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Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Page: 7228


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (17:18): I rise to make a contribution to this debate on the question that the clean energy bills may proceed without formalities. I am sure a lot of comments that I make are going to echo comments that have been made by colleagues on this side of the chamber. Let me take you back to about 18 months ago and the little bit of time prior to that when we were debating the idea of the government bringing in an emissions trading scheme. Colleagues, can you remember what happened then? I am sure you can, and I am sure those listening can remember what happened then. The Australian people looked at the government wanting to bring in an emissions trading scheme and colleagues will remember that this building went into meltdown. Our phones, our faxes and our emails went into meltdown with the Australian people saying to the Labor government that they did not want an emissions trading scheme. They absolutely knew that it was not going to achieve the desired result that the government were saying it would—that is, to change the climate. They knew that it was going to hurt them. They knew they were going to have to deal with this financially. They knew how much it was going to hurt the Australian people. They went into meltdown. The building went into meltdown. The government went into meltdown and they had a change of leadership.

That was the scenario we had when the Australian people actually knew what the government was proposing, what the government was actually planning on giving to them. Jump forward to just before the last election. The Prime Minister said to the Australian people, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Guess what, colleagues? The Australian people fell for it. They believed the Prime Minister. They actually believed the Prime Minister when she said, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Nobody jumped up through the election campaign saying, 'We don't want a carbon tax. This would be absolutely devastating for the country.' They felt there was absolutely no need to stand up and have their voice counted because the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, holding the highest office in the land, had promised the Australian people there would be no carbon tax and the Australian people believed her. It is not surprising that when it got to election time we did not see the same outpouring, the same uprising, from the Australian people that we saw when we were debating the emissions trading scheme because the Prime Minister had promised the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax. How sad is that? We have the Prime Minister of the country lying to the Australian people. I know every time we say that it touches a nerve on the other side and they say, 'It wasn't a lie.' If one of my children were to say to me, 'Mum, I haven't eaten the apple,' and 10 minutes later they were to say to me, 'Mum, I actually did eat the apple,' I would tend to think that they had told me a lie in the first instance. I do not know about other colleagues, but to me—

Senator Cormann: That sounds about right.

Senator NASH: Thank you very much, Senator Cormann. That sounds about right. So when you say one thing and then you do entirely the opposite, having promised people you will behave a certain way, to me that is a lie. That may be my own personal view, it may be my own understanding of how these things work, but to me it is a lie. Those people out in the streets across this country know that the Prime Minister told them a lie when she said that there was not going to be a carbon tax under the government she led. They know because today it has gone through the House of Representatives. What a very sad, dark day this is for the Australian people. I do not know, as I said in some remarks I made this morning, whether to be furiously angry or incredibly sad that this country is facing having to deal with this piece of legislation—this carbon tax. It is just simply wrong.

Everywhere I go, down every street, in every business, talking to people right across the country, particularly in regional communities, they are saying: 'Why are we doing this? We know it is going to hurt. We know financially we are going to be worse off. We know that electricity prices are going to rise. We know fuel costs are going to rise. We know transport costs are going to rise.' On that very fact alone, Madam Acting Deputy President, as you or anybody in this chamber would know, regional Australia suffers most because of the cost of transport. When those costs of transport go up, as they are going to do when this change comes in for the transport industry not very far down the track—it is going to cost the transport industry $500 million in the first year—they will be passed on to regional people. Those people that I speak to out in regional communities and in the cities keep saying to me, 'Why?' The very point about this, colleagues, is that it is not going to change the climate one little bit.

My colleague Senator Cormann pointed out earlier—and he is absolutely right—that the whole point of this legislation is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. So the simple question is: does the legislation actually do that? The answer is no. Colleagues, let us have a look. For those listening who cannot actually see what I am doing, I am holding up my copy of the legislation which is about six inches thick. Does the Clean Energy (Household Assistance Amendments) Bill 2011 change the climate? No. Does the Clean Energy Bill 2011 change the climate? No. Does the Clean Energy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011 change the climate? No. In the rest of this six-inch pile of legislation, does any single piece of paper or any single written word change the climate? No, it does not. That is why the Australian people are so furious with this Labor government bringing this carbon tax in. It does not do what the government intends the legislation to do. It does not change the climate.

