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Thursday, 7 July 2011
Page: 4284

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:54): It is unusual for me but I must say I am almost speechless having heard the contributions from Senator Furner and Senator Brown. Senator Furner was talking about people being disingenuous; this comes from a member of a party whose leader one day before the last election put her hand on her heart and said, 'There shall be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' That is not disingenuous; it is an outright lie. If that is not a lie, I do not know what is. Listening to Senator Furner lecture people about disingenuousness is making me almost speechless.

On the same note, we had the leader of the government, Senator Bob Brown, lecturing us on abiding by the rules in debate. Those of us with long memories remember how he used to regularly disobey police instructions, and disobey traffic rules—I think at one stage he was in trouble with the police for breaking the rules—and here he is in this chamber lecturing us about following the rules. As my colleague Senator Cash pointed out, he deliberately thumbs his nose at the standing orders of this chamber which say he must acknowledge the President, as we all do. Sometimes we forget. Senator Brown deliberately thumbed his nose at those rules, and at you, I might say, Mr Acting Deputy President, in his demeanour and his absolute contempt of this parliament, of this chamber and, indeed, of Australian democracy. For Senator Bob Brown to start lecturing us about abiding by the rules is just, again, almost making me speechless. I cannot wait for the time when Senator Rhiannon is head of the Greens. If I had a vote, Senator Rhiannon, I would be voting for you. I do not agree with you on much of what you do but I know that you are steadfast, that you do not involve yourself in hypocrisy as, some might say, your current leader does. I emphasise that even when it was drawn to Senator Bob Brown's attention that he should acknowledge the chair, he then deliberately got up, walked out and ignored the rules. For him to be lecturing anyone about following the rules is just mind-boggling. As I said, it almost leaves me speechless.

I wanted to participate in the debate. I have been sitting here listening to all of the contributions, because I wanted to find out from the Labor Party speakers what was in the carbon tax package that is going to be released, apparently on Sunday, with great fanfare. I had hoped that the Australian Labor Party speakers could tell us, because I know the other speaker this morning, Senator Bob Brown, knows exactly what is in the package. Yet Senator Furner does not. Senator Cameron, a very prominent member of the Australian Labor Party and of this chamber, does not know what is in it. But Senator Bob Brown does. And Senator Milne. Do you know what? Perhaps I do not have to tell you this, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker. Australian Labor Party members of parliament are going to be hooked up to a telephone call on Sunday to be told by their 'trusting leader' what is in the package. By the time that the Labor Party MPs are told what is in the package, the Greens will have already been briefed. As I said, I know Senator Bob Brown knows what is in it and, from some injudicious media comments that I heard today from other members of the Greens, I suspect that Senator Bob Brown has not kept the confidence—I only suspect that. But the poor old Labor Party, the lobotomised zombies—they do not know. They have not got a clue what is in it. They have been drip-fed on the good bits and drip-fed to leak out the goodish parts, the parts where you tax people and then compensate them by giving them their money back. Great economics! So typical of the Labor Party. That is all they know. They know as much as we do. When Senator Cameron spoke in this debate, I listened to his every word. I was just waiting for him to get off the politics and the personal abuse and actually tell us what was in the carbon package, but we did not get that, because, frankly, Senator Cameron does not know. It amazes me that the Greens know every detail chapter and verse, but Senator Furner and Senator Cameron do not. Here is Senator Bob Brown back in the chamber, again acknowledging the chair, in accordance with the standing orders. He is deliberately flouting the rules of this chamber, as he has deliberately flouted the rules of the land over the years, and then he has the hide to lecture us about abiding by the rules—an action that could only be described as hypocrisy.

Regrettably, Senator Furner and Senator Cameron do not know; none of the Labor speakers know. Perhaps I could ask Senator McEwen or Senator Carol Brown. Perhaps they could tell us. But I know they cannot tell us, because they do not know either. Senator Bob Brown knows, but the Labor Party does not. Who is running this gover­ment? I do not need to tell you who is running this government. It is the Greens, led by a man—Senator Bob Brown—who deliberately flouts the rules of this chamber and, as we have seen from his history, civil law on occasion as well.

