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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2542


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:32): The advantage of following the Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Milne, in this debate is that it enables me, again, to point out the absolute policy hypocrisy of the Greens political party. Anyone listening to Senator Milne, for the majority of her speech, would have been convinced that you should vote for this bill. She went through all the reasons why this bill was appropriate, but in the end she changed her mind, which is the political hypocrisy that we have come to expect of the Greens by following her leader's approach to attitudes in this parliament. Her leader is driven by one thing, which is an absolute hatred of the Liberal Party and anything that the Liberal Party might do. In following his hatred of the Liberal Party—

Senator Milne: Madam Acting Deputy President Boyce, I rise on a point of order. It is against the standing orders to reflect on the motivation of other senators in this parliament. I would ask that the senator withdraw.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Boyce ): Senator Milne, there is no point of order. Senator Macdonald, you may like to consider your comments and the courtesy thereof.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. You can see with the Greens political party that when the truth is put out there they do everything possible to stop free speech and to stop senators in this chamber expressing their views on why different political parties take the approach that they do. During this session the Greens have joined with the Labor Party in stopping free speech on a wide range of bills. That debate is supposed to be the purview of this parliament. We are meant to talk about policy issues, to talk about legislation and to suggest improve­ments, even if we agree with the bill in the ultimate vote. Debate is essential if you are going to have a democracy. You can understand from the Greens and the Labor Party that they are not terribly keen about parliamentary democracy. They just want to ram through secret deals that the Greens political party and the Labor Party have got together and done behind closed doors, usually without consultation.

The Greens leader, Senator Brown, is not an environmentalist. I think that is becoming more and more obvious. He is, as is increasingly obvious, just an old left-wing socialist of the Eastern European style of old, and he will do everything to support the Labor Party—particularly the left wing of the Labor Party—to destroy this country. I do not say that about all members of the Greens political party. I happen to know that there are a couple in the party—for example, Senator Siewert; I do not want to embarrass her—who are genuine environmentalists, who believe in what the Greens originally stood for. I know that Senator Siewert, from her body language, is as embarrassed as I am at times by the way that her leader carries on with an approach to his policy considerations that is based on an absolute hatred of the Liberal Party.

Senator Siewert: I rise on a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. I do not think the senator should be interpreting body language in the chamber, and I certainly put on the record that he has misinterpreted any body language he thinks I may have displayed.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, I would think it is clear that you cannot know Senator Siewert's motives.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I hardly think that is a point of order, mind you, Madam Acting Deputy President Boyce, but I accept what Senator Siewert says. It is hardly a point of order but I accept it as a debating point. Perhaps it is not the body language that has led me to the view I have; perhaps it is other things. Never mind, I accept what Senator Siewert has said. However—and I hate to embarrass her—I accept that she is a genuine environmentalist, and I cannot say that about too many others in the political party that she represents. This bill, and the approach Senator Milne has taken to it, demonstrates that clearly. I repeat: if you had heard the first 15 minutes of Senator Milne's speech, you would have said that, yes, she understood the bill and was going to vote for it. But in the end she had to find some way of opposing the bill that the Liberal Party has put up. She said she has had some secret discussions with the minister and he has convinced her that they are going to spend the right amount on solar panels.

I cannot argue the case better than Senator Milne did in the first part of her speech. How could she, at the end, do a complete backflip and indicate that she was not going to support the bill? She rightly says that $160 million was taken out of this fund for the flood levy. I am surprised that Senator Milne raised that. She might remember that her party agreed with the Labor Party to introduce a flood levy. That is unprecedented in the history of this parliament. There are natural calamities around Australia all the time, and every time that has happened the Commonwealth has put in a certain amount of money and the states have put in their share of money. Never before has this parliament had to raise a special levy to help a state, which they had to do in this case because Queensland was broke, through the financial mismanagement of Ms Anna Bligh, the Premier of Queensland, and her government. Queensland did not have the money in the Treasury to do the sorts of things that every state does following a series of natural calamities.

So a special levy was introduced just for Queensland, because the Queensland government was broke and could not pay its way. Ms Bligh, the Queensland Premier, had to come up with something. She had spent all last year running around disaster areas in Queensland, appearing before TV cameras and taking charge as the field marshal of the rescue efforts. I know that a lot of the people involved in the rescue efforts wished she had not been there, because they wanted to get on with the job of helping people and not doing photo opportunities for a Premier who, prior to that, was so low in the opinion polls that she would not have led the Labor Party to the state election. Fortuitously, I guess, for those of us of a different political persuasion, Ms Bligh is still there and, politically, we should be grateful for that.

