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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 7612

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (18:27): The debate we are having today in this chamber has its foundation in two unequivocal promises made by the now Prime Minister of Australia to the Australian people. On 16 August 2010, just five days before the federal election, Ms Gillard made the following promise, and a very solemn promise it was, to the Australian people. She said, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' This promise was clear. It was unequivocal and it was unambiguous. More than that, it was intended to influence the voting intentions of the Australian people and designed to encourage them to believe that if they voted for the Australian Labor Party they would be voting for a party whose platform would be that there would be no carbon tax in the event they were elected.

But it did not stop there. Ms Gillard followed up this unequivocal promise again. Just one day before the 2010 federal election Ms Gillard confirmed to the media and to Australian voters that her promise that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead' was clearly the Australian Labor Party's policy position going into the 2010 federal election. Nothing could have been more clear in the minds of the Australian people who were about to cast their votes to determine who would be leading Australia the following day. The Australian Labor Party said that 'there will be no carbon tax' under their government.

Sitting suspended from 18:30 to 19:32

Senator CASH: Just like Prime Minister Gillard, the Treasurer of Australia, Mr Swan, also sought to influence the voters of Australia prior to the 2010 election by again telling them that the Labor Party's platform was that there would be no carbon tax in the event that they were elected. What did Mr Swan say just days before the 2010 federal election? He said, and it is very explicit:

We have made our position very clear. We have ruled it out.

He ruled out a carbon tax. The explicit promise was made not once, not twice but on several occasions by the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, and also by the Treasurer of Australia, Wayne Swan, and of course by every Labor member and senator across Australia who went to the 2010 election. They went to that election on the explicit platform that, if elected, they would not impose a carbon tax on the Australian people. It is a great shame that the Senate is here today debating the carbon tax legislation—debating legislation that the Labor Party of Australia said to the Australian people they would never introduce. This legislation is a complete, total and utter betrayal of the Australian people.

This is a government that, when it comes to the issue of trust and particularly the carbon tax, is devoid of any moral compass. As Australians are now learning in so many policy areas, there is a litany of broken promises, and they expect nothing less from the Gillard Labor government. Why? The answer is very simple. The Gillard Labor government will always take the cheap, easy political option instead of taking decisions that are in the national interest and, on top of that, consistent with the promises that they made to the people of Australia in the lead-up to the 2010 federal election. Without a doubt, the next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. Why? Because every Labor member and senator went to the last election on the basis of what we now know was a blatant lie. They betrayed the Australian people. This betrayal occurred despite what the Australian Labor Party unequivocally said to the Australian people. We should not be standing in this place today debating this legislation.

So what do we have? We have Labor MPs and Labor senators who went to an election on the promise of no carbon tax, who have now voted in the other place and who will possibly vote in this place to impose on the mums and dads of Australia the most toxic tax that they have ever seen. The price of the Australian Labor Party's betrayal is going to be felt by every mum and dad in Australia every time they pay their electricity bill and every time they go to the shops. Everything they touch will have a price increase on it because of Labor's toxic tax. If you look at the modelling, you will see that it is estimated that a carbon tax will add at least $300 a year to a family's power bill. Families in Australia are already struggling under the rising cost of living. Every time a mum or dad in Australia turns on the lights they will be paying for the Australian Labor Party's carbon tax. Despite these facts, on Q&A on Monday, 14 March, when Prime Minister Gillard was challenged about her betrayal of the Australian people, she admitted that she had walked away from her commitment to Australians that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. Her explanation was merely 'I did not intend to mislead the voters.' What a weak, pathetic and contrived response. How can the Prime Minister stand before the Australian people and argue that she did not intend to mislead them when by her very actions, her calculated actions, that is exactly what she set out to do? The Prime Minister of Australia not only misled the voters but has now deceived them as well by introducing the carbon tax legislation. If the Australian Labor Party led by Ms Julia Gillard had any moral compass at all, they would have supported the Leader of the Opposition's motion to take this legislation to a plebiscite and give Australians a say. Let the Australian people have a say on whether or not they want to see a carbon tax introduced.

Senator Nash: Why not?

Senator CASH: Senator Nash is correct to ask the question: why not? Senator Nash, we all know the answer. If the Prime Minister of Australia and the Australian Labor Party actually took this legislation to the people and said, 'Do you want a carbon tax?' the Australian people would resoundingly vote no. The Australian Labor Party know that. They have fooled Australians once and the Australian people have made it very clear they will not be fooled again by the members and senators of the Australian Labor Party. They know that the imposition of a carbon tax in Australia is nothing more and nothing less than a political choice because the Labor Party have gone into an unholy alliance with the Greens; it is not an environmental necessity.