In these contributions from the Greens-Labor alliance members I did hear them say that everybody wants a carbon tax. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps all the opinion polls are wrong. Let me give them the benefit of the doubt. Let me take Senator Bob Brown's word. It will be the only time in history I have ever done that, but just as an exercise, let us take his word. If he is so confident that the people of Australia want a carbon tax, then let us have a plebiscite. What could be fairer than that? What is wrong with that? Why would you not ask the Australian people what they want? Mr Abbott has said, very publicly and very directly, that he will abide by the results of the plebiscite.

Senator McLucas: That is not true.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is absolutely true.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Boyce ): Senator Macdonald, please address your remarks to the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator McLucas is again trying to mislead the Senate with her interjection. With thanks to Senator Cormann, I quote from Mr Abbott's speech at Parliament House on 4 July. He said:

If the arguments for a carbon tax are as clear and as convincing as members of this government say, let's have a vote. Let's put them to the people.

…   …   …

Let's bring it on …

He said that the government should be prepared to accept the vote of the people, and he has indicated quite clearly that he will as well.

So let us have a plebiscite. What could be fairer? What objection could you have to that? If you do not want a plebiscite, then let us go to the ultimate plebiscite. If Senator Brown is so confident that he will win this debate, perhaps he could move a vote of no confidence in the government and bring the government down. We can go to an election—make it a double dissolution. I know the Labor Party would be petrified of this, because Senator Cameron and Senator Furner would not even make it in a double dissolution, let me tell you. One is from Queensland, the other from New South Wales. Senator Sterle, from Western Australia, would not make it either. I can confidently predict that in Queensland and Western Australia Labor not only would Labor lose every lower house seat on this particular issue but also, I suspect, there would be very few senators elected from those states.

So let us have the vote if Senator Brown is confident that all Australians want this carbon tax—that all Australians want to increase their cost of living and want to be burdened. If many Australians want to lose their jobs, particularly up in Central Queens­land and North Queensland, where I come from—if he is so confident that that is what they want—let us have a vote. This is a democracy. What could be fairer than having a vote?

But will the Greens-Labor government that rules this country be interested in that? Are they at all interested in what the people of Australia might say? Of course not. What we have had so far from the Greens and the Labor Party—and this will ramp up incredibly with $12 million of taxpayers' money, which the Labor-Greens alliance is going to be using to run a political campaign to try to retrieve their electoral fortunes—is this dishonest campaign by the government.

The facts of the carbon tax are continually misrepresented by the Labor Party. Actually, in the last few years, the world's temperature has fallen, yet Senator Furner quoted some figures suggesting the opposite. I have pointed out before a CSIRO graph that shows that 140,000 years ago the sea levels were about where they are today. The graph also shows that over these 140,000 years the sea levels fell, until about 20,000 years ago, when they rose overnight to almost where they are now. I am not sure that industry and man's behaviour caused that rise in sea levels 20,000 years ago. I am only a simple person; I am not a scientist.

Senator McLucas: That's exactly so.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: We agree on that, Senator McLucas—one of the few things we agree on. But I can read the graph. It goes like this: sea level there; a fall down to there; and 20,000 years ago it went straight up like that. What caused that? Human beings' industrialisation? I do not know. Ask the CSIRO. In fact, I have asked them in a question on notice. I am still waiting for the response. So this is the sort of campaign that is being run by Labor and the Greens and this is what will happen.

As I say, I do not presume to lecture other people on things like science; I have always been quite clear on that. Of course climate is changing—there is never any doubt about that in my mind. Is man doing it? I do not know. I have been open about that. I have heard a lot of scientists say it is; I have heard a lot of scientists say it is not. If they cannot agree, what chance have I got? So my position has never changed.