Madam Acting Deputy President Boyce, this flood levy was brought in, you might remember, by the Greens political party and the Labor Party. But was it a taxation that affected all Australians, particularly the wealthy Australians, in the same way? No, of course it was not. It was a flood levy on individuals. Companies like Rio Tinto, BHP and Xstrata minerals, the very wealthy multinational mineral companies that the Greens always rail about, were excused from the flood levy. Talk about looking after the top end of town! And Mr Graeme Wood, with all of his companies—that is, Mr Graeme Wood, the significant donor of $1.6 million to the Greens political party—did not pay the levy on his company income either, because the Greens conspired with the Labor Party to excuse the top end of town from that flood levy that Senator Milne mentioned.

I would like to point out that we always have the Greens railing against Coles and Woolworth and suggesting they look after small business, but that flood levy is a classic example: Coles and Woolworths, with all of their profits, were let off entirely; they did not have to pay a cent of the flood levy. But the butcher and the baker in the complex that compete with Woolworths and Coles had to pay the flood levy. Talk about looking after the top end of town, which the Greens have, equally as well as their political hypocrisy, become recognised for. Senator Milne rightly said that the $160 billion was taken out of this program to meet the flood levy pool that was being put together by the government to help Ms Bligh in her campaign to remain Queensland Premier. As I say, Senator Milne argued the case beautifully except that at the end she had to find some way in which she could not join in voting for something sensible that the Liberals had produced. She has a secret letter—I assume; I doubt that any of the rest of us will ever see it—from the minister saying, 'Trust me; we will look after you.'

Can you believe anything, at any time, that the leader of a Labor Party government ever says? You cannot believe Ms Bligh, because we have seen that most of the promises she made before the last election were junked immediately afterwards. We saw Mr Keating, leader of a former federal Labor government promising l-a-w law tax cuts. He had already legislated for them, but after the election he reneged on the legislation; he withdrew and cancelled it. Of course, the current Labor leader, Ms Gillard, promised, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead', and Senator Milne is congratulating Ms Gillard for breaking her solemn promise to the Australian people by introducing that carbon tax. You have Ms Gillard giving an ironclad guarantee they would not reduce the subsidy on private health insurance, and what do you have? We have just passed the bill, with the Greens and the Labor Party joining forces to get the numbers to do exactly what she promised they would not do.

Senator Milne is relying on this letter she got from a junior minister. Can I say to Senator Milne, have a look at what happe­ned. You cannot believe any promise made by any leader or junior minister of an Austra­lian Labor Party government, be it state or federal. Again in this instance the Labor Party promised that this scheme would run through to 30 June this year, applications would be taken and the money spent—Senator Milne said all this—but suddenly and typically of Labor Party governments that promise was junked; it meant absolutely nothing.

By contrast, the coalition has put up this bill in good faith, expecting—perhaps foolishly—that the Greens would support this. We heard the comments by the Greens in the media immediately after the government broke its promise and brought this forward to the end of February. Senator Bob Brown was as usual in front of the TV cameras railing against the government but, when there is the opportunity to do something more than get a photo opportunity out the front, what does Senator Brown do? He rolls over and supports his leftie mates in the Australian Labor Party; whereas we introduce this bill to comply with the government's promises, promises which we supported. This bill requires no new funding to reinstate the full solar hot water rebate. All funding is within the government's own budget allocation. It is very important that this bill be passed this sitting, because if the rebate is to be reinstated by the end of the financial year then it must be done in this last sitting session before the budget.

One thing that Senator Milne was quite correct about was when she said, 'Certainty is what the industry needs.' Certainty is what the industry needs, but does this Labor Party government give the industry any certainty whatsoever? We know what industry turmoil there was when the pink batts program was put forward and then taken away. We know the uncertainty that has been created throughout this industry from day one by the Labor Party. Senator Milne is quite right to say the industry needs certainty; that is what she and her leader insist their party does on this bill, and yet they will oppose it. They will ensure that industry does not have the certainty that the Greens so hypocritically call for, yet when they have the opportunity to vote for it they roll over again to the Australian Labor Party.

I hope that my words in this chamber have at last struck a chord with Senator Bob Brown. I see he has just come into the chamber for one of his rare appearances and that he is talking to his deputy leader, Senator Milne. Perhaps as a result of the arguments of coalition members, the Greens will change their view and they might be intending to support this bill. I certainly hope that is the case. If they do, I will withdraw some of the comments I have made about the Greens' hypocrisy. I do not think I will have to, because the leader of the Greens' attitude is not based upon good environmental policy; it is based on other aspects of his life in this chamber. Time and time again, this week even in this chamber, Senator Brown has demonstrated what his purpose in the Senate is. I was going to suggest someone who could lead the Greens better, but I will not do that. I know there are a lot of rumblings within the Greens about their current leadership. I have a view that something will happen. I was going to put in my two bob's worth on who should be the new leader of the Greens, but that would be the kiss of death, so I will not do so.

But I go back to this bill, which is an important bill. It should be supported. I hope the Greens will follow the letter of the first part of Senator Milne's speech for all of the reasons she mentioned and will support what is a very sensible bill. It is a bill that would be very significant for the industry and would help, in a genuine way, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.