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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8399

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:33): Just before the dinner break, I was halfway through asking some questions of the minister. I was lamenting the fact that, because of an unholy deal between the Greens and the Labor Party, the time for asking questions has been severely curtailed so that this whole process has to finish by lunchtime tomorrow. Temporary Chairman Marshall, you would recall that we have come back to the Senate this week—the House of Representatives is not sitting; this is an additional week, over and above the parliamentary sitting—so that we can fully explore these 18 complex bills. But we are being severely restricted by this arrangement between the Greens and their mates in GetUp!—none of whom have any interest in democracy, free speech or proper parliamentary debate—in an unholy alliance with the Labor Party. As a result of that, my colleagues and I have very limited time to speak on these bills and to get the information the Australian public need to fully understand and comprehend this toxic new tax.

I have given the minister's advisers some idea of the questions that I am going to ask, so I hope that they will be well-prepared to brief the minister when I do ask the questions. Senator Birmingham and Senator Xenophon have moved a very substantial amendment that I want to spend a couple of minutes supporting. It is an amendment that says that this package of bills should not be implemented, should not be approved by the Governor-General, until after the next election. For those listening, I want to explain why we are moving this amendment. It is because nearly every member in the lower house ran to the last election on a campaign promise that there would be no carbon tax under a government led by Ms Gillard. It was a solemn promise by Ms Gillard a couple of days before the last election and it was reinforced by the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Wayne Swan. 'There will be no carbon tax in this term of government.'

Of course here we are in the closing stages of debate—though much truncated—on legislation which will impose a toxic Australia-wide carbon tax. We live in hope that some of the Labor people might do what their constituents want them to do and come across and join us in opposing this toxic tax. I know many of them would like to. Many understand that their colleagues in the House of Representatives will be annihilated at the next election because of the breach of that solemn promise and because Australians clearly do not want this toxic carbon tax, particularly when nobody else in the world has one. This tax will do nothing to stop global emissions from Australia. In fact, after this enormous new tax is imposed, on the government's own modelling, emissions are going to increase by 2020. It is not going to do any good at all.

Members of the Labor Party are all saying now that this is an essential tax for Australia, that it is essential Australia leads the world in introducing a nationwide carbon tax. I want to ask every one of the members of the Labor Party—and I want them to answer this when next they speak—what did they say to Ms Gillard a year ago? They are all saying the tax is so good now. Did they pick up the phone to Ms Gillard and say: 'Don't you dare do this, Ms Gillard. You've just promised you won't introduce a carbon tax, but we think it's so good.'

Senator Wong has been speaking for the last week on how good and how essential a carbon tax is for Australia. I would like to know what Senator Wong did a year ago when Ms Gillard promised the Australian people she was not going to introduce it. Did Senator Wong ring Ms Gillard and say: 'Hey, buddy, this is not on. This tax is so good.' Senator Wong has been telling us for the last week how good this all is. I would be interested to know, if she thinks it is so good now, whether she rang Ms Gillard a year ago, when Ms Gillard promised every Australian she would not be introducing this tax, and said: 'Listen, buddy, you're wrong. You can't do this. I'm not going to go with you. I'm not going to run on your campaign promises. I'm going to make my own comments. I'm going to tell the Australian people, "No, I'm for a carbon tax."'

What about all of the other senators here? I want to know whether Kirsten Livermore, the member for Capricornia, rang Ms Gillard a year ago and said: 'I believe this carbon tax is just so good. If you're going to promise not to do it, if you've said you're not going to have it, I'm going to campaign against you.' I want all the Labor members to search their souls and tell me: did they ring Ms Gillard a year ago when she promised not to introduce this tax? I would be very interested in the answers. I am sure it did not happen. Or perhaps they rang her and Ms Gillard said to them: 'Look, I've had to promise this because I know people hate it and if I said we were for it then we wouldn't get elected. I agree with you that we should have a carbon tax, so just shut up for the next couple of days. Don't say anything. We'll pretend we are not going to have a carbon tax. As soon as we get in, we'll introduce the carbon tax.'

I have heard a lot of comments in this chamber about how John Howard changed his mind on the GST, and I concede that, yes, he did. He had said we were not going to have a GST, but then he prepared a GST—the whole tax system. He put it out, chapter and verse, line by line, detail by detail, to the Australian public and then he said to the Australian public: 'Look, previously I said there wouldn't be a GST. Now I think we do need a GST, so this is what I propose. I'm now going to go to an election. If you agree with me that this GST is good for Australia then vote for me at the election. If you don't believe it's good, vote for the Labor Party.' What did Australians do? They returned John Howard and he introduced the GST.

This amendment by Senator Xenophon and Senator Birmingham simply says: 'Have the courage to do what John Howard did. If you think this is so good, if you think this is going to save the world, put it to the Australian people. Let them have a say.' If this amendment is passed, that is what will happen. The confirmation of this new policy regime will start only after the next election, and what could be fairer than that? I would like anyone to tell me what could be fairer than that. Even under the Labor Party's proposals, the Greens' proposals, this does not start till 1 July next year, so there is no hurry. I cannot understand why we are guillotining it through the Senate tonight and having a couple of hours tomorrow morning on these 18 complex bills, because it does not start for another seven months at the very earliest. What is the rush? We know why: Senator Brown and Ms Gillard want to go to South Africa and strut the world stage saying, 'We've done this.' All the other countries will simply laugh at them.

I certainly support this amendment. Senator Xenophon has some interesting amendments on another approach to carbon reduction, and they deserve full debate. But I can tell Senator Xenophon that he is not going to get the time. You have got literally a couple of hours tonight and a couple of hours tomorrow. About 15 speakers from our party want to speak, and all we get is Labor Party people jumping up, giving 15-minute speeches and stopping us from even asking questions. This whole thing is a travesty of parliamentary democracy, and I hope that those listening to this debate will understand just how low the Labor Party and the Greens have sunk. With the Greens we would expect it, but most people expect that the Labor Party, when they made a solemn promise not to do something, would honour it. Sadly, that is not the case.

As well as supporting the amendment, I want now to go to the questions I foreshadowed before. I ask questions about the coal industry because it is so important in Queensland, the state I represent in this chamber. Proposed section 145 of the main bill contains a clause that permanently locks coalmining out of the traditional assistance arrangements regardless of future market conditions or the outcome of any Productivity Commission reviews of the effectiveness and scope of the emissions-intensive trade-exposed arrangement. This is a dramatic shift from the previous CPRS legislation, introduced by Mr Rudd but withdrawn. I ask the minister: why this change of approach? Why is the coal industry being attacked in this way?

Also, in relation to the coal industry, there is $1.68 billion for the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program—nowhere near the 13.2 billion committed to renewable technologies—and another $3.2 billion managed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. At least $1.68 billion is something. Treasury modelling of the Clean Energy Future package acknowledges that carbon capture and storage will make an important contribution to meeting Australia's emissions reduction target. Its exclusion from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is clearly inconsistent with this funding. Carbon capture and storage should have the same access to a competitive process for this funding as the suite of other low-emission and renewable technologies.

I want the minister to explain to me why the government has taken this approach with the carbon tax in relation to those two issues. I would appreciate the minister's answers. Then I want to ask a couple of questions about the tourism and sugarcane industries. Regrettably, that will be the only time I will have to participate in this debate tonight, even though I have literally thousands of other questions. Perhaps the minister could address those two questions in relation to the coal industry.