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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 4077

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:22): I wish to make a brief contribution to this debate on the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 and allied bills as well. It is somewhat awing me to follow such an erudite and forensic look at the legislation as was done by my colleague. I agree, to the extent of my limited understanding, with my colleague Senator Nash's very detailed look at the bill in pointing out the flaws in it. Basically, the problem for the coalition is this: we support carbon farming in principle, and have done so for a long time, but the detail is not there. There is simply not sufficient detail in this bill that would give the coalition the confidence to support it.

The Australian Labor Party again is saying, 'Trust us and everything will be all right.' Unfortunately, the people of Australia have trusted the Australian Labor Party too often and they have learnt through sad experience that you cannot trust the Australian Labor Party government with money. It is incompetent. It has no understanding. It does not realise that spending the taxpayers' money is, or should be, like spending your own money. When people in private enterprise, families and households spend money they look carefully at it, because they know if they waste it they will have to do without in the future. But the Australian Labor Party is renowned for spending other people's money without any care in the world for good spending or worthwhile spending. We have only to look at the record of this Gillard-Rudd govern­ment to understand how it simply cannot be trusted with money.

Do I have to mention the Home Insulation Program—the pink batts? The Australian Labor Party spent literally billions of dollars installing these batts because it seemed like a good idea at the time—it would get them a few votes. They came in with a brush to put in all these batts. They wanted them in yesterday, spent billions of dollars on the program and then spent almost as much of the taxpayers' money to dismantle it, to take these pink batts out again. Was it the Australian Labor Party, was it the ministers or was it the union hacks in this government who are used to spending other people's money who had to pay for the misapprop­riation of taxpayers' money? No, it was the poor old taxpayer who had to pay.

If the ministers in this government had to pay for their own failures, perhaps they would be a bit more careful with the money. You can be assured that as long as the Australian Labor Party is in government it is not going to be concerned about spending other people's money. Do I need to mention the Green Loans program or the school halls program? They spent billions of dollars of taxpayers' money on school halls in schools that are now being shut down. If it were my money going into it, I would have made sure that the schools had a long future. We heard the other day that in Tasmania half-a-dozen schools will be closed down after the Labor Party spent billions of dollars of taxpayers' money constructing new facilities in them. The schools are in the process of being shut down. The list goes on—look wherever you like.

You know that the Australian Labor Party simply cannot be trusted when it comes to spending money. They say, hand on heart, 'Look, we appreciate this bill does not have all of the detail in it, but we're going to introduce some regulations.' For those listening to this debate, regulations are laws that are written as subsidiary legislation. They are not actually brought before the parliament. They are done by ministers and public servants. They put the detail into the broad act that the government is asking us to support here in this chamber today.

If you have a look at the report into this bill by the Senate Environment and Com­munications Legislation Committee and look particularly at the dissenting report tabled by Senator Colbeck on behalf of the coalition, you will see that the detail is not there. The government says: 'Don't worry about that. Trust us, we'll make sure it's okay. Hand on heart, hand on Bible'—perhaps not the Bible, as I am not sure that the Prime Minister believes in the Bible—'trust us, we will make sure the regulations do what we have promised they will do.' How could anyone in Australia possibly trust the word of our Prime Minister? Our Prime Minister says, 'Trust me, I will make sure the regulations do what they are supposed to do.' But this is from a Prime Minister who, a few days before the last federal election, when the Labor Party was looking at defeat in the face, got up on the soapbox and said to the Australian people, 'Trust me, there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' That was three or four days before the election. The day before the election, the same Prime Minister got up, looked the Australian public in the eye through the means of a television camera and said, 'You can trust me, there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' What do we know today, a few short months later? We have the same Prime Minister, with all the hoopla of an American circus, saying, 'Tune in on Sunday and I'm going to tell you about the carbon tax I'm going to impose on you, the carbon tax that I promised you all just before the last election would not be introduced by a government I lead.' So you can understand when, in relation to this bill, the same Prime Minister says, 'Yes, we know the bill is a bit deficient on detail but, trust us, we'll put the detail in with these regulations'—which will not come anywhere near the parliament into the future. This Prime Minister wants us to trust her to write these regulations in a way that will comply with what she has promised. Who in Australia would believe this Prime Minister when she makes those sorts of promises? I hear silence from the other side. I ask the question again: who in Australia would believe this Prime Minister when she promises anything? Is there anyone in this chamber who would believe the Prime Minister?

Senator McEwen: Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Oh, there is a yes! I think I heard one yes, out of a chamber of 76 senators. I hear one voice saying she would trust the Prime Minister. I ask that same voice: did you trust the Prime Minister when she said the day before the last election, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'? I am sure you did believe the Prime Minister when she said that. I can tell you that tens of thousands of Australians voted for Ms Gillard as Prime Minister because they accepted her at her word; they accepted it when, hand on heart, she said, 'There shall be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' They voted for her because they trusted her. They thought that surely a Prime Minister could not tell lies like that; surely a Prime Minister could not be so barefaced as to look the Australian public in the eye through the lens of a TV camera and make a promise that she had no intention of keeping.

