mainly from overseas. The compensation will be marginal and it will be temporary, but the damage from this carbon tax to the economy will be permanent. If this tax is effective it will act as a penalty. Once the tax gets high enough, instead of using low-cost, efficient black coal electricity, producers will change to hopelessly inefficient Chinese solar panels or giant steel windmills to produce electricity. When this happens and the tax actually has the desired effect, there will simply be no tax collected. So there will be no money to be put into the pot to pay the compensation and so we will be stuck with higher prices, but there will be no government funds left to pay the ongoing compensation that will be required.

And, finally, the world's largest carbon tax is not only the greatest act of economic vandalism and trashing of our democracy since Federation; it will be dwarfed into insignificance once the lunacy of carbon trading starts. Under this nonsense, by 2050, we will be sending $57 billion—that is right, $57 billion—offshore to foreigners to buy pieces of paper called carbon certificates. And, for just a few dollars more, they might even put them in a decorative frame for us, just to keep our lights on. If we calculate the constant increase in the number of permits and their price from $2.7 billion, it is not only $57 billion by 2050 but the cost between 2020 and 2050 adds up to nearly $650 billion.

Finally, Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, gave an apt description of those supporting the government when he described them as possessing:

… paralysing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms—one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom…the stability of the Party depended.

Those who support that bill show these parallels apply equally today. (Time expired)