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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1033

Senator SINODINOS (New South Wales) (15:23): Yesterday was not a great day for Australia and certainly not a great day for the once great Australian Labor Party. The choice they made yesterday was a choice not to make a new start. It was a choice to look backwards, a choice to stay in their comfort zone. They will pay the price for that at the next election because, as a result of yesterday, nothing has changed. It is business as usual, and with business as usual you get the same results. That is why it is a sad day for Australia, and that is why it is a sad day for the electoral prospects of the Australian Labor Party.

I have risen today to take note of answers given by Senators Evans and Arbib to questions asked by my colleagues Senators Brandis and Joyce. I listened very closely to what Senator Evans had to say. He was asked about the cost of living and the impact of the carbon tax, but he refused to discuss the issue. They talk airily about tax cuts and benefit increases, but they do not tell us that it is quite possible that the inflationary impact of this tax will actually be higher than they have already estimated because this is a cascading tax. It is a tax which cascades through the system. Unlike the GST, where you get input tax credits back at various stages of production, this one cascades through to the final consumer. There has been no discussion and no modelling of that as far as we can tell.

It was disappointing that Senator Evans would not address the cost of living implications of the carbon tax, because if there is one issue that is burning Labor in the Australian community it is their desire to pursue this tax based on a broken promise and introduced as a result of a deal with the Independents and the Greens after the last election. That is the sad thing about this. They have not done this with conviction. They have done it as a result of a deal in order to stay in power by a Prime Minister who urged her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, to drop the emissions trading scheme. Indeed, it appears, according to Maxine McKew, quoted on the weekend, that Maxine McKew virtually shirt fronted the then Prime Minister and said, 'If you don't do this, there will be diabolical consequences.' That is the extent of conviction on this great issue of the day to do with climate change.

The reason the conviction is important is that in politics the thing we have to offer the electorate is hope and, in return, we gain trust that we will abide by our word and abide by our promises. Labor have abrogated that trust. They have broken those promises and are paying the cost of that today, whether it is in the polls that we see out there or in the ructions within the party itself. But, as I said yesterday, they agreed that they were going to go forward with the same policies and the same faces—they will get the same results.

That is why there are many in the community—not only in business, but business are particularly impacted by the uncertainty created by the government's miasma of policies—who are calling for an early election. That is an opportunity for this government to renew its mandate or for a new majority government to come in and provide strong leadership for a stronger economy, a stronger infrastructure and ultimately a stronger society. That is what we are about on this side of the house. We are about hope, reward and opportunity. Sadly, Senator Evans, in his question, did nothing to give us hope that the other side would do anything that would be of use to the Australian community in the period ahead.

In the time left to me I want to briefly talk about the response by Minister Arbib. Again, there was nothing on the great burden of regulation on small business; nothing about the impact of the industrial relations system, the award modernisation system, on small business; and nothing about the question that my colleague Senator Back raised around the gutting of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the impact that that will have, not so much on the big end of town when it comes to construction but on the subcontractors and the small business people who feed off those large contracts. They will be at the tail end of this process and they will be the ones who will suffer from the intimidation in the building and construction industry. This is the state of Labor today—a state of deals done behind closed doors with other parties in this place and with their union paymasters. As a result of yesterday, none of that has changed.

I wish to conclude by quoting something that Maxine McKew said on the weekend about Julia Gillard and Mark Arbib. She said:

What I have never understood is why Gillard, one of the government's better communicators at the time, and someone who had taken a lead role in the 2007 election campaign … was not prepared to take on the rhetorical challenge in government—

of selling climate change—

In the end she showed precious little conviction and instead took to heart the focus-group anxieties being peddled by Arbib.

That is that nature of the Prime Minister and the senator who is leading— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.