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Thursday, 3 November 2011
Page: 8205

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (16:55): Obviously I will have a number of questions. I think if there is one thing you can say about me, Minister, it is that I have not supported this from the start.

Senator Wong: You have been consistent.

Senator JOYCE: I have been consistently—

Senator Wong: I have no quotes for you saying, 'I'm going to support a carbon price'.

Senator JOYCE: You will have none from me. What I can say is that this is a very sad time for our nation; it really is. It is something that has frustrated so many people out there. They feel that they are disconnected from this parliament. They feel the parliament has gone off on its own form of frolic. There is a belief, I think, in the Labor Party that somehow people will forget about this. They will not.

We will start with a couple of fallacies. No. 1, it is of course not going to do anything to the climate. It is a question you have said I have asked you 600 times and, Minister, you have never answered me once: by how much is it going to change the temperature of the globe? It is not. That is the primary fallacy and, once they recognise it, people say, 'Then why are we participating in it?'

The other one is that you believe carbon is currently free; that apparently people are getting their power, their fuel, for free. They do not. The reality is that there are people out there—and they might be a long way from this chamber and out of sight—who cannot afford it as it is. That is the issue and the crux of why this thing is so selfish and so self-indulgent. There are people for whom one of the greatest issues in life is to try to pay the power bill. Where I grew up, in the New England, there are people—and you will laugh, you will giggle, and that absolutely antagonises them—

Senator Wong: A point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman: none of us were laughing and none of us were giggling, so please do not say that—as a matter of courtesy, Senator Joyce.

Senator JOYCE: who stay in bed, especially when they are older and pensioners, not because they are infirm but because they are cold, and this is the most bizarre thing that we could ever be doing to them. Looking after people is the crux of what a good government does. We should be making their power cheaper, not dearer. We should be making their food more affordable, not less affordable. That is why there is this mounting frustration. You see decent people trying to do the decent thing. You go to a humble house—it might be a weatherboard in Ingham—where they prune their roses, they sweep their front veranda, they try to be decent citizens and they ask of us just one thing: for an environment to be created for them where the fundamentals of life are affordable. When we intrude on that for no real constructive purpose—there is no purpose to this—except to throw gold coins at the new Praetorian Guard of the Labor Party, the Greens, then people become furious. The only way that they will be able to quell their fury is at an election, and they are not going to forget. They cannot. It is an absurdity for our nation to be going down this path. To develop the metaphor, the whole reason that any organisation starts to fall apart is that an extenuated group starts to have excessive power in their deliberations. For you, that is the Greens. You have been driven into this corner by the Greens. You are deserting your core constituency. The other issue, of course, is the frolic. In any economy, at any time in history, one of the things that brings about a sense of economic disconnect is when you lose a sense of the fundamentals of economics. We are bringing into the economy something that is obviously a pricing mechanism. By your own words, it is a pricing mechanism. Therefore it works by putting the prices of things up so that people cannot afford them. The people who cannot afford them will not be the upper middle class or the wealthy; the people who cannot afford them will be the poor, the working class, the pensioners, the people in the regional towns. Why are you doing this to them? What is the purpose of this madness? You say: 'We must make a stand. We've got to do our bit.' What a load of rubbish! Do you think for one moment that we are not already doing our bit? There has been a quantitative increase in the efficiency of everything from internal combustion engines to coal fired power plants to everything we do—and we have done it without a carbon tax. We have done it because people, by their nature, have a form of ingenuity which allows them to become more effective.

When you think of the essence of this, who will be the greatest beneficiary of this? At the end of the day, I believe it will be the banking sector, from the commissions they make in trading paper permits around a marketplace. Were they doing it that tough that we needed to help them? Is that what this was about? Of course, they will lobby you. This is a frustrating day, a sad day. We know what we are going to do. We will fight this battle right to the end, because it is incumbent upon us as decent people to do it. We know that in the end we will lose, not because we have lost the argument, not because we got lower numbers than you in the election, not because you made a warrant at the election and you are sticking by your warrant; we will lose this because of the peculiarities of the Greens and the Labor Party and, in the other place, a couple of Independents who basically sold their souls and are now paying the price in their own polling.

