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Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Page: 7214

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (16:17): The coalition does deny the formality being sought by the government, because we want to ensure that they will have to take each and every step to perpetrate their deceit on the Australian people. We will not allow them to just throw into the Senate 19 bills and say, 'This is a package'—we will challenge their conscience on every single bill. They know that the only reason they are sitting on the government side of this chamber and in the other place is that Ms Gillard solemnly promised the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax. A greater deceit in Australian politics we have not witnessed. Sure, the second prize goes to former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating when he promised L.A.W.—law—tax cuts before an election, legislated them, got re-elected and then immediately repealed them. It is no wonder Ms Gillard said just the other day that she saw her government in the same light as the Keating government; no wonder also that she dug into that treasure trove of tricks that Mr Keating used to deceive the Australian people all those years ago. What we are seeing today is a repeat of that history.

We are not going to allow the Labor Party to simply deal with this as a 'package of bills'. We want them to deal with each one, vote on each one, knowing that on each of the 19 occasions they are betraying the trust that the Australian people placed in them.

I had occasion to say earlier today that 148 members out of the 150-member House of Representatives were elected on a promise of no carbon tax. Five out of the six senators elected at the last election from each of the states were elected on a promise of no carbon tax. Two out of the two senators elected from each of the territories was elected on a promise of no carbon tax. And yet somehow this carbon tax, I understand, is going to get through this parliament. The Australian people are right to ask how they have been betrayed in such a gross fashion. How is it that, when an overwhelming majority of people have been elected on a solemn promise not to do something, they seek to do the exact opposite? That is going to be the millstone around the Labor Party's neck. Some call it the 'Milnestone' around the Labor Party's neck, but of course the Greens are the architects of this policy.

Senator Williams: And Windsor!

Senator ABETZ: Senator Williams raises the name of Mr Windsor, the member for New England, which is a very interesting point as well. Because those people who get themselves to this parliament as Indepen­dents have two great duties, I would suggest. The first is to reflect and represent the wishes of their electorate, because they say they are not beholden to any party and therefore they can do exactly what the wishes of their electorates dictate. I would also have thought the role of an Independent is to keep the government honest. Mr Windsor, the member for New England and Mr Oakeshott, the member for Lyne, are failing in both those duties. They know that their electorates overwhelmingly are opposed to a carbon tax—overwhelmingly. Senator Williams presented the result of a survey earlier today to this parliament, showing the overwhelming feeling in the electorates of New England and Lyne in relation to the carbon tax. The members have completely discarded the wish of their electors, and they are now in lockstep with a government that has lost the trust of the Australian people. And of course they have not kept the government honest, as one would have imagined Independents would seek to do. So we have a situation where the Australian people are rightly asking, 'What has happened in our democracy when a Prime Minister can stare down the lens of a TV camera to have it broadcast into every home in Australia that she will not introduce a carbon tax?' And when we say, 'Don't trust them,' we are accused of being hysterical. Well, today we have proven to have been historical, because history has now shown that that is exactly what Labor was going to do and that is exactly what Labor has done. Yet Mr Swan still parades around, having deceived the Australian people, as the 'world's greatest Treasurer'. But so was Mr Keating and so were Lehman Bros given gongs by this international organisation. The fact that Mr Costello never got it I think speaks for itself. I would prefer to be on Mr Costello's side in relation to that than Mr Keating, Mr Swan and Lehman Bros and other organisations that have failed.

During this debate from time to time we are accused of being negative. Let us be quite clear on this. When we say 'no' to deceit we say 'yes' to integrity in government. When we say 'no' to a carbon tax we say 'yes' to manufacturing jobs, we say 'yes' to agricultural jobs, we say 'yes' to decreasing the cost of living pressures that are faced by Australian people. So when people on the other side and some in the media seek to assert that the coalition has to be more positive, how much more positive can you be than trying to keep a government honest and attuned to its election promises? How much more positive can you be than condemning the deceit of the Labor Party and seeking to have integrity in government? How much more positive can you be than seeking to protect manufacturing jobs and agricultural jobs in Australia? How much more positive can you be than trying to decrease the cost of living pressures that Australians face?

So why this indecent haste to throw in 19 bills and have them all dealt with as one single package? I think we know the reason why, Mr Deputy President: because Labor wants to parade at Durban as the one country with a legislated scheme. That was Labor's policy under Mr Rudd, if you recall: the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme had to be legislated so that we could be the performing clowns at Copenhagen. That was the idea, that we would be the only country at Copenhagen with a legislated scheme. Not content with having failed to be the clowns at Copenhagen, they now want to be the dunces of Durban with a piece of legislation and throwing that around and saying, 'How clever are we?'

It was interesting that during question time today the President welcomed a delegation from the Japanese parliament. He also welcomed a delegation from the United States. I could not help but ask myself, albeit somewhat audibly, I confess: where is the Japanese carbon tax?

Senator Williams: It doesn't exist.

Senator ABETZ: It doesn't exist. Where is the United States carbon tax? It doesn't exist. If we welcomed a delegation from New Zealand and asked them where was their carbon tax, they would be saying, 'We are trying to reduce it and get rid of it as quickly as possible.' If we had welcomed a delegation from the French government, we could have asked them, 'Where is your carbon tax?' and they would have said, 'We will have no bar of it.' And so it goes on.

Why is it that the Labor Party, having promised no carbon tax, are seeking to inflict on the Australian economy the highest rate of carbon pricing in the world? Why are they trying to do it? And why did they pick on the price of $23 per tonne? Why not a round figure of $20 or $25? You know why? Because the Greens went to the last election promising $23 per tonne and so Ms Gillard just accepted that as her policy. If you recall, all of the so-called Treasury modelling that we were given previously was all based on the price of $20 per tonne. So all the work had to be redone to fit in with Senator Brown's policy and the Greens' policy.