When Australians are promised something as fundamental as 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead' hours before they go to cast their vote in relation to who will ultimately lead them and they vote on the basis of that promise, and then the Australian Labor Party led by Ms Gillard is unable to go through with that promise, there is only one thing that the government can do—that is, exactly what Mr Howard did in relation to the GST: take the major policy change to an election. You were elected on the basis of a mandate and that mandate was that you would not introduce a carbon tax. You do not have a mandate to stand here in this place today and debate this legislation. Do what Mr Howard did and take it to the Australian people. If you are so sure that this is the right thing for Australians, take it to an election and show us on this side of the chamber that we are wrong. You will not, because each one of you, in particular those in marginal seats in the other place, knows that as each day goes by and we creep towards the next federal election it is one day less that you are going to be in this place because you betrayed your constituents. You betrayed the people of Australia. If there is one thing that Australians do not like, it is being called stupid. That is exactly what the Labor Party has said to the people of Australia.

The coalition, on the other hand, has made if very clear what its position is in relation to the carbon tax. We will continue until the final vote is taken in this place to oppose this toxic tax whilst in opposition. If we are not successful in opposing it, when we are elected the very first order of business for a coalition government will be to rescind this toxic legislation. We have also made it very clear to the people of Australia that, if we are elected, we will have a mandate to repeal this toxic legislation. If the Australian Labor Party do not want to listen to that mandate, we will have the guts to go to a double dissolution. That is how sure the coalition is of its position in relation to the carbon tax. Why? Because Labor's toxic tax means this for Australians: a $9 billion hit a year. For the mums and dads of Australia it means a 10 per cent hike in their electricity bills. For the mums and dads of Australia it means a nine per cent hike in their gas bills. This is in the first year alone. After the first year, all of those prices just keep going up. It means a higher marginal tax rate for many low- and middle-income earners. It also means a $4.3 billion hit for the Australian budget bottom line. Translate that into the cost per year for mums and dads and you are looking at potentially in excess of $515 per year, and that is just for starters.

These are the mums and dads of Australia who do not have a lot. They work hard to pay their taxes because they are proud. They work hard to put their children through school because they believe in giving them a good education. Occasionally they might have a little bit of discretionary income left over at the end of the week, which they might able to take their kids out to dinner with. Once this toxic carbon tax goes through, it is all over. There will be no discretionary income left for the mums and dads of Australia because any income that they may have had left over at the end of the week will be going to pay for Labor's toxic carbon tax. The carbon tax will be a trillion-dollar cost to the Australian economy over the coming decades. But when you talk about trillions under the current government it really does not mean a lot. It was millions and then it was billions, and now, when we look at the Australian Labor Party's economic incompetence, we are now talking about trillions of dollars. Who would ever have thought we would be standing in this place and talking about hits to the economy in terms of trillions? These trillions of dollars can be put down solely to economic mismanagement by the Australian Labor Party.

What is worse is that not only will the mums and dads of Australia be paying more under this toxic carbon tax but the only people who are going to be getting rich are foreign carbon traders. How is that for hypocrisy? In order to convince itself that this policy actually does mean something—that it is not all economic pain for no environmental gain—what will the Australian Labor Party do? It will spend in excess of $3.5 billion each year on purchasing foreign carbon credits. Good grief! By 2050, that will rise to $57 billion. In economic terms that is the equivalent of 1.5 per cent of GDP—not that those types of figures mean anything to anybody on the other side. So while the mums and dads of Australia are losing their jobs, their ability to pay their bills and their ability to take the kids out to dinner, foreign carbon traders will be making billions of dollars under a toxic scheme put forward by the Australian Labor Party. If that is not policy that is not in the national interest, I do not know what is.

Unlike those on this side of the chamber, Labor senators and, more so, members in the other place, are going to have to answer to their electorates when we face the next election. They are going to have to go to their constituents and say: 'We are deliberately inflicting this pain on you. We told you one thing before the 2010 election, you voted on the basis of a lie and, now that we are in government, we have taken the deliberate decision to inflict pain on you. We are deliberately introducing a policy which we know will increase your electricity bills, which we know will increase your gas bills, which we know will increase your cost of living and which we also know will have no effect on emissions reductions at all.' In fact, the government's own modelling, which it has released, actually confirms that as of 1 July next year when it introduces the carbon tax—which is allegedly going to solve all of the environmental problems in the world—the domestic emissions in Australia will actually increase. That is right—the Labor Party's own modelling shows that domestic emissions will in fact increase in the period 2012-20 from 578 million tonnes to—lo and behold!—621 million tonnes.

So not only were the people of Australia told the day before the 2010 election that if the Australian Labor Party were elected it would not impose this tax; they are now having a tax imposed on them, allegedly for environmental gain, while the government's own modelling shows domestic emissions in Australia will actually rise. Do you know how we offset that, Mr Acting Deputy President? It is a very devious form of policy making. If the government purchases with billions of dollars those carbon credits from foreign traders, somehow that assuages all of our guilt and suddenly we are doing the right thing. Mums and dads of Australia, guess what? You pay while the foreign carbon traders earn billions of dollars off the Australian Labor Party.

Hypocrisy, duplicity, disloyalty and betrayal—these are the words that the people of Australia are now using to describe the Australian Labor Party. Given the Labor government's betrayal of the people of Australia, it is patently true that Labor's continual claims that it alone is the party that looks after the workers is just more Labor rhetoric. Labor members know that the new Labor has turned its back on Australians and it has turned its back on traditional Labor values, and they are waiting to punish new Labor at the next election. (Time expired)