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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 814


Senator CORMANN (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Can the minister confirm that the carbon tax proposal was not taken to either the cabinet or the Labor Party caucus before it was announced as official government policy by the Prime Minister and others last Thursday?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —While it is obviously the policy of governments not to discuss what occurs in cabinet, I can confirm for the senator that, in accordance with normal government processes, the government’s position was determined by cabinet.


Senator CORMANN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Since the official Labor Party caucus was obviously sidelined, given that the minister has not confirmed that the party room was consulted, is it that Senator Bob Brown and Senator Christine Milne are now part of the de facto Labor Party cabinet?


The PRESIDENT —The Minister need only respond to that part of the question which might refer to his portfolio responsibilities or those of the minister he is representing.


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —I can confirm that, as I indicated in the primary answer to Senator Cormann, decisions in relation to the Gillard Labor government’s position are determined in accordance with normal government processes, and that includes cabinet processes. I do not intend to take the senator through those decision-making processes in detail other than to say he is wrong in his assertion. This illustrates the fact that the opposition have nothing to say about policy. They want to discuss the government’s processes and the role of the Greens—petty political point-scoring—but have nothing to say about the big issue of the challenge of climate change. They have nothing to say about it at all. This government is committed to working with those of goodwill and an interest in public policy in this parliament to get a good result for Australia. That is what we are seeking to do. (Time expired)


Senator CORMANN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question.  I assume the minister is telling the Senate that he is unaware of Labor members and senators around parliament complaining about having been excluded from the carbon tax decision. I ask the minister: given this broken ‘no carbon tax’ promise will now push up the cost of living for all Australians, can the minister explain why the Prime Minister is hurting working families just to make the Greens happy?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —This again confirms that the opposition are bereft of ideas and bereft of any contribution to public policy. They are concentrated on their own internal divisions trying to prop up Mr Abbott’s leadership, under attack from the moderates on issues as broad as multiculturalism, immigration, foreign aid and now climate change. This government actually thinks climate change is a problem that needs to be tackled. We have consistently argued that we need a constructive response to the challenge of climate change and pollution in our environment. We have sought in successive parliaments to get a solution that allows us to bring in a price on carbon and allows us to tackle this great challenge. I would expect that the opposition actually try to engage in that real public policy challenge. Unfortunately, they refuse to. They look inward and are only interested in opposing. I think that other members of the parliament will obviously have to take the lead. (Time expired)