This legislation is something that I think Franz Kafka would find a delight. I just want to go to one classic section. In part 8, division 2, we see:

On 1 September in the eligible financial year beginning on 1 July 2014, the Regulator must issue a number of free carbon units equal to the number worked out using the following formula:

Annual assistance factor



specified in the certificate

x 83,410,000

- A - B

Total annual assistance factors



For that eligible financial year




   …   …   …

A means the total number of free carbon units issued in accordance with this Part before 1 September 2014 in respect of the generation complex.

B means the Regulator’s reasonable estimate—

'Reasonable estimate'! In accountancy, we are always fascinated when people have this wondrous equation and everything is so perfect, until we get to the part where we have got to have a 'reasonable estimate'. When in doubt, just pluck a figure out of the air or out of some orifice! It goes on:

B means the Regulator’s reasonable estimate of the number of free carbon units with a vintage year beginning on 1 July 2013 that were not issued in accordance with this Part in respect of the generation complex because of:

(a)   section 169 (power system reliability); or

(b)   section 177 (Clean Energy Investment Plan); or

(c)   section 181 (closure contracts).

And on it goes—clear as mud! How many days have we got to go through this rubbish? We have got until Tuesday next week to go through this rubbish. This is you running the country. The same people who had the planes grounded when we came down here, the same people who could not get fluffy stuff into the ceilings without setting fire to 194 houses, the same people who have got us $215 billion in gross debt, the same people who were responsible for Building the Education Revolution, the same people who shut down the live cattle trade, are the people who are going to cool the planet. When you get back, Senator Wong, I want you to tell me what your 'reasonable estimate' is, since you have so clearly been following my question! I want to know what it is. I want people out there to realise that you have heard the question. Of course, we are not going to get an answer—because this is not about getting answers.

There is a time when every country gets to a point of frolic where they start to lose control, where the Praetorian Guard starts to take over from the emperor and run the show, where the finances of the empire start to be invested in frolics and extravagances and we lose sight of the fundamentals. In a world where, as we speak, there are so many incredible uncertainties out there, the only thing a good government, a prudent government, would do would be to look across the horizon, to look across the waters that bound our nation, and say: 'The world is getting very tenuous. A smart, prudent government would start to do whatever we can to get our people into a strong economic position that takes into account the realities of where we are.'

One of the greatest ways to sequestrate carbon is to pray for rain. When it rains, the grass and the trees grow and carbon is sequestrated. One of the greatest ways to reduce human induced carbon emissions is to take a nation into recession or depression. Then you have an immense carbon reduction. There is no doubt about that. If that is what you want, you can lose sight of the economic fundamentals, you can take your nation over the precipice, you can be so naive as to say, 'It's all right; it's happening everywhere else but it won't happen to us.' Then we will have carbon reductions. We will have massive carbon reductions, because our debt will get to a point where, like everywhere else, people will start to question whether they want to lend us money.

Senator Wong, you are the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. You are the one who oversees our $215 billion in gross debt. You are the one who last week borrowed $1.7 billion extra. The week before that, you borrowed $2.4 billion. The week before that, you borrowed $2.1 billion. The week before that, you borrowed $2 billion. The week before that, you did not borrow any and, the week before that, you borrowed $3.5 billion, which you do not seem to care about anymore. It seems to be not an issue. You have this blase statement that it is small compared with somebody else. It is like saying the melanoma on your arm is smaller than the one on mine and therefore you do not have a problem. I never quite worked out how that theory works.

This will show the virtue of your competency in this area. In part A, division 2, in the discussion about what the regulators reasonable estimate is, can you now please give a definitive explanation of how the regulator comes to that reasonable estimate? What exactly is it, how does it work into the equation nominated in part 3, what is the purpose of that and what drove that decision?