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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1004


Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (11:26): Thank you, Deputy Speaker Vasta, and congratulations on your elevation to high office. I appreciate the member for Rankin is a new member. He has his talking points and he has rattled them off. He has done exactly the right thing by his party. Can I start with a couple of things. It was not Tony Abbott who first said that Whyalla would be wiped off the map; it was Wayne Hanson from the AWU. He said that if the carbon tax comes in, towns like Whyalla will disappear. It was Paul Howes the general secretary of the AWU who said that if one job was lost in the steel industry, they would bring it down. What did Labor do? Talk about slush funds—$600 million especially for the steel industry. A little industry like that and it was $600 million to their mates.

I see Deputy Speaker Broadbent has taken the chair. My congratulations to you as well. You have a great role and I hope you are very good to me!

If I could go to some history and talk about how we arrived at this point. In 2007, Kevin Rudd won the election by promising to abolish Work Choices and he also said climate change was the great moral challenge of our generation. John Howard went to that election promising an ETS too, but he promised it in conjunction with the rest of the world. If the rest of the world was going to take action, Australia would participate. We did not say we would do it unilaterally; he said we would do it in conjunction with the rest of the world. Rudd won the election and proposed a CPRS and negotiations began. There was a long period of negotiations.

The difference between us and the Labor Party is that we can set policy inside our party. We are the political wing of our policy. We set the policy. We had a change of policy. We had a change of leader and, yes, he won by one vote. I have been in games of rugby where we have won by one point and we flogged them. You win as you win. Tony Abbott became the leader and our position changed. We said that we wanted to change our policy back to where we were with John Howard, that we wanted to protect our industries from an unnecessary and crippling tax which was never promised and which would cost jobs. So in 2009 the big Copenhagen conference occurred and we saw the rest of the world do nothing. There has been a lot written about what then Prime Minister Rudd said at that conference. We had a team of about 150 over there. We saw the rest of the world do nothing. Then Prime Minister Rudd came back to Australia and he shelved the 'greatest moral challenge of our time'. Such was his commitment to the greatest moral challenge of our time that he just shelved it. He stopped it dead in its tracks. He had the trigger to call a double dissolution election but he chose not to. In 2010 Rudd got rolled by Julia Gillard, who said that the CPRS, the whole thing about emissions trading, needed to be fixed. It was one of the three biggest challenges she faced. Prime Minister Gillard went to the 2010 election saying that she believed action should be taken on climate change and that she wanted an emissions trading scheme. But—and this is a massive 'but'—she said that the community of Australia had walked away and that consensus had to be rebuilt. She proposed a citizens assembly of 150 people to come to Canberra—which would probably look a lot like the parliament—to rebuild the consensus for an emissions trading scheme and action on climate change. That had to happen before Labor could move. She also said, in the last week before the election, that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. The Leader of the Opposition at the time, Tony Abbott, was out there saying that, come hell or high water, Labor was going to bring in a carbon tax. And the then Treasurer, the member for Lilley, said it was some kind of coalition hysteria and that it was ridiculous to say that they would do that.

The Greens, funnily enough, went to the election promising a flat rate carbon tax of $23 per tonne which would grow until renewable energy became competitive—not cheap but artificially competitive through the mechanism of the tax. So on 21 August 2010 we had a hung parliament. The cross benches wielded new power. Prime Minister Gillard negotiated with the cross benches and the Greens by giving them absolutely everything they wanted. In 2011 Prime Minister Gillard fronted the press, flanked by the Greens and the members for Windsor and Lyne, and announced a carbon tax—a flat rate carbon tax, which she said she would never do, because she had not rebuilt the consensus of the Australian population that had to be rebuilt. All those things had gone out the window, but she announced a flat-rate carbon tax of, hey presto, $23 per tonne. She signed a power-sharing agreement with the Greens to make sure this got done. Why she did that is completely and utterly beyond me.

Labor spent the next two years trying to make sense of a promise they did not make, fighting for a position that they did not take to the people, trying to defend a position that they did not believe in themselves. The then member for Rankin came in here and made all these funny jokes and he had his tape measures and he did a little singsong and all this sort of stuff. He was fantastic, but he just kept on getting belted for it.

