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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 7531


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:09): It is interesting to note that Labor Party speakers cannot even use their 20 minutes to try to justify this tax based on a lie. This clean energy package of bills is all about bad policy based on a lie. Never will the Labor Party forget that, before the last election, their leader, Ms Gillard, promised Australians hand on heart:

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

Her deputy leader confirmed that solemn promise to the Australian public but here we are in the Senate, just a little over a year later, debating the very tax that Ms Julia Gillard and her team—all of the speakers who have spoken so far this morning—promised would not be implemented. I might ask Senator Bilyk, while she is here, why she campaigned at the last election on a policy of no carbon tax, yet here she is today speaking in favour and voting in favour of the very tax she, along with her leader, promised not to introduce. I challenge every one of those senators sitting opposite me, in the Labor Party, to honour the solemn pledge each of them made to their constituency when promising never to introduce this tax.

This is a bad tax. It is a tax based on a lie. It will be opposed by the coalition and in government we will repeal it. The next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax and it seems likely that Labor Party candidates will be annihilated. Can Labor Party senators tell me here and now, today, whether the Labor Party in the Senate, or those few senators who will be left, will vote against the clearly expressed will of the Australian people? I challenge any of them to tell me, hand on heart, that they will oppose the will of the Australian people. But can you believe anything any member of the Australian Labor Party ever tells us, after the promise a year ago that there would be no carbon tax?

I am a senator for Queensland and this is a states house. The carbon tax is a toxic tax for Queenslanders. Queenslanders understand the impact this tax will have on jobs in Queensland and on the state government—which is already struggling because of its financial ineptitude, and it will be even worse off when this tax comes in and makes investment in mining industries, particularly coalmining, less attractive.

There are many arguments against this carbon tax. Senator Bilyk was telling us that climate change is real. Well hello, Senator Bilyk! I do not know who she is arguing with. Very few Australians do not acknowledge that the climate is changing. Indeed, the climate has been changing for millions of years and it will continue to change as it has done for millions of years. But has mankind impacted upon climate change? Quite frankly, I do not know. There are scientists who say it has but there are equally credible scientists who say it has not. I have referred on many occasions to a graph published by CSIRO which shows that 140,000 years ago our tidal levels were about where they are now. This graph shows that over 120,000 years the tides fell quite dramatically, until about 20,000 years ago when they were 140 metres below the current sea level. In the last 20,000 years, the sea level has increased back up to where it is today—and, I might say, where it was 140,000 years ago.

What caused that rapid increase from 20,000 years ago to today? Was it man's industrialisation of the world? Of course not. Time and time again, I have asked the climate change minister, and anyone who can proffer an opinion, to explain to me why that has happened. But of course no-one has an answer. Professor Flannery, the Labor Party's hand-picked head of the Climate Commission, is so worried about tidal increases that he has bought a property on the banks of the Hawkesbury River! I was warned at estimates the other day that I should not attack Professor Flannery because he is a significant Australian and he does not deserve to be attacked. Sorry, Professor Flannery, when you inject yourself into a partisan political debate under the guise of some sort of climate expertise then you are the same as the rest of us, and you subject yourself to the rigours of parliamentary debate. If Professor Flannery is so concerned about tidal increases, I would like to know why he chose to buy a property on the banks of the Hawkesbury River.

We have heard all the arguments from the Labor Party and the Greens about how this tax is necessary. Of course with Australia emitting less than 1.4 per cent of world emissions, anything we do, particularly cutting our emissions by five per cent, is not going to make one iota of difference to the world. But the Greens and the Labor Party think that, because we go to Durban and say to the rest of the world, 'Look at us, we've introduced the world's first economy-wide tax at a price that nobody else is charging,' that is going to make a difference, and that China, America, Canada and Japan are going to say, 'If Senator Brown is leading a delegation and he says that this is what Australia has done then we are going to follow suit.' How ridiculous and how arrogant of the Greens and the Labor Party to believe that that might be the case. As we know, Senator Brown wants to lead Ms Gillard around by the hand at Durban and indicate just what a great fellow he is and how he is running the country—how he is destroying the economy of our country.

We all know that Australia's emissions will actually go up from 578 million tonnes to 620 million tonnes between now and 2020, even with this great new tax on everything. Far from Australia leading the world, we know that the Canadian Prime Minister was here the other day and his foreign minister, very diplomatically but no less succinctly, said, 'In Canada and the United States there will never be an emissions trading scheme or this sort of carbon tax.' All that the Greens and the Labor Party are doing to Australia is making our industries uncompetitive. It is shipping jobs offshore, as we have already seen happening in the steel industry and in the cement industry. You can name any industry that involves manufacturing and power and you will see the jobs going offshore. Is that a worry to Senator Brown and the Greens? Of course not. They have made it their goal to destroy Australian industries and you can see that with Australia's forestry industry, one of the best managed forestry industries in the world—a sustainable industry creating jobs, employment and wealth for Tasmania and for Australia that the Greens have single-handedly destroyed. They have made us rely on wood imported from countries which do not have the environmental regulations that Australia has.