Some people may assert that we in the coalition are somewhat harsh when we say that Ms Gillard deceived the Australian people. She did say, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' So it begs the question: who actually does lead this government? It may well be that she does not and that Senator Bob Brown and the Australian Greens actually lead this government. We happen to think on this side that that may well be the case. But that is for the Greens-Labor alliance to sort out between themselves, because Ms Gillard and every single Labor member and senator are personally, corporately and individually responsible for this carbon tax. They cannot hide behind the skirts of Ms Gillard and the Labor Party collective and say, 'The party room made me do it.' In a democracy you are ultimately answerable to the people that elected you. Mr Perrett, who somehow found his conscience in Moreton Bay, very interestingly thinks it would be uncon­scionable to change leader but not unconscionable to break a solemn election promise in relation to no carbon tax. It is also interesting given that Mr Bandt, Mr Windsor and a few others think it is important from time to time to consult with their electorate on some of these fundamentally important issues such as gay marriage. If you are in the business of genuinely consulting with your electorate on matters such as gay marriage, why wouldn't you consult with your electorate on the issue of a carbon tax and follow suit when they tell you what they want?

Just the other day I was in the seat of Braddon, at a stand at their local show, with Senator Richard Colbeck. I was standing there all day. Not a single person approached me about gay marriage being a fundamentally important issue for our nation, but dozens and dozens and dozens—indeed hundreds—approached us during the day to condemn the carbon tax and the deceit that had been perpetrated on them. So it is up to Mr Sid Sidebottom, the Labor member for Braddon, to determine whether he will put Ms Gillard's job before the hundreds and indeed thousands of people employed in Braddon in mining and in manufacturing and whether he will put the plight of the pensioners who will face increased costs of living as a result of these measures as his priority as opposed to Ms Gillard. Mr Dick Adams, in the seat of Lyons, will have to answer that as well. Geoff Lyons, in the seat of Bass, will have to answer that. Ms Collins, in the seat of Franklin, will have to answer that. And that is just in the state of Tasmania. Every other single Labor member will be required to answer as well to the electorate.

The issue before the chamber is to ensure that this package of 19 separate bills is dealt with appropriately, properly and extensively. When you have the sham of a joint committee chaired by Labor and deputy chaired by the Greens deliberately not publishing the thousands of submissions against the carbon tax, you know the fix is in. They call a quick committee. They advertise and say, 'You've got to have your response to these 19 bills in within six days.' And then they determine that certain submissions—because they are in letter form or do not actually make out an argument—should not be published as submissions. Yet they do publish those 'intellectually robust' submissions that are about two paragraphs saying: 'I like your carbon tax. Labor's doing a good job.' Oh, they will publish those okay. They will put them up on the internet for everybody to read. But, if somebody were to write the exact opposite of that, the Labor-Greens numbers—like they gagged debate earlier today—will be used to ensure that those sorts of submissions do not hit the internet and do not get publicised. This is the ham-fisted approach this government is taking in cahoots with the Greens.

The reason they are so defensive is that they know they have perpetrated a deceit on the Australian people. That is why they are getting themselves into this terrible, terrible bind. That is why they do not want 19 separate bills ventilated before the Australian people. They would rather have it all hushed up and rushed through as one single package because they do not want to be reminded 19 separate times of the deceit they have perpetrated against the Australian people.

Time and time again in this debate we have been told that the carbon tax is in fact a good idea and will be of great benefit to the Australian economy. If that is the case, I invite them: instead of making the carbon tax $23 per tonne, why not double it and make it $46 per tonne so we can have double the benefit? Of course, that exposes another Labor lie in this debate. The carbon tax is corrosive. It is destructive. Labor know it, and that is why at the last election they solemnly promised, 'There will be no carbon tax,' because they know that in an electoral context and in an electoral contest they would not be able to convince their fellow Australians that a carbon tax is good. In fact, a carbon tax is bad. Indeed, when Senator Wong was the minister for climate change, before she got moved sideways, she said in this place that a carbon tax is not a silver bullet. Now we are to believe that somehow it is a golden bullet and it will resolve all issues.

I happen to believe that the Australian people are a generous people and an environmentally concerned people. I happen to believe that they may well be willing to take a bit of a hit on their lifestyle for an environmental benefit. If you could show on the other side of the ledger a genuine environmental benefit, they may well be willing to take an economic hit. But Senator Wong was asked today, 'What is the environmental benefit?' and the simple fact is that she is unable to explain. Indeed, we were told that without a carbon tax we would face a 40 per cent greater likelihood of droughts in Australia. Well, if she can make that prediction based on whatever evidence she might have in relation to that, why couldn't she answer the simple question from the Leader of the Nationals: 'With this carbon tax, how much less likely is there to be the threat of drought in Australia?' She could not answer.

And of course she could not answer, because everybody knows that a five per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on the 1990 levels, if I recall correctly, on 1.5 per cent of the world's emissions is not going to make any real difference to the world's environment, especially when we know that our manufacturing sector will simply go to China and pollute even more over there than they do in Australia. As a result, we will have a perverse environmental outcome. Talk to the Europeans. They have seen the demise of their aluminium industry. Why? Because it could not compete under their very modest carbon price and it shifted off to Asia, Africa and elsewhere, where the pollution levels are a lot greater because they do not have the sorts of environmental controls that we enjoy in this country and they enjoy in Europe. So we will take these bills through every single stage, as they deserve. (Time expired)