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Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Page: 8629


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (09:31): The Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011 represents the emergency surgery necessi¬≠tated by an act of gross violence—in this case, economic violence perpetrated by the Green-ALP alliance. Very simply, but for the carbon tax we would not be needing this compensation package. It is a compensation package which will go nowhere near undoing the damage that has actually been occasioned by the announcement of the carbon tax. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wiped off the share price. Some people might say, 'Why does that matter?' It matters because superannuation companies and other people have invested in those companies and, when their share value goes down, when their dividends go down, people in retirement, self-funded retirees and superannuants get a lower income. There are consequences for this sort of reckless activity.

Of course, the Steel Transformation Plan Bill is the last of the carbon tax package. The Labor Party deceptively sets it aside and suggests that it is unrelated, but of course the hapless Mr Combet was forced to admit, on 10 October 2011, that the so-called Steel Transformation Plan had been driven purely by the carbon tax when he said:

The negotiation of the Steel Transformation Plan did come out of the discussions we've had with the steel companies for months now over the carbon price issue.

So let's not have any more of this nonsense, this dissembling, this obfuscation, suggesting that this is about transforming the steel industry. The fact is that the steel industry was transformed before this bill was introduced. It was transformed in a negative way by the economic recklessness of this government. It was transformed by this government breaking a solemn election promise that there would be no carbon tax.

Indeed, I am reminded of a wonderful speech given by a fresh, new member of the House of Representatives. In her first speech she said—and let's guess who said this:

For far too long public debate in Australia has failed to nourish or inspire us.

She went on to say:

The end result of this political cycle is a weary people who no longer believe what politicians say and who think the politicians saying it do not ... believe it themselves.

Do you know who that was? None other than Ms Gillard herself in her very first speech. It seems that she has now morphed into that which she did not want to be. That begs another question: who is the real Julia? Is it the one who gave her first speech all that time ago? Is it the one who said 'no carbon tax' before the last election? Or is it the Ms Gillard who is now celebrating the passage of the carbon tax in direct breach of a solemn election promise? It is interesting, isn't it? Ms Gillard has morphed into that which she did not want to be.

The other thing about this steel transformation plan is that it was negotiated with two companies. How many other people and companies are involved in the steel industry in this nation? There are literally hundreds of small businesses involved in steel fabrication all over our country, many of them small family businesses. Will they receive a single cent of compensation? No, not a single cent. Why? This steel trans¬≠formation bill is another insight into the way this hapless Green-Labor alliance does business. It is all about big government, big business and big unions. It is like their mining tax where they say, 'That's all resolved. We've negotiated it.' Well, they have, with three big mining companies—the three biggest—and do you know who they left out? Only the 2,997 other mining companies in Australia, but they all happen to be small businesses. So the Green-Labor alliance does not care about them. Similarly, in this so-called steel compensation package, who are they concerned about? Big business.

Labor say they are concerned for small business and that they are about trying to get more small businesses. I fear that unfortunately they are succeeding, not by growing small businesses but by collapsing big businesses into small businesses. That is not the way forward for our economy. To try to claim somehow that collapsing big business into small business is a good thing is another unfortunate insight into the way this government does business and seeks to run the economy.

When there are thousands of small businesses intricately involved with the steel sector, to provide compensation to only the two biggest companies is to sell short all those workers in all those small businesses. But what is the real reason? Chances are the vast majority of the workers in those small family businesses are not in a trade union, so why would you bother looking after them? Non-unionised workforces are not a concern. But, if you have a big unionised workforce that helps bankroll the trade union movement that helps bankroll this government, then you will use taxpayers' funds to compensate them, and all the others can go jump. This is similar to the three big mining companies with the mining tax. That is what this is all about: bankrolling those that bankroll the unions that in turn bankroll the Labor Party. That is where you get this vicious cycle.

I call on the genuine trade unionists in this country to stand up for their workers and say that enough is enough. Where are the Paul Howeses of this world? I remember the very strong stance that he took, 'If the carbon tax costs one Australian job, we will be opposing it.' We know it has cost more than one Australian job just from Coogee Chemicals alone. It has cost 150 jobs in that one project. We know it is costing many jobs at Kurri Kurri aluminium. We know that lots of jobs have been lost out of the steel sector courtesy of the carbon tax. Where is the hapless Mr Howes? Desperately seeking preselection to get into the parliament. He will rat on his workers and rat on the trade union movement because he wants a seat in the federal parliament, like so many other great champions of the workforce—people like Senator Doug Cameron, who shrunk the AMWU under his leadership. One can understand why—

Senator McEwen: What has happened to the Liberal Party in Tasmania this week?

Senator ABETZ: I thank Senator McEwen for that wonderful interjection. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that the Liberal Party in Tasmania is growing. It is now the biggest party in Tasmania. It would win a state election in its own right. On the latest opinion polls it would win the seats of Braddon and Bass and chances are Lyons and Franklin and three Senate seats. Do you know why there has been this transformation, Senator McEwen? Because of your deceit to the electorate. The people of Tasmania know that every single Labor member and every single Labor senator was elected at the last election on the promise of no carbon tax. Members of the Labor Party have defied and betrayed the people who elected them. The people of Tasmania now trust that the Liberal Party has the integrity to stand by its election promises, unlike the Australian Labor Party.

That interjection from the hapless Government Whip highlights the difficulties that the Australian Labor Party are in. The coalition will continue to fight this carbon tax and its consequences all the way to the next election and, if the people of Australia give us the mandate, we will repeal it.