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Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Page: 8610


Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (21:39): I congratulate Senator Bushby on his speech on the Steel Transformation Plan Bill, and I also congratulate him on his contribution to Movember. The money he will be raising is for a very good cause.

I just say that the political fix is in, with this bill. I will not go over the other comments that my colleagues have made tonight, but they have put a very strong case that this bill is just about shoring up three or four Labor seats which should not need shoring up. Because of this diabolical and toxic carbon tax, those opposite are required to put in $300 million of taxpayer funds to sort out three or four Labor seats.

I find it absolutely intriguing that on 10 October this year Minister Combet, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, admitted that the establishment of the Steel Transformation Plan had been driven purely by the carbon tax. He said, 'The negotiation of the Steel Transformation Plan did come out of the discussions we have had with the steel companies for months now over the carbon price issue.' But what did we hear from the apologists for the Labor Party tonight? Senator Milne, the power sharer—the new powerbroker in the ALP—was pleading the case tonight that it was unrelated. Well, I am sorry, Senator Milne, Minister Combet said that it was. Why would you come in here and say it was unrelated when Minister Combet has said that the plan was directly related to carbon pricing? I will tell you why: you have taken this power sharing to heart. In fact, you have been upfront about the power sharing.

All we heard from the Australian Labor Party this afternoon, after your speeches, was that this carbon tax was their idea. They were trying to get some ownership of this toxic tax. They have been dragged kicking and screaming into this. If you speak privately to many on the other side you will find out that they know this is a dirty deal for the Australian community. They will tell you in private—I will never betray confidences—that this is a deal done with the Greens that will spell the demise of the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

Senator RONALDSON: You should be able to see that, Parliamentary Secretary. You of all people, with your philosophical background in the Australian Labor Party, should know that you have been completely and utterly seduced by the philosophical Left. The philosophical Left have got you, and they have got the rest of the Labor Right, and they have dragged you, kicking and screaming, into a deal that will destroy you.

I can tell the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Rela¬≠tions—through you, Acting Deputy President Crossin—that I would fight and kick to protect the Australian Labor Party before I would do anything to protect the Australian Greens. The Australian Greens are hell-bent on destroying what we stand for—both socially and economically. The desire of the Australian Greens is to have a world political party that will completely change the way this country operates—and any other country they happen to get control of.

This is a very, very bad day for the Australian people. It is an equally bad day for that once-proud Australian Labor Party. And this is not power sharing at all. This is a deal that will destroy the Labor Party. If the members of the Labor Party cannot see what has been done then I think that is even sadder.

Senator Cash and others have referred to the share price of these two companies—the only two companies that will share the $300 million. As Senator Cash quite rightly said, on today's valuation BlueScope is at 73c and OneSteel is at 94c. Do you think the shareholders in those two companies are celebrating this deal today? What did the market do today? It voted with its feet in relation to this deal and said that $300 million would not in any way compensate for the enormous damage that has been done to our companies. The market said it is a bad deal. The market always speaks the truth and it shows 94c versus $2.86 and 73c versus $2.30. The market never lies. The market knows today that these two companies will be utterly devastated by the carbon tax and the market knows full well that $300 million will not compensate for that loss. If it did, I can tell you now that the share price would be back at $2.86 and at $2.20, and the fact that it is not means the market has factored in the damage of this toxic carbon tax and factored in the fact that this is a bum deal. It is a bum deal for the companies concerned, it is a bum deal for the shareholders concerned and it is a bum deal for the Australian people.

What galls me most is that this deal was done on the back of a lie. And if there is one person in this country who should be trusted during an election campaign, surely that one person has to be the Prime Minister of this country. The one person who gives a solemn vow to the Australian people and should be believed is the Prime Minister of this country. The second person who should be believed in this country is the Treasurer. Both of them went to the Australian people and promised with their hands on their hearts that there would not be a carbon tax—'There will not be a carbon tax under a government I lead.' Wayne Swan: 'We're not going to respond to this hysterical proposition that we'll introduce a carbon tax.' Well, we know what happened.

How members on the other side can go back to their electorates and say to them that they have got a deal out of this beggars belief. Indeed, on the other side of this chamber there are people who were elected on the back of a lie. I have no reason to believe that they knew that the lie was being told at the time. I acknowledge that. But I also seek acknowledgement that the only way that this matter can be clarified is for the Australian people to have the opportunity to vote on it. That is what we have been demanding for the last 12 months: to go back to the Australian people and say to them, 'You have a choice about this carbon tax.'

The bottom line is that if we lost the election that would be an imprimatur for the carbon tax. But if we won the election it would be an imprimatur for us to get rid of it, to take this toxic tax away. What I have not heard is the Australian Labor Party acknowledging that, if we win the election on the back of a referendum on the carbon tax, they are obligated to vote with us to vote this tax down. I do not know why there is not one person from the Labor Party that is prepared to stand up and say that that is what will happen.

Senator Bushby: Where was Conroy?

Senator RONALDSON: Of course, the deputy leader was not here, and he says it is a conspiracy theory. I do not think it is a conspiracy theory from what I hear coming out of the cabinet at this stage—talk about a leaky boat. Senator Conroy was not here for a good reason, and you can look around and see the looks on the faces of those who know this is wrong. You can see them saying to themselves: 'I wish I was anyway else but here. I wish I could swap places with the deputy leader, Senator Conroy, who was not here.'

I will finish on this note. There is a unique opportunity for the Labor Party to finally lock it in now, so we can spend the next two years not debating this fact but going through on the back of reality—one member of the Australian Labor Party could stand up and say, 'If we go to the polls and we lose, we will vote with you to get rid of this toxic tax.' It is your call. It is your obligation, and we demand you do so—as do the Australian people.