But what I do say is: why do you penalise Australians with this sort of ridiculous, job-destroying carbon tax when nobody else in the world is doing it? I would hope someone in the Labor Party might get up and quote us the figures from the United States—'Well, there are lots of states doing it.' If they read recent history, they will find that most of the states in the United States that used to do something like this are withdrawing and getting out of it as quickly as possible, because these carbon trading schemes are a farce. The United States congress has made it quite clear that they will not be having one bar of any emissions trading scheme or carbon tax. The Chinese are often quoted, but even the government and, I suspect, Senator Brown, now have to acknowledge that, while the Chinese people are reducing their output of carbon by certain means, at the same time they are building new coal-fired power stations every day, so that the net result for China will be continuing increases in carbon.

What will this tax do for Australians? It will increase their cost of living, particularly for those of us who live remote from the capital cities. Of course, I know the Labor Party and the Greens are not interested in that; they do not get any support out in the real world. You have only to look at the fiasco on live cattle to understand that they have no interest in, no empathy for and no understanding of the human lives—let alone the businesses and family histories—being put at risk by things like the live cattle ban. As an aside, I say that thankfully Senator Ludwig has at last, after three weeks, woken up to what destruction he had done with that stupid decision. But it is typical of the Labor government to rush in and make a decision on pink batts, live cattle or school halls. They rush in, make a decision and waste all the taxpayers' money. It is not their money. I tell you that, if it were the Labor Party's money they were spending on these schemes, they would be a bit more careful; but it is the taxpayers' money. They do not care about the taxpayers' money. It is very easy to spend other people's money, and that is what the Labor Party are doing.

So, come Sunday, we are going to learn how the carbon tax is going to impact on us all. Today's leak was that it is not going to be 1,000 companies that pay; it is going to be only 500. How are they going to get to their targets? I would be interested to have Senator Brown tell me how they are going to halve the number of people they are going to attack and yet get the same outcome. If you are going to have this tax to pay everybody everything, as Ms Gillard is presently promising—not that anyone would take any notice of anything Ms Gillard promises—where is the money going to come from if they are going to tax only half the companies they said they were going to? The hypocrisy and the lack of truthfulness involved in this debate is absolutely mind-boggling.

But there is one way to fix it up: let the people of Australia have a say. What could be fairer than that? What objection can you have to that? Senator Brown says it will cost $80 million. Some of the programs that the Greens raise every day would cost much, much more than $80 million. But you would be giving the Australian people a say in perhaps the greatest taxation issue since the GST.

I mention the GST because that is a good example of how to do things right. When we were in government, we talked about a GST. We brought in all the rules and procedures and the draft legislation. We said to the Australian public: 'This is what we are going to do with the GST; now we're going to an election, and if you think that we're on the right track then you'll vote for us and we'll form a government and be able to put in the GST. If you don't think it's the right thing, you won't vote for it.' Why can't the Gillard government do that? I will tell you why: the Labor Party and the Greens know that, if they asked the Australian public—if you were at all a believer in democracy—they would both be annihilated. The people of Australia would say, 'We don't want this tax; we don't want this imposition on our cost of living, particularly when it won't impact in any way whatsoever—it will not have one iota of impact—on the world greenhouse gas emissions. All it will do will be to send Australian jobs overseas.' I am very distraught about the jobs up in the central Queensland area, up in North Queensland and up in Northern Australia, including the Pilbara. I am very worried about the impact the tax will have on the jobs of my fellow Australians. The Labor Party and the Greens do not care about that. They just want a tax. They want to get the money in. They have huge budget black holes. They will do anything to try to overcome their incompet­ence with money.

So I conclude by again asking Senator Brown or any of the Labor Party people who are prepared to discuss this particular bill: what is wrong with asking the Australian people what they want? What is wrong with having a plebiscite, as Mr Abbott proposes? What is wrong, indeed, with going to an election? Let us make it a double dissolution election. What could be fairer? Let us see what we in this democracy would say. But no—the Greens and the Labor Party will join together. They will ignore the wishes and will of the Australian people and push through this horrible legislation, which will have such an impact on our cost of living and, indeed, the jobs of our fellow Australians.