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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 7727


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (12:33): I am not here to talk about the science of man-made global warming or to announce support for the so-called consensus which is supposed to exist for this destructive tax. Over my lifetime, I have heard numerous references to changes in climate that have caused floods, fires, droughts, cyclones, heavy frosts, hailstorms and whatever. We all know that these things have occurred, but they have also occurred throughout history. We only have to read Dorothea Mackellar and it is there—art reflects life. Some years ago we were told that we were going to be entering a new ice age. Now what we are experiencing is referred to as global warming or, for the non-committed, climate change. When I speak to people—working people, people in the suburbs or people in small country towns—they are terrified. There are some, I will admit, who are quite accepting of what is being put to the people. But I also speak to a lot of people who are not and those people are predominantly what I would call rusted on ALP voters.

Whether it is the carbon tax or direct action, both put an impost on the Australian people—the average people, working people, family people. The effect on business has been covered in the House within an inch of its life, but I do not hear much spoken about the effects on families and on elderly people. The people this tax is going to affect are pensioners—the people who cannot afford to pay their power bills, who cannot afford to heat or cool their homes. It will affect the people who are already struggling to pay their mortgages as things currently stand, who have to travel from the western suburbs of Melbourne to the far side of Melbourne and who cannot get a train at the right time of the day to commute to work. Most Australians would agree that we have to be smarter; that we have to be more innovative and find smarter ways to do things. Most businesses in this country and most people do look for ways to consume less and save a bob, because the less you consume the less it costs you.

Many years ago, the DLP was the first party to introduce a conservation policy into the Australian parliament. It was based on good stewardship of our natural resources. That policy involved practical solutions that did not impose a guilt or punishment tax that this carbon tax policy is based around. Since I first arrived here in the Senate in July, numerous lobby groups have come to my office to discuss a number of issues, but the one that I remember most is a group of five young girls who came into my office distraught at what was going to happen to the planet and they thought that, somehow or other, it was their fault. I assured them that the sun was going to come up tomorrow—and it did. I said that if they wanted to talk about practical things that we can do to help the environment I was all for it, but I was not there to attribute blame. The only way good policy will be implemented in this country is to take all Australians with it by winning their hearts and minds with facts and the truth. I believe this carbon tax in its present form will have untold repercussions for this country for decades to come. The people of this country deserve more than the poor standard of debate and schoolyard name calling we have seen over the past few months.

There is no doubt that had the ALP been able to form a majority government this bill would not be before the Senate this week in its current form. Make no mistake about it, this is a Greens inspired bill and ALP voters all over this country know it. If this bill passes, every ALP senator will have shown that staying in power is their number one principle and any other principles they may hold come a poor second as does their responsibility as elected representatives of the people. In his 'light on the hill' speech 62 years ago Ben Chifley warned about making someone Prime Minister or Premier at any cost. And, ultimately, the cost with this legislation as it stands will be to the people.

As I have said already, I will not speak on the science; it is dealt with elsewhere. I also do not intend to speak to the government on it. We have had visits over time about this issue. Lord Monckton was mentioned yesterday in debate. He visited my home town of Ballarat. We live in a free country where we believe we value and cherish free speech. But when Lord Monckton's visit was announced in Ballarat, people contacted St Patrick's College, the venue where his talk was to be held, to try to buy out the booking. People advised the college that it was not the best thing to do.

No matter whether or not I agree with somebody, I believe that everybody has a right to free speech. I encourage people to have their say, whether I agree with them or not. But, apparently, some people are not entitled to have their say. I have spoken to scientists in academia who have told me that unless they go with a preconceived outcome that suits an agenda they will not get funding. Their academic career is, let us say, held back. I believe we need good, open and honest debate. We need to win the hearts and the minds of people and present to them the truth.

I hear about the green jobs that are going to be created. I do not doubt that there will be some jobs, but will those green jobs equal the jobs that are lost? I see industries that have developed intellectual property and are at the cutting edge in green jobs. These are Australian companies but they do not seem able to get a fair cut of the cake. There seems to be a disposal towards some foreign owned companies, but not towards Australian companies.

People in the Tasmanian timber industry tell me that the majority of the timber areas are locked up or will be locked up. In Australia—and I have friends at home who are sawmillers—they believe in selective felling, not clear felling. But they no longer operate their sawmills. The people who worked in those sawmills are now told to learn how to become a bouncer. Well, there are only so many nightclub and pub jobs. To ask a man who has worked in the timber industry for 40 years to become a bouncer is not realistic. There is terrible clear felling of timber in some Asian countries, such as in our not-so-far-away neighbours Indonesia and New Guinea. A lot of the outdoor furniture we see in Bunnings is made from this timber. We can control and encourage selective felling on our shores, but we cannot do so in Asia. Yet we are happy to buy furniture from places where they denude the earth.

