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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8519

Senator McGAURAN (1:11 PM) —I congratulate my colleague Senator Williams on a well-presented piece. I rise to support all my colleagues on this side of the chamber on what are momentous and controversial bills, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills. As all speakers have said, the bills place a tax on carbon, where industry must purchase permits to be able to operate. In the first year, the government tell us that they will cap it at $10 per tonne and then in the second year it will be opened up to the full market, and it is estimated it will be as high as $40 per tonne. I heard Senator Williams say that some of the estimates are even higher than that—we do not know for sure; it will be open to the market. But we do know that $40 per tonne is really what we are basing our objection on. Any more than that and you reach a really devastating situation. While the government tell us there will be compensation distributed and paid out to certain trade affected industries, it is on a sliding scale over five years. It is a transition payment, if you like, and only a transition payment.

This is a very complex piece of legislation, and it is not yet properly completed. The devil is in the detail of this legislation, and we have yet to see the detail of this legislation. I will not be voting for these bills—the emissions trading scheme—in any shape or form until there is an international agreement that is indeed active. I should add to that: in place and active. I have the firmest conviction that these bills are not in the national interest. We often see bad bills come into this parliament, at least from our perspective, and we have seen the effect of bad bills that have not been stopped in this parliament. These bills are worse than bad: they are a hoax. They are pulling a hoax on the parliament and the Australian people. Moreover, it is the rural and regional areas in Australia, as my colleagues have previously said, that will be the most adversely affected. This has been my base constituency since being first elected to the parliament. I give evidence to that claim from a well-presented report by the Senate Select Committee on Fuel and Energy on the economic and environmental costs of the government’s CPRS scheme. It is a very good report. Frontier Economics, who were commissioned by the New South Wales government, tell us from the report that modelling has found that the impact on rural and regional areas will set them back by 20 per cent over 20 years. It is not as if they are going to go forward; they will go backwards over 20 years. That same report then refers to the Australian Local Government Association’s State of the regions report which comes to the exact same conclusion—that rural and regional areas will face a double effect if this bill is passed.

So I believe my stance does carry very strong electoral support, in particular in rural and regional areas. Where my view is not carried, I am willing to put and argue my case and beliefs. After all, that is our first duty as elected representatives. That is what we come into this parliament with—the ideal of public service and reflecting our constituency, who have entrusted us and elected us to speak for them up here. That is the essence of the oath of office we take in this place. When it comes to the crunch, is that not the responsibility of every representative? At some point, the politics stops and the principle begins, and this is one such occasion.

Having said that, I am also very mindful of the need from time to time to be pragmatic in politics. It is necessary and proper to be able to weld the many views that make up this parliament, but there will always be a line drawn in public life, and indeed in any sphere of life, and this is a line I cannot cross. For me to cross it would forever dull my conscience and, if I may say, I have always striven to keep my conscience very sharp in politics. I think after all this time I will continue to do so and I will see it to the finish.

As every one of my colleagues has said, this is a momentous piece of legislation, but we have to ask: what is the government’s view on this, outside of what the Prime Minister and his ministers have said? What is the view of the other side in this debate? We have not heard anyone other than three speakers. We have put up 35; the other side to date have put up three speakers. Why aren’t their backbenchers coming forward and debating the case? They have just left it to the frontbench, and I see one from New South Wales sitting over there, very hushed now. He did not mind throwing in a few objections at the beginning of other people’s speeches, but why wouldn’t someone like Senator Forshaw stand up and give his point of view and debate the matter? Is it that he is not up to it? No, Senator Forshaw is up to it. Some of them are not up to it, I should add. Are they cowards? Well, most of them are but Senator Forshaw is not. Are they under the Prime Minister’s instruction—the gag? Yes, all of them are. Three of them have had the courage to stand up and give their point of view. I do not agree with it. Senator Furner was agonising. It was sad, actually, what he had to say, but at least he got up. He ran the old line that the Barrier Reef is going to be destroyed. I do not think time permits me to tackle that issue. I did on Thursday night.

Who else got up? Senator Lundy got up. It is very easy for someone from the ACT to get up and talk about the issue, but I think I would prefer to rely on Senator Humphries, as I turn around and see Senator Humphries from the ACT. As I say, I would prefer to rely on Senator Humphries’s contribution than Senator Lundy’s. Then there was Senator McEwen—good old Senator McEwen. She focused on the link between bushfires and climate change. What an absurd link that is. Not even the $100 million plus Victorian royal commission came up with that link. Why don’t you try something like the link between the state government’s management of those forests and those bushfires? But as I stand up as a Victorian—

Senator Forshaw interjecting—

Senator McGAURAN —Sorry?