In 2013 Labor finally dumped Prime Minister Gillard and brought back Prime Minister Rudd. He went to the election telling Australians that he would terminate the carbon tax because it was hurting Australian families. He would terminate it. It would be gone. Under Labor, it would be gone. Of course, he wanted to bring it forward a year and the figures would still stand, but he acknowledged that it was hurting Australia's population; it was hurting the men, women and families of Australia and it needed to go. Labor lost the 2013 election on 7 September. The coalition won with 90 seats. The election was very, very clear. The election was fought on the premise of the carbon tax: if you wanted the carbon tax gone, you voted for a coalition candidate. If you wanted another result, you voted for somebody else. Only 60 seats in this parliament, out of 150, went to someone who does not believe that the carbon tax should go. It was a massive statement by the Australian people that this tax should go.

Post-election, Labor again walked away from the promise they made to terminate the tax. They went to one election saying there would not be a tax, and then they instigated a tax, and then they came to another election saying they were going to get rid of the tax, and then after the election they defended the position of the tax they never promised, and yet they were now prepared to own it. Go figure. I cannot figure that out.

The Abbott government took a series of commitments to the 7 September election, and we will honour our commitments. Central to all of this was the repeal of the carbon tax. No issue could be clearer to the Australian people. I say again: if you want the Carbon Tax gone, you vote for a coalition candidate. If you do not want the carbon tax gone or you want another result, you vote for somebody else. Nothing could be clearer. That we won 90 seats and a very clear majority tells all in this House what the people want. They want this toxic tax gone. I urge the Labor Party to respect this mandate as we respected their mandate to remove Work Choices. I was not here when that happened, Mr Deputy Speaker, but you were. We stepped aside. They won the election fair and square on that issue, and we stepped aside. The then Deputy Prime Minister stood up there with Work Choices, mouse pads and all that sort of thing, and they had a grand old time shoving it down our throats. We passed it. We just waved it through, because that is what the people of Australia wanted.

I come from a part of Australia which experiences cyclones. I represent a city which is the home to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. My city fronts the Great Barrier Reef. I take climate change seriously. When I was elected, I did not know much about climate change. My basic thesis was that everything we do has an impact. I always remember what Peter FitzSimons, the rugby player and author, said when he was talking about gun control. I think it is an apt analogy. If you are in a room with 100 people and you are having an argument and no-one has a gun, there is no chance of being shot. If you are in a room with 100 people and you are having an argument and one person has a gun, you have a very small chance of getting shot. If you are in a room with 100 people and you are having an argument and everyone has a gun, then you have a far greater chance of getting shot. That is like my position when it comes to climate change. If we do not do anything then we take the consequences of that. But what sets human beings apart is that we can understand the concept. We can understand the impact of it and we can manage the impact. It is about impact versus risk. Risk versus assessment. The carbon tax does nothing for the environment—nothing. Even at the end of this thing, if it was still allowed to go, by 2020 we would still have to be purchasing $3 billion to $5 billion worth of overseas carbon credits just to make our plan work, because our emissions are increasing.

The carbon tax paid billions of dollars to brown coal fired power producers with absolutely no recourse. They gave them the billions of dollars and then they walked away. That is just money down the drain. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is a complete and utter sham. If you cannot get finance for your harebrained scheme somewhere around the world for something that you want to try, you can go to the government and get up to $10 billion where there is no real prospect of any commercial return on it. But it is also borrowed money. It does not raise money it needs so we have to borrow the $10 billion to figure this thing out.

The carbon tax was poorly designed and it was put in place at the behest of the Greens to suit a political purpose—no other reason. It was not the Labor Party's reason for tackling climate change. They had walked away from it. This was about securing government and that is all this is about. The carbon tax was a political mechanism done by the Greens and the Independents to keep Gillard in power. Labor lost the election in 2013 because of the Greens' idea, the shared power arrangement they never had to sign. Yet here they are hanging on to this very bad tax like Charlton Heston from the NRA saying, 'From my cold, dead hand.'

We will keep jobs in Australia; we will keep manufacturing in Australia. We will not see our industries close while our competitors do not have the same imposts as we do. I have good friends in Townsville in the steel fabrication businesses who sent me a photo the other day of some posts imported from China. That we can send our iron ore to China, that they can make the steel over there, fabricate it as what we want there and bring it down to right next door to their competitor still cheaper than we can do it here says that we are not playing on a level playing field and that our imposts and tax are ridiculously high. It is very hard for our guys to remain competitive. We will lower emissions by targeting pollution and giving incentives for those to improve their practices. Business understands the need to improve the bottom line. If we can assist with technology or practical methods being initiated and adopted then we are all the better for it. It is that simple. Respect our mandate is my message to the crossbenchers and to the Labor Party. Get out of our way. Get out of the way of good Australians who want a job and want to live in a cleaner world. You all owe them that much. I thank the House.