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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4705

Senator FURNER (Queensland) (16:41): I rise to contribute to this debate today and, like always, it is another vexatious and frivolous motion put forward by those opposite, looking at a host of things that the government has been dealing with. This Sunday will mark the first anniversary where Australians can be proud that they are part of a clean energy future. They can be proud that this government is serious about tackling action on climate change. They can be proud that this government believes now is the right time to take action to ensure we leave behind the same environment that we enjoyed for future generations and for generations to come—generations like my first grandchild, who was born on the Queen's birthday this year. I want to leave something to that generation. That is what the opposition have failed to do: look to the future.

They will also find on 1 July that the world is not going to end and that householders will not be stuck with a huge bill for emissions, as those opposite have been spruiking. The first of July will also signal the first day of an Australian government driving cleaner investment technologies, a government which will push clean alternatives like solar, gas and wind. We must emphasise that households will not be paying for carbon emissions, only those high-emitting businesses will be directly affected by this scheme. The more they pollute, the more they will pay. This will push these companies, many of which will receive transitional assistance, to move to cleaner technologies.

On this side of the chamber, we are not the only ones who believe action on climate change is imperative. Many of those opposite spruiked their support for an emissions trading scheme, but are now speaking against it because they are disingenuous when it comes to tackling climate change and when it comes to this government progressively moving to a cleaner economy. For example, the member for Fadden, Stuart Robert, in August 2009 said in part:

We believe that we need to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. We are committed to an ETS, informed by the Copenhagen meetings at the end of 2009, with a start date no earlier than 2012 ...

Also in 2009, Senator Brandis expressed his support for an ETS. He said:

The Coalition's policy, as has been expressed this week in clear terms by Malcolm Turnbull—

remember Malcolm Turnbull? He was knifed in the back by Mr Tony Abbott and the rest of them. Senator Brandis continued:

by Andrew Robb, by Greg Hunt, is support for an emissions trading scheme. In fact, it was Malcolm Turnbull as Minister for the Environment in the last year of the Howard Government who initiated legislation for an emissions trading scheme. So there is no doubt or ambiguity about the Coalition's position on this matter whatsoever.

They are your words, Senator Brandis. In 2009 another senator, Senator Eggleston, suggested that taxing carbon was the way to go. He said:

One way of avoiding the volatility of an emissions trading scheme would be to have a carbon tax. A carbon tax provides a very steady and known price for carbon, if you like, which is only varied by varying the tax. That tax can be set at a level that allows renewable energy systems to be competitive.

One of my duty seats is the electorate of Brisbane. I am really appalled that the Brisbane City Council's lord mayor, Graham Quirk, has blamed his hike in rates on a program that has yet to be implemented. It is going to be implemented this Sunday, yet he has already anticipated a rise in rates. Our assistance of $10.10 per week to households will compensate for this and it is no excuse to gouge ratepayers. Mr Quirk has added 0.7 per cent to rates, as he believes that pricing carbon will increase CPI by 0.7 per cent. This is unjustified, as CPI is a measure of inflation, not a measure of carbon pricing. Mr Quirk has also said Brisbane City Council will have to spend $1.3 million on carbon price administration and reporting. Once again, this is a fallacy. Brisbane City Council has already been reporting its greenhouse gas emissions for years under a national reporting system.

This is another scare campaign by the Liberal National Party. Just like Freddie Kruger in Nightmare on Elm Street, or Chucky in the Child's Play horror movies, you have the Mad Monk, Mr Tony Abbott, running around scaring everyone. Today it was reported in question time that he has even been scaring puppies and kittens here in Canberra with the lies they peddle in the scare campaign about the effects of the government's carbon emissions and renewable energy program.

On 1 July we will also see a new system of tax, with the tax-free threshold increasing from $6,000 to $18,200. One million Australians will no longer need to lodge a tax return, which will reduce the stress at tax time and also leave extra cash in the hands of our hardworking Australians.

Moving to the mineral resources tax, we will see the superannuation guarantee increase progressively until it reaches 12 per cent in 2019-20. I know those opposite opposed the superannuation guarantee legislation put in place when we were in government. We moved to allow workers to have something in retirement after their hardworking years in working life. So we are sharing the wealth of the mining boom, and that is exactly what we should be doing. We only have one opportunity to dig up our resources and this means we only have one opportunity to share the profits with Australians, and we will share it with all Australians.

I will move to the matter on everyone's lips today, particularly with the disastrous capsizing of a boat off Christmas Island, where approximately 130 people who were on board went into the water. Unfortunately, that is more and more becoming a reality and we need to deal with this issue. Fortunately, we have many brave men and women in the Australian Defence Force involved in the rescue and also men and women involved in the Customs department dealing with the rescue professionally and in a competent manner, picking those people up out of the water. For a long time now we have been willing to sit down with those opposite to negotiate a process to alleviate the threat, deal with the issue of border protection and combat the insidious trafficking by people smugglers who originate in Asia.

When it comes to how we deal with this, the Labor government is the only party that is willing to confront this issue and deal with offshore processing. I know those opposite indicate that they are willing to have some form of offshore processing, but when it comes to the point they are belligerent. Their bloody-mindedness in not being willing to sit down, negotiate and resolve it is stark. They are not even game to come to the table. They make these superficial claims and disingenuous offers to sit down and negotiate, but we cannot bring about a solution unless they are prepared to negotiate in good faith.

Included in our proposal to the opposition is the possibility of looking at Nauru and a review of temporary protection visas, which are coalition policies, as you would be aware, Acting Deputy President Crossin. This is an offer that has been continuously rejected by those opposite. We can only assume those opposite see more political benefit in continued boat arrivals than in pursuing their stated policies. They cannot deny that the High Court decision last year made all offshore processing illegal, including in Nauru.

We saw an attempt today by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Repre­sentatives to put forward a bill. They were inferring that they wanted to resolve this issue and referred to countries that were signatories to the UNHCR refugee provis­ions. One of those countries is Somalia. Can you imagine sending refugees to the likes of Somalia? They would not even get to the coastline if they were trying to arrive on those shores with the pirates that surround the country. This shows the disingen­uousness of those opposite in coming up with a solution to get this matter resolved. The only resolution is to sit down with the government of the day and resolve this matter, as we did when we were in opposition. However, we will not get a solution to this matter while you continue to play politics, as you always do, and continue down the road of disingenuousness. You allow yourselves to be continuously belligerent and bloody-minded so we cannot get a resolution to this insidious issue that confronts all of us in this country at this time.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Crossin ): Order! The time for this discussion has expired.