Senator Forshaw interjecting—

Senator McGAURAN —As a Victorian, I stand up.

Senator Forshaw —Do you?

Senator McGAURAN —Indeed, and Victoria will be greatly affected by this. Anyone who lives in the Latrobe Valley knows that only too well—and the state government knows it only too well. It has been lobbying the federal government very heavily. So I would say, at the very least: where are the Victorian senators on this matter? Where is Senator Collins on this matter? She had some pretty big shoes to fill, I would say, replacing Senator Ray. This is her second time around. She is not up to this debate. She does not have her name on this debate. Is she representing the Latrobe Valley workers or not? I really think, watching Senator Collins, she does not have her heart in her second term on this matter at all.

What about Senator Conroy? He has just come back from somewhere. He was absent. He will not speak up because the truth of the matter is everyone knows he is one of the greatest sceptics next to Minister Ferguson.

Senator Nash interjecting—

Senator McGAURAN —Yes, he would have to tell the truth. He is not that big a liar, is he? He would have to tell the truth. He and Minister Ferguson are the biggest sceptics—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Crossin)—Senator McGauran, I would just ask you to reflect on your inferences on senators in this place, please.

Senator McGAURAN —I withdraw it if I was reflecting on Senator Conroy. I believe that, if he stood up, he would have to have told the truth, as he would. Senator Marshall is a Victorian who, I would say, to give him a compliment, has actually blossomed in government. He is never short of a word. He always manages to get up on the most trivial pieces of legislation and rant and rave, but when it comes to the big stuff he has gone missing. Senator Marshall loves a debate but he has gone missing. Am I missing someone else? Let me just get out the list, because the Victorian senators are so obscure, I must admit. There is Senator Feeney, a great academic.

Senator Forshaw —Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I know that senators are allowed to range widely in their second reading debate speeches, but I would ask you to draw Senator McGauran back to the legislation that he is speaking to. We do not need a rollcall of the senators from Senator McGauran.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order, Senator Forshaw.

Senator Cormann —On that point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President, Senator McGauran is very clearly speaking to the legislation and all of the comments he has made very clearly are highly relevant to the legislation before the Senate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Cormann, I had said there was no point of order. I thank you for your assistance, but I had ruled there was no point of order. Senator McGauran, please continue.

Senator McGAURAN —I want to assure the chair I have done deep research into this matter. Look: I have book after book, and scientific modelling. I have really come well and truly prepared, but what has got under my skin—and I have wasted more than 10 minutes on it—is, lo and behold, the Victorian senators and what a useless mob they are.

Senator Cormann —Labor senators.

Senator McGAURAN —Labor senators, of course. Who would think otherwise? Rest assured, I have come to debate this issue: the politics of it, the science of it and, more so, the public representation of it. Everyone should be involved in this debate. Any Victorian senator worth their salt would stand up on this issue and this legislation. As I said, it is the greatest hoax of all and Victoria is probably going to suffer more than any state—let alone at the farm gates—because of the brown coal industry. I hear a Western Australian interject and rightly so. Everyone knows their economies are going to be devastated. Everyone is in here to represent their states. For once, can the Senate be a state representative body on the other side? At least get up and defend your case. I grew up in the Latrobe Valley coal mining district. It is my home district.

Senator Forshaw —Where is your office now?

Senator McGAURAN —Well, I had an office in Moe at one time. I am down to eight minutes, Senator; could you please? I have spent so long doing the research on this and I want to make this point. Having grown up in the Latrobe Valley, I learnt one thing very early: that a job is the cornerstone of people’s lives. This is for all the knock-on reasons that you know only too well over there—for personal reasons, for family reasons, for local community reasons and for the opportunity it brings to people. To strip away the chance to keep your job in the Latrobe Valley alone, a Labor area to its bootlaces, and to not even get up and explain why you are doing it—for absolutely meaningless reasons, as every speaker has properly pointed out—is a travesty.

Senator Nash —Shame!

Senator McGAURAN —It is a shame, a disgrace and a contravention of your own office. The Labor Party have now completed the whole circle. They have completely moved away from their working class roots. Not even the three speakers—there were only three of them—that bothered to get up mentioned the effect on jobs.

Senator Boswell —They don’t care about blue collar workers.

Senator McGAURAN —They don’t care about blue collar workers. They have studiously avoided how this legislation will affect the jobs of their constituency—let alone all Australians, industry or the economy at large—and, in a micro sense, how it will affect the jobs of those in the Latrobe Valley who work in those power stations and who have given loyalty to the Labor Party over so many years.

