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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8307

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (13:22): Isn't it remarkable that, just as I get to utter the words 'I move' and then yield to Senator Xenophon, who asks a sensible question, Senator Milne—who has come into this debate at various intervals and said, 'Why aren't the coalition moving amendments?' and 'Why aren't there sensible questions being asked?'—comes in and goes off on a tangential rant! Is it any wonder then, Senator Milne, that I am going to respond? I am going to respond because you came in here and asked us to respond and talk about a whole range of other issues which were not the subjects of the debate.

I can see that Senator Milne is frustrated by this debate, as are the Greens. It is evident that, whenever Senator Milne sits down in her chair, she wants to bounce up and answer the questions instead of allowing the minister to do so. She is desperate to be the minister responding to questions about this package because, of course, she was so integral to its development. Senator Milne was sitting around the multi-party committee table designing and developing the package. Whilst Senator Wong, admirably, knows much of the detail of this package and handles it with aplomb much of the time in the chamber, Senator Milne is nonetheless the frustrated author of this package, and she wants to get to her feet herself and make sure that she has her say.

Senator Milne has the gall to attack the opposition for a lack of amendments, even though our position on this legislation has been crystal clear: we oppose it. My question for Senator Milne is: where are the Greens amendments? If you want to question where the opposition amendments are, I ask you: where are the amendments from the Australian Greens? There is not a single one.

Senator Milne, do you contend that this package is perfect? Do you contend that it meets all of the designs that the Australian Greens would have liked to have had in it? Does it achieve everything that you chest-thumped over during the CPRS debates—all the things which Senator Wong well knows the Australian Greens needed to have in the CPRS but which you do not have in this package? You did not have the courage then to talk to Senator Wong, and you were not willing to negotiate with Senator Wong at all when she was the minister on the CPRS package, so, now that you have negotiated something, it does not achieve half of the things you talked about during those CPRS debates. It does not go anywhere close to achieving the things that you wanted at that time.

So, even though you love to come in here and attack me, attack changes in opposition positions and attack a lack of opposition amendments, the Greens are just as guilty as any other political party in this place for the way that the politics of this matter have been handled over many years. You come in here and talk about the electricity generation industry and how they are treated and say, 'The Greens took this matter seriously during the joint select committee, and we looked at closely.' But I have here in my hand the Greens contribution to the joint select committee's report. It is a sole paragraph which does not mention the electricity generation sector once! That is the Greens consideration of the matter, so do not come in here moralising, hectoring and lecturing all of us. We have heard plenty of that from the Greens time and time again.

I appreciate the frustration of the Greens. It is sometimes hard to tell, looking across the chamber, who is the biggest captive of whom. The Greens have had to sell out a lot of the things they demanded in order to be able to sign up to this package, and in doing so they have not even said to the govern­ment, 'We reserve the right to move a few amendments of the things that we didn't get during a multi-party committee stage.' You could have done that, Senator Milne. You could have said, 'We'll support this, but, at least in the chamber debate, we'll move some of the amendments of the things that we have said are important.' But, no—you backed down on all of that and did a fully fixed deal with the government. Senator Xenophon could move the most worthy and most sensible amendment in the world, and the Greens would not consider supporting it. It could be an amendment that most aligned with the things that the Greens used to talk about during the CPRS debates, and still they would not support it.

Do not come in here, Senator Milne, and lecture everybody else about things, because frankly the position the Greens have taken on this debate sells out many of the things that you used to talk about in the debates on the CPRS. You know it and Senator Wong knows it, because she had to sit through all of those debates and hear you speaking about them time and time again. Whilst often on this side we talk about the government's having to yield to the Greens to put this package up and so back down on Prime Minister Gillard's promise at the last election that there would be no carbon tax, it is equally true that the government have managed to persuade the Greens into supporting a package which was not previously in line with Greens policy and does not go towards achieving it.

We have been having a sensible discussion in this chamber at times this morning about the impacts on and the concerns of the electricity generation industry. Senator Xenophon has been asking some questions on that, I have been asking some questions on that and other senators have touched on different aspects of that. You have not been in here asking any of those questions, Senator Milne, so do not come in and lecture us now. I note that there was a question from Senator Xenophon before you spoke, Senator Milne. It went to the issue of what the target is, and I think the minister was about to get to her feet to answer when you, Senator Milne, interrupted the chain of the debate. I invite the minister, if she remembers Senator Xenophon's question, to answer it. If she does not remember it, I am sure Senator Xenophon will happily ask it again before we proceed the amendments.