It is not enough for Labor to don the colours and wear the tie and then desert the principles of the labour movement. What is being considered here before us today cannot be justified by any of the principles held by former Labor governments. I do not believe Chifley or Curtin would have considered this legislation in its current form. I find it hard to believe that even Hawke and Keating would have allowed their policy to be determined by a non-Labor party. I know some of you may think that I delve too much into history, but those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Sixty-two years ago, Chifley gave us his prediction and here we stand today and it is coming to pass. The lessons of the split and the destructive forces that caused the split have not been heeded. The names may change, the costumes may change but human nature does not change.

We must look to the past to guide us in the present and into the future. It does not give me any joy at all to see the great ALP being reduced to a hollow shell of its former self. I believe this alliance is not one that many of them may have wanted and it possibly galls them that the present bills before this parliament have been forced upon them as a bargaining chip to keep them in power. In the early 1980s, Bob Hawke introduced the asset test on pensioners. It took considerable time to prepare, but when it was prepared he got an enormous backlash. I did not think I would ever say this, but all credit to Bob Hawke because he took it back to the drawing board after hearing the people's concerns.

Last week, I visited the Latrobe Valley—Moe, Morwell and Traralgon. People attended that meeting whose families were former nemeses of the DLP, but they came to listen, to talk and to express their concerns. People in the Latrobe Valley in the power industry took an enormous hit with the Kennett government's privatisation of the former State Electricity Commission—an organisation, I might add, that had a forward plan. They delivered economically, they delivered socially and they delivered environmentally. We are often told about dirty Hazelwood—yes, it does emit pollution, we all know that—but if we had the SEC, it would not be there today. The foundations exist in the Latrobe Valley adjacent to Loy Yang for the building of a new power station that has never been acted upon since that privatisation.

From speaking to people in the Latrobe Valley, the greatest industry in the Latrobe Valley now seems to be welfare. The St Vincent de Paul branch in Moe in the past three months distributed some $17,000 in food vouchers. We are told that nine out of 10 people are getting some $10 a week from them. These people are struggling now and they are having to get that welfare. There is also the amount of money that St Vincent's and other welfare organisations give out in help for utility bills. These people are suffering. These people are terrified.

Senator McLucas: Don't terrify them.

Senator MADIGAN: I am not terrifying them; they are telling me this. It is not my job to sell your policy. I cannot even get the answers when I sit in the Senate Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes. We were told that we cannot get a copy of the model. I have asked the question in the house: 'Did the government model the impact of this on regional Australia and places like the Latrobe Valley?' They said, 'No, there was no specific modelling done.'

These are the sorts of concerns that these people are raising. I hear you say that there are going to be new jobs. People ask me, 'Where are they?' I am told that there are people out there explaining these new policies and selling the tax to the community. But they have not been seen. The average people have not seen them. They are confused and they are scared. These are not my words; they are their words. They tell me about the people who committed suicide following the privatis­ation and the loss of their jobs. They tell me about the drug abuse. They tell me about the domestic violence. They tell me about the whole social re-engineering in the Latrobe Valley. I cannot dismiss their claims. There are many empty shops in the Latrobe Valley. Go down there and have a look at the sorts of shops there because they are all the $2 shops. The thing about those sorts of shops is that they do not help the environment. One well-made article is better than 10 poorly made articles. If you want to help the environment, we need industries that manufacture and produce good articles. You help the environ­ment, you help people and you help the economy that way.

Despite the supposed aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, we are told that emissions will increase. We have heavily subsidised wind farms and clean energy alternatives, and who knows if they are ever going to produce what is claimed. We have power companies that are now telling us that they are going to close down if they get enough money. I hope for everybody here, knowing how much power this place uses, that wind farms will produce the energy that is claimed. If these things shut down, what is going to replace them? Talking to former and current people in the power industry, they doubt these things—I do not know. What I do know is that they are people who live, work and produce the power that we all need. I believe this bill is a watershed for our community and our nation. I plead with people who have some integrity to please stop this bill now. Do not abandon it. If you feel it is something we truly need, work with it, get the figures right and open it to genuine, honest public debate and a forum which involves real people like the people in Moe, Morwell, Gippsland, Wendouree West, Doonside or wherever they may be. Be the leaders you were elected to be. The people of Australia did not elect a coalition government—neither a Liberal-National nor an ALP-Green government. On this and other issues, work with the Greens, not for them. Demonstrate that the ALP senators in this chamber are not only ALP members but members of the Australian Labor movement.