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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6292

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (19:13): This week was an important week in the federal parliament. This was a week when the public reflected on the stark evidence that every Labor member and senator who was elected at the last election—every single one of them—was elected on the basis of a lie. And that lie is, without a doubt, one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated on the Australian people. The lie of course is the statement made by the Prime Minister of Australia prior to the 2010 election that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'.

Despite that clear and unambiguous promise, what did we witness this week? We witnessed the introduction by the government into the parliament the package of 19 bills—not one bill, 19 bills; more than 1,000 pages of legislation—to establish a carbon tax: the tax that the Prime Minister of Australia told the Australian people they would never ever have under a Labor government. To compound the Prime Minister's blatant lie to the Australian voters, we now find that the Labor government has joined forces with the Greens party and intends to prevent the parliament from having the opportunity to properly scrutinise this legislation. By failing to give this parliament the opportunity to properly scrutinise the bills, this government, in conjunction with the Greens, intends to manipulate the available debating time on the bills and in so doing will fail to discharge its duties in relation to responsible government.

Responsible government is something that we on this side of the chamber know something about. When we on this side introduced a fundamental change to the Australian economy—the GST—we ensured that the parliament was given the appropriate opportunity to scrutinise the legislation. The GST legislation was scrutinised by the relevant parliamentary committees for five months—five months—not the mere few weeks that this government is going to be giving the Australian parliament to scrutinise its carbon tax legislation.

Perhaps the worst aspects of dealing with the former Rudd government and the current Gillard Labor government have been the lack of transparency and their adherence to secrecy, which has reached the stage of being almost all consuming and dominates the Gillard Labor government's agenda and its dealings with the Australian voters. The current Labor government and the current Prime Minister are unable to accept that secrecy in government breeds suspicion and suspicion breeds mistrust. That mistrust in the Gillard Labor government is extremely well placed, especially when it comes to the carbon tax legislation. When the Prime Minister was elected, one of the 'other' solemn promises that she made to the Australian people was that she intended to open her government to scrutiny by opening the windows and, in her own words as stated, 'let the sunshine in'. That was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7 September 2010—after the election—in an article with the banner headline 'Let the sunshine in'. The article begins:

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, says her minority government will be held to higher standards of accountability as a result of the deal struck with the independents.

It continues later:

"We will be held to higher standards of transparency and reform and it's in that spirit I approach the task of forming a government."

It did not take the Prime Minister very long to break her pre- and post-election promise that she would be subject to higher levels of accountability and that she would run a government that was open and transparent. The manipulation, with the help of the Greens, of the debating time on the carbon tax bills is yet another broken promise and is designed to thwart proper scrutiny of the bills and fails, in the Prime Minister's own words, to 'let the sunshine in'.

By failing to allow the parliamentary committee process to properly scrutinise the carbon tax legislation, the government has effectively trashed the committee process. And why is it doing this? Because this is a conniving, manipulative government that has decided that it is essential that the specialist committees of this parliament not be given the opportunity to scrutinise this legislation, because it knows that, if they do, these pieces of Labor-Greens legislation will be exposed for what they are: all economic pain with no environmental gain.

On this side of the chamber, our view is that it is very important for the specialist committees of this parliament to scrutinise this package of 19 bills to try and finally get some answers for the parliament and the people who want to know the details in the bills and the costly impact on them. Accountability and openness in government require that those who exercise power, while performing the functions of government, demonstrate, in an open and practical sense, that they are doing so with honesty, integrity, appropriate skill and judgment, and have discharged their duty in a proper manner for the common good and in the public interest.

This is even more important under this government as this Labor government has a record of monumental incompetence when it comes to program delivery and that is why it is all the more important that there be massive and proper scrutiny of this fundamental structural change to our economy—and this parliament is being denied the opportunity to exercise its proper constitutional functions by the current Labor government. But we all know why this is so. It is so because there is escalating opposition to this tax within the Australian community. But this government tells us it is sure of its policy. If the government is so sure that the Australian people will support its policy to put a price on carbon, then why won't the Prime Minister of Australia let the Australian people have their say—after all, they were duped by the Labor Party prior to the 2010 election—and call an election? Give the people an opportunity to say whether or not they support the Labor Party policy to put a price on carbon! But the government will not do this, and the reason why is very simple.

The Prime Minister of Australia and the Australian Labor Party are fully aware of their political reality. They know that if and when the Australian people are given the opportunity to have their say on this issue they will tell the Labor Party what we all know, that they do not trust Labor and that they resoundingly reject the Australian Labor Party's policy to put a price on carbon. They will tell the government what we all know, that it has no mandate. And why does this government have no mandate? Again, it is very simply because of the unambiguous statement made by the now-Prime Minister on the day before the 2010 election that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. Those clear, concise and unambiguous words will haunt the now Prime Minister to her political grave. The current Prime Minister has failed in the first task of national leadership, which is to tell the truth, to tell the truth when the Australian people are listening and weighing up the respective policies of the political parties before an election.

When Australians are guaranteed something as important as not introducing a carbon tax by a political leader in the run-up to an election, they put their faith and trust in that political leader to abide by their political guarantee and they cast their vote in reliance upon that expectation. If, for some reason, the now Prime Minister decides that she wants to reverse her earlier mandated position not to introduce a carbon tax, it is very clear that, because the voters cast their earlier vote in reliance on the Prime Minister's earlier political guarantee, the government should have the guts to take that policy reversal to the Australian people for their judgment. Instead, we have a Prime Minister who is so insecure, so unsure of her support from within her own caucus, so unsure of how long she will remain as Prime Minister of this country and so unsure of the policy that she is about to impose on the Australia people that she refuses to take her policy reversal to the Australian people and ask if they support it. The Prime Minister knows that, by her own actions, she has destroyed the trust and confidence that the Australian people placed in her as a direct consequence of her earlier promise not to introduce a carbon tax.

This Prime Minister's betrayal is destroying the re-election hopes of many sitting Labor members. But despite hiding from the scrutiny of the parliament, Labor members cannot flee from their electorates. This is a government that has betrayed the people and abandoned democracy over its handling of the carbon tax. If the Prime Minister were honourable and true to her word, if the Prime Minister cared about democracy, if the Prime Minister wanted to respect the wishes of the Australian people, she would give the people a chance to be heard—but she does not. She does not care about democracy. She does not care about the battlers. She only cares about herself and hanging onto power at any cost.