As my good colleague Senator Joyce often says, the government thinks it can sit down here in Canberra and flick a switch and change the temperature of the globe. It is simply nonsensical because we are the only country doing this. Those on the other side like to continually point out that other countries are doing this and we are just getting on board. The Productivity Commission—not Senator Nash or any of my Senate colleagues—says that no other country is doing or is about to do what we are about to bring in. That is a simple fact. So what do we have then, colleagues? We have vanity legislation from the Prime Minister—nothing more, nothing less. This is vanity legislation from the Prime Minister so she can go to South Africa at the end of the year and say on the world stage, 'I have brought clean energy legislation into Australia; I am the queen of the world.'

The point is that it is not going to change the climate one little bit and the Prime Minister is somewhat misguided if she thinks bringing in this legislation is going to make her look good, because it is not. Quite frankly, I do not think anything at this stage can make the Prime Minister look good with the succession of bad policy decisions that this Prime Minister continues to make. What is extraordinary is the ineptness—if that is a word—the inept nature, of the way the Prime Minister is running this country. She thinks: 'This is a great idea. Let's lead the world. We have to lead the way.' Why do we have to lead the way when we emit only 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions? It is hard to understand, but 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions is Australia's contribution. Yet we have a Prime Minister and a government pushed by the Greens to bring in a carbon tax that is going to put a huge financial impost on this country. It is going to reconfigure our economy, it is going to put money into the pockets of the paper-pushers who are going to get to trade this stuff, but it is not going to change the climate one little bit. I do not know about you, colleagues, but to me that is just stupidity. It is absolute stupidity to place in front of this country legislation of this nature that is going to have the impact it will have, yet the intended outcome of the legislation—to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions—is not going to happen. So what is the point? This is why people around the country are so furious about the government bringing in this carbon tax. It is interesting that when we look at what the government says—and you cannot trust them, really, with everything we have seen from them—

Senator Cormann: Australians don't.

Senator NASH: Australians don't. Thank you, Senator Cormann, I will take that—Australians don't. You only have to look at the government's track record to know that you cannot trust them. There are a couple of things they do not go near. One is regional Australia, which Senator Cormann quite rightly referred to, and I will get there shortly. The other thing they never refer to is longevity of compensation. The interesting thing is that they are trying to go out and put oil across the water, saying to people: 'Don't worry. There will be compensation. Nine out of 10 families will be compensated. It will all be okay.' The Australian people do not trust that they can deliver anything given the track record on things like pink batts and BER halls and everything else that the government have touched that has gone to absolute mud. They simply do not trust that that can even be delivered.

As I said earlier, the Australian people simply do not want an emissions trading scheme. They said that many, many months ago now. But we are moving to an emissions trading scheme. This is something that is very rarely discussed in the context of the current debate. In 2015 we will get to the point where the carbon tax becomes an emissions trading scheme—the very thing that the Australian people went into revolt about not so long ago when the government first had it flagged, the very thing. We are going to get to an emissions trading scheme. What happens when we get to an emissions trading scheme? We have a fluctuating price.

I do not know if any of my good colleagues here or any others have actually heard from the government about how they plan to compensate when the price is fluctuating. I do not know. Are they planning to compensate that far? Maybe they could actually give us a bit more detail. Perhaps the minister could jump in this debate. Maybe we will have to wait for the substantive debate on this particular issue. What is going to happen? Is the compensation going to go that far? How do you actually compensate on a daily basis when there is a fluctuating price? Has anybody thought about that? Has anybody thought to ask the government how they plan to do that? If that compensation that they are so solidly and certainly talking about is going to go very far anyway, how on earth is it going to work under an emissions trading scheme? They do not know what the price is. Can you just imagine, at the very least—Senator Cormann, I am sure you have thought of this—the bureaucratic nightmare of having to deliver compensation under a fluctuating price, let alone a regulated price under a carbon tax? It is quite extraordinary.

