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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4168

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (12:25): Let us just be very clear about one issue here. What this government is seeking to do is to have the carbon tax repealed. That was the bipartisan position of Prime Minister Gillard and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, at the 2010 election. We were promised there would be no carbon tax in 2010. Then, in 2013, Prime Minister Rudd and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, were once again on a unity ticket—and I have exhibit A here: a Labor Party brochure authorised by George Wright, in which he tells us, 'Kevin Rudd and Labor have removed the carbon tax.'

So why on earth is my good friend Senator Moore—recently resworn as a representative of the people of Queensland, having been elected on the policy of removing the carbon tax, and her colleagues before her having been elected on a policy of never having a carbon tax—now standing here seeking to frustrate the will of the Australian people? I do not think anyone could argue with the proposition that the carbon tax was one of the key issues at the last election.

The reason the Australian people wanted to see the back end of the carbon tax was that they knew it was impacting on their cost of living—$550 for the average household in Australia each and every year. And, courtesy of the Greens-Labor majority that used to preside in this place, the carbon tax ratcheted up yet again on 1 July to increase that impost on Australian families even further. And, if the cost-of-living impost is not bad enough, we know it destroys jobs. The carbon tax is a blot on the economic landscape of our nation. It attacks the cost of living of families and it is destroying jobs as we speak.

We all know the example of Fuji chemicals, which wanted to set up in Australia with $1 billion worth of infrastructure capital investment and 150 jobs, as an ongoing concern and replacing imports. They decided to set up in China instead, simply because of the carbon tax. Do you know what they will do in China? They will emit more greenhouse gases in their production than they did in a pre-carbon tax environment in Australia. And that is where you see the absolutely perverse environmental outcome of the carbon tax. Not only does it destroy Australia's economy and the cost of living; it actually ensures that clean production companies in Australia have to move offshore to countries where they do not have as strong an environmental regime as we do in Australia.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my left.

Senator ABETZ: This is the classic lose-lose scenario that was inflicted upon the Australian people by the Australian Greens and the Labor Party in that marriage that they undertook with Senator Bob Brown and Prime Minister Gillard.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Whish-Wilson.

Senator ABETZ: I do not know what the Labor Party interjections are about. I refer to this brochure again: 'Kevin Rudd and Labor remove the carbon tax.' If we were to believe the very policy on which Senator Moore got herself re-elected to this place—that is, the carbon tax had been removed—sorry; what are these bills doing here? The carbon tax, we are agreed, still has to be removed. It is still on the legislative books, is it not?

We, as an opposition, said to the Australian people: 'If you elect us on 7 September, we will have as the very first item of business in the new parliament the repeal of the carbon tax.' And we lived up to that promise. Prime Minister Abbott introduced the repeal of the carbon tax as the very first item of business in the new parliament. So it should be no surprise to those opposite that we, as the very first item of business in this new Senate, would seek to ensure the repeal of the carbon tax.

I say to those opposite: you had your fun last month. Yes, the dead hand of the old Senate reached out and attempted to control that which will happen in the new Senate. And that is why the motions were moved to seek to delay the will of the Australian people.

I have been asked: is this a measure that is frustrating the government? More importantly, this measure, or the motion moved by those opposite last month, was frustrating the Australian people. It is frustrating the Australian economy. It is frustrating the world's environment to boot. So in every possible respect—

Senator Cameron: What did you say?

Senator ABETZ: Senator Cameron says, 'What did you say?' Can I ask you, Senator Cameron: what did you say when you sought re-election?

Senator Cameron: I said I supported a price on carbon.

Senator ABETZ: You said that the carbon tax was being removed, on Labor Party funded brochures. Your own union may well have funded this brochure.

The fact that we are seeking to put this up as the first item should be of surprise to nobody. We said we would do so if we were elected. The Labor-Greens Senate majority frustrated us in that endeavour. We now have a new Senate, more reflective of the will of the Australian people generally on 7 September, taking into account the quirks of Western Australia. We have a situation where we as a government want to introduce this legislation as a matter of absolute urgency to get this blot off our economic landscape. People are quite rightly concerned about their cost of living. Today the Senate has the opportunity—

Senator Cameron: People are concerned about the planet as well.

Senator ABETZ: So why did you campaign to abolish the carbon tax, not only in 2010 but in 2013 as well?

As I have already pointed out to Senator Cameron—he who will interject but never listen—the carbon tax applying in Australia is in fact perverse in relation to the world's environment. Europe discovered that themselves when they closed down their relatively clean aluminium smelters only to see them pop up again in Africa and elsewhere where the environmental regimes were not half as good as they were in their pre-existing foundries and smelters in Europe. As a result, the world's environment was worse off. The same is happening in relation to Australia. With great respect to Senator Moore, it is not as though this is a debate that has fallen out of the sky just today; I think it has been around very strongly for a number of years. In fact, so strong was the sentiment in the Australian community that Labor promised no carbon tax in 2010. They promised that absolutely.

Then, when they realised the vehemence with which the Australian people despised the carbon tax—because it was impacting on the cost of living; it was destroying their jobs and having a perverse outcome on the environment—the Labor Party rushed around at the 2013 election to say, 'No, nothing to see here. We've already removed the carbon tax.' We know that the carbon tax has not been removed. Just as the Australian people were misled before the 2010 election—that there would be no carbon tax—so they were misled by the Australian Labor Party in 2013 with the assertion that the carbon tax had already been removed.

The simple fact that we have to introduce this swathe of bills, some nine of them, indicates that the carbon tax regrettably is still alive and well. And, each day that this carbon tax continues, it will continue to have an impost on the cost of living for every single Australian, and it will continue to destroy jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector—

Senator Cameron: Don't you talk about manufacturing. What did you do to Ford? What did you do to GM?

Senator ABETZ: especially in the manufacturing sector, Senator Cameron, which you know. It continues to have a perverse outcome on the environment. We as a government are determined to—

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron.

Senator ABETZ: Senator Cameron is always willing to interject, never willing to listen. That is his wont. The new senators will soon learn that that is his style, and a very ugly style it is, if I might say.

Senator Cameron: I don't listen to rubbish.

Senator ABETZ: We as a government will seek to prosecute those issues on which we were elected and in particular this impost on the economy which we believe was brought to us as a result of that marriage between the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens, something about which former Senator Mark Bishop had words to say, quite rightly. He is no longer with us, regrettably, but I am sure he is ably replaced by Senator Bullock, and I wish him well.

I conclude my remarks by saying that we as a government are anxious to remove this impost for the Australian people; noting that, in its removal, we will be delivering on the promises made by Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott, in 2010, and by Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott in 2013.