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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 10267

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (09:46): I might say at the outset of resuming my remarks that, of course, even the title of the Clean Energy Bill 2011 is dishonest, talking about a clean energy bill when it is actually a tax bill. As I explained in my opening remarks last evening, this is a cascading and compounding tax which will get into the nooks and crannies of everybody's life. I made the point—or I began to make the point—that it impacts on seniors in particular, because these are the people who are most likely to be on fixed incomes either as self-funded retirees, as people who are on pensions or as people who are partly self-funded retirees and partly pensioners. In every way this tax will impact on their life, whether it is on the cost of switching on the light, attempting to turn on heating in the winter or air conditioning in the summer—which they very often cannot afford—catching a train, utilising the sewerage system, obeying traffic lights or street lighting to keep them safe at night. Every aspect of their lives and the lives of the rest of us is impacted by the cost of the electricity, which this government is deliberately forcing up. It has nothing to do with the environment; it has everything to do with raising a new tax. The reason for that, as I outlined last night, is that it is in the government's DNA to tax and spend. But this time they spent all the reserves that the previous government left, and now they are taxing to make up for the expenditure which they have already plunged us into debt with.

When we talk about the impact of increasing the cost of essentials of life for people on fixed incomes, that then compresses the amount of disposable income that they have. That disposable income is what keeps retail shops going. It is what keeps so much of the expected increase in growth in so many industries alive and well. But, when that disposable income is so constricted, it is not surprising that we see large firms coming in with poor results in the retail sector and that we see closing shops. A stroll through any shopping centre shows you closed stores and shoppers without bags in their hands from having made a purchase. This also restricts opportunity for seniors to find employment in the retail industry sector, as they frequently do in a post-retirement period. The question of job creation for people who have skills and wish to remain in the paid workforce is a very important issue.

The tax itself, of course, is being brought in by the Prime Minister, who, as we all know, said on 16 August, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Then, on 20 August, she repeated, 'I rule out a carbon tax.' Mr Swan came into the act and said on 15 August:

Well certainly what we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax from the Liberals in their advertising. We certainly reject that.

So at every point it was designed to mislead the Australian people—including the member for Deakin, who is sitting over there and is about to vote in favour of this; he sits in a marginal seat, so it could be the end of him. It means that the Labor Party, in every aspect, misled the Australian people. But despite that it still was not elected. I have said time and time again that this government is an illegitimate government. It is one that merely stitched up a deal in order to confirm with the Governor-General that it could have the appropriations bills passed and therefore have a commission to form a government. Well, it is not a government's bootlace. In every aspect this legislation is set out to punish the people.

We have said, and we mean it very certainly, that we will try to prevent this legislation passing through the parliament, which is difficult because it simply relies on Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor; they are the two people who were elected by conservative electorates and have chosen to be the pillars of this government, so if it passes then it will be on their heads. In the Senate, of course, now the Greens are in control and the Greens get their way. Whether it is the latest media inquiry or whatever it is they want, the government caves in to them, because they have the power over passing this legislation. But, to put this in its firmest context, we have said that, should this legislation pass and should we be elected to government, we will rescind this legislation, just as the Labor Party rescinded Work Choices. That was the commitment they made; this is the commitment we made. Just as the Labor Party did that, we will rescind this legislation. It is important that we let the people know that because we say we should have an election on this issue. Much comparison has been made with the GST, as I said last night, but we took the GST to the people. We sought a mandate and we got a mandate. Then we spent six months in this parliament debating it, inquiring into it and scrutinising it. This government has no mandate for this tax. This government is going against the word that it gave to the Australian people. We are not permitted under parliamentary language to describe that accurately, but I think people understand that at every turn when the Prime Minister looked down the barrel of a television camera and said, 'There will be no carbon tax,' they were entitled to believe that, and yet it was subterfuge.

We are in the position in discussing this legislation where the government has imposed a very strict and limited regime of time for analysis. This is, again, contrary to the spirit of the so-called 'new paradigm' where we were supposed to be transparent in investigating these things. At every turn the government is desperate to push through this legislation and not to have it scrutinised in a proper way. There are 19 bills—over a thousand pages of legislation, not to mention how many pages there are in the explanatory memorandum or the fact that the whole of the Australian populace does not want this tax. This illegitimate government is determined, to use the words of the Prime Minister, to see that it is inflicted on the Australian people. But we will rescind it, should we be elected.