Just on the bureaucratic cost, one wonders what the government is going to say. Again I am sure this will come up during the substantive debate and I am sure we are going to have a lengthy committee stage to allow these sorts of issues to be aired—unless the government is going to continue to guillotine us, which I think would be quite appalling and inappropriate when the Australian people at least deserve some scrutiny of this. One wonders exactly what they are going to say when we get to that point. How is it go going to work, I wonder. There are so many unanswered questions that I am sure the government cannot even answer. They simply do not have a clue.

The government have been pushed by the Greens to bring in this carbon tax. As colleagues have discussed earlier today, that is what has happened. The government have done a backflip because they have got this cobbled-together Greens-Independent-Labor government, which is no way to run a democracy, and I am guessing they had no choice. Isn't it interesting, for those who are listening, to be very well aware that the Greens have 10 members and senators. There are 226 members and senators in this parliament, yet the Greens are telling the government what to do. You tell me how democratic that is, colleagues. You tell me what sort of democracy that is when we have got 10 members out of a 226-member parliament telling the government what to do. And good luck to them; that is the way it fell out The Prime Minister was so desperate to govern under any circumstances, to stay Prime Minister—I do not know how long that is going to last—that she was prepared to cobble together this government. That is simply not democracy. It is an undemocratic government because we have not got the majority of people having their say.

If we had at this point the majority of people in this country having their say, there would be no carbon tax. That leads to the question: why won't the government wait until after the next election to bring in the carbon tax? We could go through all this now; we could go through all the motions. It can go through the chamber. But why not have the start date of the carbon tax after the next election, whenever that might be—sooner, later, who knows? Why won't the government do that? To me that simply seems fair. The Prime Minister would then be saying to the Australian people: 'Look, I didn't really mean to lie to you before the last election. I am really sorry I told you there was not going to be a carbon tax. But I really believe in this carbon tax and I believe in it so much and I believe you will too, so I will go to another election and give you an opportunity to have your say.' Wouldn't you do that? I think anybody with any confidence that what they were putting forward was something that the majority of the Australian people would want would do that. They would do that without any shadow of a doubt.

We can deduce that the only reason this Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will not have the start date for the carbon tax after the next election is she knows the majority of the Australian people do not want it and that they will vote the Labor government out. Otherwise, why wouldn't she do it? It makes perfect sense. Give the Australian people a say. One of the things I love about this country is that we are a democracy, that you do have the opportunity to have your voice heard, that you do have the opportunity to have your say. But apparently not—apparently not under this Prime Minister, because she can tell you one thing, do entirely the other and then still not give you the opportunity to have your say. That I think is what makes this one of the saddest days in this nation's history. To watch that legislation go through the House of Representatives, to watch that happen today, knowing it is a piece of legislation that will hurt the Australian people and that will do absolutely nothing when it comes to the intent of the government is sad, stupid and, quite frankly, appalling. I think it just goes to show the level that this government has gone to to stay in power. It is really quite extraordinary. Colleagues, the impact on regional Australia is going to be huge. This will have to wait for another day, because time precludes me now from going through all those impacts. But, as my colleagues from regional areas right around this chamber and the other place know, regional Australia is going to be hit harder than anywhere else. Farmers are the bottom of the food chain. There is nowhere for these costs to be passed on to. The costs of fuel, transport, fertiliser and electricity are all going to land in the lap of the farmers. It is all going to land on those regional agricultural businesses. There is no escape for them. They cannot get away from the impact this carbon tax is going to have on them, and that is wrong.

That is what we on this side of the chamber will keep fighting against. I can only promise the Australian people that we will not stop. This carbon tax may have gone through the House of Representatives and it may well get through the Senate, but we will not stop. We absolutely promise the Australian people that, in government, the coalition will get rid of this carbon tax and make sure Australia has a better future.