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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4697


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (16:11): I rise to speak on this matter of public importance, looking at the Hon. Julia Gillard's two years as Prime Minister of our country. Some over there might be celebrating, but I do not think many are. Why are the polls so bad for Labor? This longstanding party is supposed to represent the workers. As I often say, you cannot find a shearer among the Labor Party senators over there, even though the shearers started their party—now it is full of union reps. They are the ones going around selling the tickets, getting the commissions, getting the free ride. What are they celebrating from the two years of the Hon. Julia Gillard as Prime Minister?

Remember the words Ms Gillard used when she had the faceless men, Paul Howes and the crew, around her to dispose of the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd? She said the government had 'lost its way'. Next thing, she will tell us the government has found its way! How ridiculous. Before the last election, we all heard—and I am sure you remember it very well, Mr Deputy President—what Ms Gillard, and Treasurer Swan, said about a carbon tax. I will not repeat it; everyone has heard it a hundred times.

Senator Brandis: No, say it again.

Senator WILLIAMS: I will say it again, at the request of Senator Brandis: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.'

Senator Brandis: Who said that?

Senator WILLIAMS: That was the Prime Minister, who is still the Prime Minister thanks to people like Independents Mr Rob Oakeshott, Mr Tony Windsor and a couple of others. How could you stand in front of a camera and make a commitment to the Australian people that you would not bring in a carbon tax and then, after the election, go back on that—following pressure from the Greens, of course? Don't leave the Greens out of it. They are the ones who want to shut everything down, close every coalmine in Australia, have us go live in caves and issue us with three sticks of wood a week to keep ourselves warm and cook our meals. That is where they want to take us—

Senator Di Natale interjecting

Senator WILLIAMS: Sorry, two sticks of wood, Senator Di Natale is pointing out!

Senator McEwen: Is that what he was doing?

Senator WILLIAMS: It may have meant something else, Senator McEwen; I am not sure! The point I make is this: we live in a modern world and we have to produce. We have to produce a lot of food in rural Australia, and we in rural Australia are so proud of our farmers and what they produce—and I have spent all my life living in rural Australia. We not only have to feed the Australian people; we also have to feed millions of other people overseas. As I said, we have to produce, but we live in a modern world, so we have, for example, big tractors. Case IH STXs these days have 460 horsepower. Farmers do not go along behind a Clydesdale horse with a one-furrow mouldboard plough any longer. We have to produce large volumes of food. Going back to the Prime Minister's commitment that there would be no carbon tax, we find out today that agriculture is exempted from the carbon tax, except for the $3.2 billion in the first year it is going to cost farmers, going up another $3.7 billion come July 2014. When we add another $520 million tax to the truckies' diesel to the carbon tax, it is no wonder that Tony Sheldon, boss of the Transport Workers Union, called it 'a death tax'. So much for the transparency and honesty Ms Gillard said she would deliver two years ago.

Sadly, we are talking about asylum seekers again. Sadly, another tragedy is unfolding today. This is really a serious issue. We know what happened. I can take you back to July-August 2001, when a thousand asylum seekers a month were coming to Australia. The coalition government, led by Prime Minister John Howard, and the immigration minister, Mr Phillip Ruddock—a very capable man and a man I have huge respect for—had a problem. The problem was that people were coming to this country in droves. They were putting their lives at risk on those leaky boats, paying their way to get here. Now we have tragedies again. We had a problem and we fixed the problem. It was this Labor government that said: 'Oh, let's abolish temporary protection visas; let's lower the bar; let's send a signal to those people-traffickers over there with their boats looking for an easy dollar—an easy retirement amount in Indonesia—and open the industry again.' Look at the tragedies we have faced—last week, last weekend and now again today. This must be stopped.

The Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, said before the last election that she had the problem solved—East Timor would solve the problem. She told all of Australia that. It was her open and transparent way of communicating with Australia again, just as she had not communicated with the East Timorese government. That is where the problem was—nothing had been put in place. When that falls apart, along comes the Malaysian solution—something that we will never accept because the Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, said on Perth radio that this government she leads would not send asylum seekers to countries that are not signatories of the 1957 Refugee Convention. And where did she want to send them? To a country that is not a signatory to that convention. It is simply another false statement. Of course, the High Court put an end to that. To think that you would send 800 asylum seekers in Australia to Malaysia and take 4,000 from Malaysia, when we cannot guarantee their health or the education for their youngsters and we cannot look after them properly. What is the government doing? It is a sad day when we find ourselves facing the loss of life with disasters happening far too frequently.

What is wrong with the solution that the coalition government had? I was not in this place then, but in 2001 the coalition government had the problem—it was looking them in the face—and they found a solution and brought it to a stop. Members of the government have sadly created the problem again, because they changed the rules and sent a clear message that we are an easy touch. The end result is the loss of life. This is the transparency, the accountability and the stability that the Prime Minister talked about after the election with the Independents, including my federal member, Mr Tony Windsor, in the seat of New England, who went with this government for stability, accountability and longevity. There would be millions of Australians who would be saying, 'We wish we didn't have the longevity now—just bring on an election and let the people of Australia have a say in who runs this country.' The problem this government has is that the Australian people do not trust this government. They do not trust them on their promise that the carbon tax, which will hit small business starting this Sunday. This Saturday we celebrate Australian small business, the biggest employer. I have worked in that sector all my life, either farming or small business, either driving trucks or a small business on the land. We love small business, but small business do not trust this government. They did not want that tax. They do not trust this government for the way it borrows money—last Friday the gross debt was $233.45 billion.

They do not trust the way the government borrows the money or how they waste the money. We have seen the programs, such as the Building the Education Revolution. You hand all that money to New South Wales, the proud state I come from, but its Labor government employed Reed Constructions to do all the programs in the New England area and the North Coast. Just this week we find a builder at Moree owed $640,000 by Reed Constructions, which was hand picked by the Labor government and is in administration. They have done their dough—$640,000 to a builder in Moree, not to mention the $80-odd thousand to the little builder in Warialda. These people will not see their money now. This is the way the government handles money—you are so irresponsible with taxpayers' money or the money you borrowed and the debt you are building. That is why the people do not trust you, especially in regional Australia, with your carbon tax. It is going to hurt the regions more than anywhere else, where electricity prices are already higher and where they are already facing tough times with the high dollar and higher cost of living. The people do not trust you. They have every reason not to trust the government, because of what it has done to our nation with debt, with border protection, with waste of money, with broken promises, with new tax after new tax to fill your big hole of debt.