I always recall the Prime Minister, when he first came into office, saying that Gough Whitlam was his political hero. This sent a chill down my spine. But he was not kidding; he was serious. The apprentice has now truly surpassed the master. This is more destructive and more incompetent than any Khemlani affair. It is a bill that has no good intentions other than to meet the politics of the day of the Prime Minister. You were all cowed by that. Will you commit to at least standing up for five minutes? We are willing to make way on the list for you, Senator Forshaw. You are an intelligent man. You read books, you know science very well and we hear you pontificating on so many other issues. Just stand up and tell us why you will not defend this legislation, particularly in New South Wales?

Senator Forshaw —I would rather listen to you talking about me.

Senator McGAURAN —Where are the unions when it comes to jobs? Where are the unions on the issue of defending the workers’ jobs? We know jobs will be lost in the aluminium industry, we know jobs will be lost at BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla, we know jobs will be lost at Caltex, we know jobs will be lost at Xstrata and we know jobs will be lost at Ford—it is all listed and you can test their claims. We have tested their claims and they are absolutely correct. All these jobs are going to be lost.

You have got no responsibility. You have just proven it. You love the power of government more than the responsibility of public life. After all these years at least you are someone who could stand up there and debate this issue. Maybe some of the new senators have not got the courage to stand up to the government but what have you got to lose, Senator Forshaw? Why don’t you place public service and your public oath ahead of the power of government? You will not. You enjoy being in government too much. You are cowed from the top down and we are now seeing it on one of the most important pieces of legislation. Just as the unions have been bought off on the Fair Work Act, in the end you will not stand up for workers on this bill.

The government has willingly entangled itself with the extreme end of this debate. What it thought was good politics in 2007—and it may well have been—is not good politics now, in 2009. You have put yourself in the hands of Professor Garnaut, who I heard Senator Williams mention. What a joke his report was, suggesting that we ought to replace cattle with kangaroos. That is his credibility. I know Tim Flannery declared that Adelaide was going to run out of water last year. You have put yourself into the hands of these people. You are at the extreme end. Professor Stein, who is one of the people who kicked off this whole debate as the senior adviser in England, has been shunted aside after he suggested that we all ought to be vegetarians. Even the English government has now shunted him and do not accept his findings. The government is certainly not acting on it. You have a shift in public opinion on all of this.

Senator Forshaw —Get your facts right. You said Professor Stein. Is that right? It’s Stern. Who was it?

Senator McGAURAN —You are very talkative now. Why don’t you get up and talk about it from your seat?

Senator Forshaw —Get your facts straight.

Senator McGAURAN —Well, get up and dispute the facts—dispute the facts of the 35 plus senators on this side who have put up a scientific policy, and who have represented their regions. Why don’t you enter the policy debate instead of just interjecting? What a disgrace it is; particularly for you, Senator Forshaw, who have been here so long. I am saying it again because I hope, at the very least, I can prick your conscience and you have a sleepless night tonight, knowing that you have not properly stood up for your constituency and that after all these years your conscience is dulled. You have been dulled. You are now just a journeyman—just a dull backbencher in government who is enjoying all the luxuries but when it really comes to standing up, where are you? You have been made a fool of by the Prime Minister and he will continue to do it until you all crash and burn. I have said that public opinion has shifted on this. We know this, if nothing else, from the Lowy institute poll and we also know that the science has properly shifted on all of this. Thank goodness it has; I was getting a bit worried in 2007.

Have you ever bothered to read the absolutely creditable research from Professor Garth Paltridge, the former CSIRO chief, called The Climate Caper? Of course you have not. What about Heaven and Earth by Professor Ian Plimer? It is credible documentation, shifting the debate and challenging the science. Even the scientists who were personally involved in the document from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are now starting to come out and say, ‘We have been verballed by a small minority of scientists.’ Let me just quote one, the United Nations IPCC’s Japanese scientist Dr Itoh, an award-winning environmental physical chemist. He said about the climate change alarmists:

The worst scientific scandal in the history … When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.

There are hundreds of those scientists who are now starting to reject the IPCC’s initial report, which is the foundation stone of this whole debate.

There is much to say in this debate. My colleagues have presented it well. Our outrage is obvious. The hoax, the fix, is in. But what I want to concentrate on is the great disappointment in those on the other side who are not willing to stand up and put their case. Many of them actually believe what we on this side believe: that these bills ought not to be passed.

Senator Fifield —Name them.

Senator McGAURAN —Senator Conroy is chief among them. There is one sitting over there. There is Senator Sterle. There is a whole list of them. All right, if they do not want to bust their government they should at least stand up and say something in the debate. Tell us how jobs will be saved under this. You at least have that baseline responsibility. (Time expired)