In this debate, Senator Brown quoted all sorts of very clever scientists, but what he did not say and what he chooses to ignore is that the Australian people have innate common sense. They understand that you cannot keep taxing Australian industry and expect the country to continue to prosper. When nothing we do will have any impact on the emissions of other countries, why are we doing this? You can only infer that the Greens are on their goal to destroy Australian industry and make this a welfare nation that can be easily controlled, because the government controls every aspect of welfare payments and therefore every aspect of community life. Senator Brown tells us that people are very concerned about this, yet he chooses to ignore opinion polls. We do not always agree with opinion polls, but we do understand the trends and the trends are that over the last 12 months even fewer Australians have any confidence that a carbon tax will make any difference to the changing climate of the world.

The Australian people are quickly waking up to all of the scaremongering from the Greens and their climate-change hooray gang in the background. I want to mention some of the myths that the Greens continue to put out and rely upon. They tell us that putting a price on carbon will result in lower carbon dioxide emissions. They conveniently forget that Norway, for example, has had an effective tax on carbon dioxide since the early 1990s and the result has been a 15 per cent increase in emissions. So if we put a tax on Australia's emissions, is that going to reduce emissions? If we follow the Norwegian example then it will mean that they will continue to increase. The Greens tell us that we have to catch up with the rest of the world who are already taxing carbon dioxide emissions. As we all know, they are not. Sure different countries put in some small proposals and support renewable energy, as we do in Australia and indeed as the Howard government did. We know that neither the United States nor Canada, for sure, or China or India are ever going to have a nationwide tax on carbon emissions which will exceed $23 a tonne, which is where the Australian tax starts. People should not miss the fact that the $23 a tonne is only the start. It will go up and up until Australia becomes an economic wasteland.

I have already mentioned the Greens mantra that Australia should show leadership by setting the example for other countries to follow. Self-delusion does not come any stronger than that. We had all of these arguments before Copenhagen, you might recall, when the former failed climate change minister kept telling us, along with Senator Bob Brown and Senator Milne, that Copenhagen would be the be-all and end-all, that Australia would be leading the push. Those of us who follow these things with even a cursory interest predicted that Copenhagen would go nowhere, and it went nowhere. It put the lie to the proposition that the Greens and their mates in the Labor Party continue to put that, because Australia does something, everyone else will follow suit.

I am not convinced that man's actions have increased emissions that destroy our climate. I never argue that. I remain to be convinced. What I do say is that Australia should not be doing this in advance of the rest of the world. If India, China, the United States, Canada or the Europeans genuinely had done something in this way, then sure Australia should follow along, but to lead the charge is just economically illiterate and dangerous, and shows self-delusion coming through from some members of the Labor Party.

I know most members of the Labor Party and I say without any fear of genuine contradiction that most members of the Labor Party have this same view but they are locked into Ms Gillard wanting to retain the trappings of prime ministership. To do that she had to sup with the devil, she had to come with whatever deal she could get to retain the office of Prime Minister. One of those things was to break, without so much as a thought it seemed, her solemn promise to the Australian public that she would never introduce a carbon tax.

We have the Greens and the Labor Party saying, 'But John Howard changed his mind.' Sure he did on the GST, but he went to an election. He said to the people of Australia: 'I now believe that the GST will be a good thing. Here's what we're going to do. Here's our detailed proposal in black and white. We're going to an election. We think it's good for the country. If you agree with us, vote us back into government. If you don't agree with us, vote us out.' And of course history shows that the Australian public were convinced that that was a good idea.

If this carbon tax is as good as Senator Bob Brown says it is and if it is as good as Mr Combet says it is, let us go to an election. If so many people support it, as Senator Brown says they do, what fear does he have about going to an election? Let the people of Australia decide. Heavens: this is still a democracy, although we do not know how long it might continue that way if the Greens and the Labor Party continue to be in charge of the Treasury benches. Can anyone tell me why the Labor Party and the Greens do not take this to an election to let the people decide? I know why they will not—because they can read the polls. Any of them who bother talking to their constituency know what the people of Australia think—because people in their constituency offices, people at the markets, people wherever they go are telling Labor Party members of parliament—and I have heard it happen—that this is a toxic tax which will do nothing for climate change but will do everything about exporting Australian jobs and wealth overseas.

I want to talk about the impact of this carbon tax on tourism, an industry which is very important to my state of Queensland. The cost to the tourism industry is just astronomical. It will be cheaper to fly from Melbourne to Fiji than to fly from Melbourne to Cairns. Why? Because Australia will have a carbon tax on fuel used within Australia, but if you fly overseas there will not be a carbon tax. There are many examples, which time does not permit me to deal with.

I will continue repeating, until the people of Australia have a chance to give their approval or otherwise to this package, that this is bad policy which is based on a lie. Australians will never forgive Ms Gillard and the Labor Party for deliberately lying to the Australian public and then breaking that solemn promise the minute her future and her tenure at the Lodge came into question. This package of bills must be opposed.