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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8313


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (13:50): Perhaps the advisors can arm Senator Wong with the detailed answer later on. I understand the 12 million is a per annum figure that gives an even trajectory towards the five per cent target. That was the argument Senator Wong put in Thursday's debate. Given that 38 million units obviously is not three lots of 12 million or two lots of 12 million, is it a higher target that has to be met in the initial fixed-price years of the scheme compared with what will be required in the non-fixed-price years of the scheme? If they are able to provide a clear answer there, that would be appreciated.

Whilst I am on my feet I will move, on behalf of the opposition and Senator Xenophon, the amendment on sheet 7168:

(1)   Clause 2, page 1 (line 16) to page 5 (line 3), omit the clause, substitute:

   2 Commencement

      (1)   The provisions of this Act commence on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.

      (2)   A Proclamation for the purposes of subsection (1) must not be made until after elections have been held for the 44th Parliament and the Parliament has met.

This is a very simple amendment. It is an amendment the opposition moved in the other place. It is an amendment that both Senator Xenophon and the opposition have circulated in relation to this debate. It is simple because what it seeks to achieve is simply to defer the proclamation of this legislation until the meeting of the next parliament. It seeks to ensure that the Australian people have a say on whether this package of bills comes into law or not. This amendment is put forward mindful of the fact that the Australian public were so willingly, deliberately and clearly misled at the last election. We have heard the words time and time again but, as I said in my speech in the second reading debate, just because the reminder of the Prime Minister's commitment at the last election that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led has been repeated time and time again in this place, in the other place and in public debate does not make the Prime Minister's breach of faith, her total backflip on that promise, any less significant.

Senator Chris Evans: Put your heart into it!

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Senator Evans wants me to put my heart into it. Senator Evans, you and every other senator on that side of the chamber and every Labor member of the House of Representatives went to the last election backing the Prime Minister and her promise. It is possible that Mr Rudd was not backing the Prime Minister as enthusiastically as everybody else, but the rest of you went to the election backing the Prime Minister, who stared down the lens of the camera and uttered those words: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' That is the promise she made. She went to the election on it and she managed to cobble together a government in the weeks after the election, having only just limped over the line.

Those opposite all know that if she had not made that promise, if she had not betrayed the Australian people, if she had not told what has turned out to be a mistruth during the election campaign, they probably would never have limped across the line. They would never have got those votes together. But they cobbled together a government. They did a deal with the Greens and the Prime Minister came out and said, 'Lo and behold, circumstances have changed.' The only circumstances that changed were her desire to occupy the Lodge and the threat that she may not be able to do so unless she did a deal with the Australian Greens. So in the one month we heard the Prime Minister on the one hand saying that we would not have a carbon tax, selling that to the Australian people, and then on the other hand signing a deal with the Australian Greens to say we will have a carbon tax.

This amendment seeks to right that wrong. This amendment seeks to give the Australian people a chance, a choice and an opportunity to have a say on this policy. We can go to an election and give the Labor Party the chance stand for their principles and fight for what they are now attempting to legislate. This is an invitation to the government and an opportunity to go to an election and say, 'We believe in this, we are genuine about this and we will stake our position in government on this.' That, after all, is what the Howard government did in regard to the GST package. Former Prime Minister John Howard went to an election in 1998 and gave the Australian people a choice before bringing fundamental reform into this parliament. Your government has done the exact opposite. You went to the election promising one thing and then did the exact opposite afterwards, giving the Australian people absolutely no choice whatsoever.

The lack of consistency between those two examples is seen right through every stage of the debate. I have highlighted that in this place before in relation to the committee examination of this legislation. It is like chalk and cheese. For the GST we had multiple committees undertaking multiple examinations of the legislation over a period of five months. Here we had one hastily convened committee controlled by the government and the Greens that only had a couple of weeks to examine the matter. In this chamber today we see a vastly different situation occurring. When the GST was debated in this chamber the committee stage lasted for 51 hours and 32 minutes. How much time do you think we have for the committee stage this time around? We will be lucky to have 30 hours. We will be lucky to have half the amount of time.

The government proclaims the carbon tax is a bigger reform than the new tax system was. They claim this is even bigger. They certainly acknowledge it has economy-wide implications, and yet they will not provide the same amount of time for its debate in this place. At every opportunity they run away from debate. They run away from the oppor­tunity for the Australian people to have their say. This amendment is their opportunity to have a say, the government's opportunity to put it to the Australian people and to have the courage of their convictions, to let their government rise or fall on this matter.