But that was only a few short months ago and here we are today with all the hoopla in the world. By the way, whose money is paying to advertise this hoopla? Is the Australian Labor Party's money paying for the advertisements and the build-up to the big announcement on Sunday of the carbon tax that the Prime Minister promised us she would not be introducing? Is the money of the Australian Labor Party paying for this outrageous political advertising campaign? Of course not. Who is paying? The taxpayers of Australia. It is being paid for by people who might be listening to this debate as they drive home from a hard day's work. They are working hard to feed their families, to get ahead, to put a little bit aside for a rainy day and to pay their taxes. Do those people expect that their taxes, which they have been earning today as they have slaved at work, will be used for political advertising by the Australian Labor Party for a tax that they promised they would not introduce? I say to people who might be listening to this debate as they drive home from work: can you ever trust anything that this Prime Minister ever says again?

Yet here we are with this Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill, with none of the detail in it, and we have the Prime Minister saying: 'We've told you what we really want this bill to be. We're a bit deficient on the details but, trust me, the regulations we'll put in place will cover everything you want covered.' Senator Conroy is the senior Australian Labor Party person in the chamber at the moment. Senator Conroy, why should we trust your Prime Minister when she says, 'Don't worry, the regulations will give all the detail that you want'? We did believe her once. We did believe her when she said, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.'

Senator Conroy: She did not promise to vote for Peter Reith and then rat and vote for Alan Stockdale!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Conroy, you are obviously still tied up in Victorian union politics with the Transport Workers Union, of which you are a leading light. Actually, let me come back to that—due to Senator Conroy's interjection, I will digress. Senator Conroy is a leading light in the Transport Workers Union. I understand from his good colleague Senator Sterle, also from the Transport Workers Union—

Senator Conroy: A good man. A very good man.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: A very good man! He said, 'I won't be dictated to by the loopy Greens'—with whom his party is in coalition to hold the government of this nation at the present time—

Senator Conroy: You are in coalition with the Queensland Nationals.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are in coalition with the 'loopy Greens'. Some of your colleagues have the guts, the intestinal fortitude, to actually tell the world that the Greens—the people with whom you are in coalition in government; the people you relied upon to make sure you hold your very favoured position as a minister in this government, Senator Conroy—are loopy. Senator Sterle actually said something stronger than that, which I will not repeat. He also is from the Transport Workers Union.

Senator Conroy: A very good man.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: He is a very good man when it comes to these issues, Senator Conroy. It is a pity you and your cabinet colleagues did not take some notice of him. We heard yesterday, from the drip-feed of good ideas—the issues coming out that might in some way try to divert the anger of the Australian public against the public tax—'Hang on, ordinary motorists as you drive home, we are not going to put a tax on your petrol.' But we did not hear this about the transport industry, as Senator Sterle pointed out. I am surprised, Senator Conroy, that you, with your Transport Workers Union background, have not come out fighting for the long-distance transport industry.

Some of us live in rural and regional Australia. I live some two or three thousand kilometres away from Canberra. When our petrol is taken up to the regional areas by tanker it costs money for transport. If those big tankers are going to be subject to the carbon tax, then it is going to add to our cost of living. I understand—there have been reliable estimates—that our cost of living will go up by something of a minimum of $1,000 every year. In fact, we read in the papers just last week that the saleroom price of the Holden Commodore or the Ford Falcon is going to go up $1,000 because of Ms Gillard's carbon tax—that is, the carbon tax she promised, one day before the last election, that she would never introduce in any government she led.

How can we possibly believe the Prime Minister when she says: 'Vote for the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011. I know it hasn't got detail, but trust me, I'm going to put in that detail.' The polls are showing that 60 per cent of Australians—I venture to say that that is a minimum, a very small figure—are prepared to say they do not believe the Prime Minister. Very few Australians will ever believe the Prime Minister when she says anything. I know half the Labor Party do not believe the Prime Minister! You might remember that a couple of days before she knifed former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the back she was saying—what was it?—'I've got more chance of playing full forward' for that funny sport which I do not understand. She said, 'I've got more chance of playing full forward for the Bulldogs'—was that it?—than becoming Prime Minister of Australia.'

This person, our Prime Minister, has form. She promised Kevin Rudd, two days before she 'assassinated'—his word, not mine—him, 'I could fly to the moon before I would become Prime Minister.' Two days later, what happened? There was the midnight meeting around there, the acrimony, a done-over vote the next day and, lo and behold, there she was. She promised she would not be Prime Minister, but she stabbed poor old Kevin, the member for Griffith, right in the back and assassinated him as Prime Minister of our country.

So, as I said, she has got form. 'Kevin, I'm not going to take over your job as Prime Minister.' But immediately she said that, there she was. To the Australian people she says, 'I promise there will be no carbon tax by a government I lead,' but this Sunday we will all be waiting with bated breath to see just what this new tax from the Australian Labor Party is going to cost each and every one of us.

I fear for rural and regional Australia. I fear for those people who, like me, Senator Nash and Senator Adams, live remote from the capital cities and the areas of production and distribution of goods. It is going to cost us a lot more. Perhaps most importantly, I fear for the jobs of workers where I come from in Central North Queensland. I would have hoped that the Australian Labor Party, with their claims that they look after the working person, would have done something to help those people whose jobs, futures, family homes and kids' education depend on their having a job.

But with this carbon tax—and add on to that the mining tax that we are yet to experience—these people are in for a really uncertain future. That distresses me. I am very concerned for their future. I am very concerned for the future of our nation because this government continues to tax and tax and, more importantly, simply cannot be trusted to keep its word.

It is for this reason that I and the rest of the coalition, while agreeing with the principle of this bill, cannot support the bill while so many parts of it and so much detail remain unwritten.