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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1291

Senator POLLEY (3:21 PM) —I can understand why you are laughing, Mr Deputy President. It is just amazing when we come into this place today and hear these same people who had 11½ years to do something about petrol prices and grocery prices. The compassion they are demonstrating and their sudden care for low-income families in our community is quite laughable.

You had 11½ years to tackle these problems and you did nothing. The attitude that you took to the last election and the previous three elections was: spend, spend, spend—whatever it takes as long as we get back into power and have the red leather seats. That is all you were interested in. But, when it came to climate change, I remind you gentlemen on the other side who are still in the chamber that you were the sceptics. You were the ones who went to the last election and told the Australian community, ‘There may be a problem with climate change, not too sure, but let’s see what the polling says and we might actually respond to it.’ It was the Rudd Labor government that took the most decisive action by signing the Kyoto agreement. The Rudd government is out there delivering on the promises that Labor took to the last election. We are not the ones with an 11½-year record of core and non-core promises.

Let’s get a few facts on the table. Regarding the questions that were asked today, to all ministers but including to Minister Wong, if people on the other side actually listened they would have found that the answers given were fairly, clearly and decisively. Let me remind senators, when it comes to climate change, the Rudd Labor government has the record up to now. We are the ones who, in the first 100 or so days that we have been in power, have taken action that shows we understand that it is a huge problem. It is not going to be resolved overnight. When it comes to issues like emissions trading, we are very mindful of its impact on our communities and our households. We will be consulting with the community and with the experts to make sure we come up with a plan that will have long-term benefits for the Australian community and the global community. We do not take our responsibilities lightly. We have been in government for a very short period of time—

Senator Abetz —But you’re claiming credit for a lot of things!

Senator POLLEY —but, if you look at the opposition, they had 11½ years to put some runs on the board and failed to do so. The interjections from those opposite I find quite interesting. The government are committed to ensuring that the benefits and costs of emissions trading are spread fairly across the community. The government will take a careful and deliberate approach to finalising the scheme design, drawing on many sources of advice to achieve the best-quality policy outcomes.

We heard the sudden compassion that senators have espoused in this debate, so let’s go back to the real legacy of the former Howard Liberal-National government. They left us with the worst skill shortage this country has ever experienced. They did nothing about skilling up Australian workers. Their quick-fix solution was to import workers and undermine Australian workers in their workplace.

Senator Abetz —What did you do with the one million unemployed?

Senator POLLEY —My comment to those senators on the other side is very clear.

Senator Marshall —Don’t waste your time on them.

Senator POLLEY —I do not believe that we do waste our time when we get up and speak, even though there are interjections opposite. The Rudd Labor government has a plan to address the inflationary problems left by the Howard government, who went to the last election espousing that they were the great economic managers. Quite clearly the Australian people saw them for what they were. Now we are in the process of addressing those inflationary problems, as well as problems such as climate change and petrol prices. We are out there looking after Australian working families. We are also looking after those from low-income backgrounds within our society to ensure that they get a fair go. One thing about the Rudd Labor government that will be recorded in history is that we are there delivering on our promises. We will keep our election promises and ensure that all Australians have a fair go.