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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8315

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (13:57): As a co-mover of this amendment, I come to this from a different perspective. I do not believe that the Prime Minister lied to Australians when she said just before the last election that there would not be a carbon tax under a government that she led, but I believe that she changed her mind. She changed her position because of the exigencies of minority government. There is a fundamental principle here: if you tell the people on such a key issue, an issue that could have been an election changer, that you are not going to do a particular thing but then change your mind after the election for whatever reason, I believe it is incumbent on you to go back to the Australian people on that issue. I supported a plebiscite. I do not support the view that there was some deliberate lying or misleading of the electorate. But it was a fundamental mistake for the government to say one thing before the election and then after the election, because of different circumstances, say, 'We will plough ahead with this regardless.' That is dangerous. That is fundamentally wrong. It is an issue that can only be resolved if this package of legislation is passed subject to the safety valve of it not being given effect until after the next election.

My position is consistent. Thirteen years ago in the South Australian parliament I voted against the then Olsen Liberal government's moves to privatise electricity assets. They went to the people at the 1997 state election in South Australia saying they would not privatise the assets. They changed their mind a few months later, and my position is the same. It is entirely consistent with the view I have had for virtually all of the time I have been involved in parliaments. Do not promise not to do something and then change your mind without going back to the people first. That is why there is such deep cynicism about politicians and the political process—because they change their minds without going back to the people to get the necessary mandate in order to deal with an issue that will be fundamental to this economy. It is a fundamental issue of democracy. We should not proceed further with this bill unless we have this amendment in place.

Progress reported.