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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 11079

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (18:27): In moving this motion to extend the amount of time available for debating the carbon tax legislation, the Leader of the House has shown once again hypocrisy of the government in that it has a built-in guillotine for the vote on these 19 bills while at the same time it pretends that it thinks there ought to be more time for debating the bills. The point made by the previous speaker was very sound. The point is that, when you get legislation which will have such a huge impact on people's lives, there ought to be proper time for scrutiny of those bills, which means that they should normally have been referred to the five specialist committees of the House and not the stitched-up kangaroo-court committee we have—which is dominated by Labor and the Greens—and that we should have been able to then reflect on the proper analysis that had been done by those five committees.

In the course of contemplating this motion I took the time to look at the agreement between the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party. Set out in this agreement between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and Bob Brown, Christine Milne and Adam Brandt it says:

2. Principles

The Parties agree to work together to pursue the following principles:

(a) transparent and accountable government;

(b) improved process and integrity of parliament …

And yet these same Greens, who hold themselves up to be some sort of paragon, have agreed to a guillotine and are not allowing proper scrutiny of the bills that would be achieved, as I said, by them going to the appropriate specialty committees for proper analysis and report back to the parliament. In fact, what is happening is that the debate is being truncated and the bills will be sent off to a heavily biased committee which, no doubt, because of a lack of time that has been allowed for people to make submissions, will be very limited in truthfulness in its reporting of the way the Australian people feel.

On that point, it is quite interesting that only yesterday I met with a group of children from a school in my electorate. When we got to the question-and-answer time, the first question they asked was my opinion on the carbon tax. I explained to them why it was a bad tax, why it should not be introduced and how Australians would suffer at the hands of what is a cascading and compounding tax. I went on to explain how there were no exemptions from the tax because everybody uses electricity. At the end of my answer to that question, there was a huge round of applause from kids who are aged eight. In other words, there was a huge awareness of just how bad this tax is. Added to that is the fact that the timetable for allowing submissions to be made to the truncated committee, which will have at least the facade of conducting an inquiry, is structured such that people will not have time to prepare those submissions and make their point of view heard.

The point has been made by many speakers on this side, and very truthfully, that there is no mandate for this tax. On the contrary, there is a mandate for no tax. Everybody in this chamber except the member for Melbourne, the sole Greens member in this place, said there would be no carbon tax. We said we would not have a carbon tax and have said that all the way along. The Prime Minister, of course, said, 'There will be no carbon tax by any government I lead,' and the Treasurer said that it was all a beat-up by the opposition and there was no way there was going to be a carbon tax. This was deliberately said so that people would think, 'I guess we can vote for them because they are not going to introduce a carbon tax.' Had the Labor Party in fact said, 'Yes, we will have a carbon tax,' right down the barrel of the camera, as the Prime Minister chose to make her statement, I have no doubt there would be a different situation in this House today. We would be sitting on opposite sides and the Greens would not have all the influence that they have in demanding what policies go through.

In that same agreement between the Greens and the Australian Labor Party, there is a paragraph relating to the fact that the Greens will have their way and that a carbon tax will be put in place. The agreement also provides that the Greens will have access every week to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other ministers. It says that the Greens Treasury spokesperson and Mr Bandt will receive:

… economic and financial briefings from the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance and the Secretaries of the Departments of Treasury and Finance and Deregulation at regularly agreed times.

It is also interesting that this agreement—and it was pertinent to last night's debate, I suppose—says:

Should Senator Brown, Mr Bandt and other Greens … with portfolios, wish to propose new policies, these proposals may be formally submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister and forwarded to the appropriate Department and Minister for analysis. Where the proposal is likely to involve costs, it may also be sent to the Department of Treasury, and the Treasurer, and the Department of Finance … for costing.

This would obviously remain confidential, unlike what would happen should the opposition request that service. No wonder the Greens were prepared to go along with the government last night. They were in a secret agreement whereby they could have an advantage not available to the rest of the parliament, except, of course, for the government.

So, while we say that the Greens and the government agreed to 'transparent and accountable government' and 'improved process and integrity of parliament', what is happening with the debate on these bills is the exact opposite. It is a farce that these 19 bills are part of a cognate debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! The matter before that House is the motion moved by the Leader of the House. The honourable member should confine her remarks to the motion before the House, which relates to whether standing and sessional orders should be suspended.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: We are not suspending standing orders, Mr Deputy President; we are simply addressing the debate on the requirement that the House will sit for additional hours, and I am speaking directly to that motion.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I understand that we are debating notice No. 6, moved by the Leader of the House, which provides 'that so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent' two points relating to 'the variation of time and order of business for Tuesday, 11 October' being dealt with. Consequently, the honourable member from Mackellar should be discussing whether or not the motion moved by the Leader of the House should be adopted.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: With respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, unlike the situation where we ask leave to move a suspension and the government never grants leave or agrees to the suspension, we have agreed to the suspension and we are debating the motion itself. That is why I am addressing my remarks to the fact that additional time is being sought by the government, despite the fact there is a built-in guillotine, and that that is a contradictory position.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The motion is the motion moved by the Leader of the House. As I understand it, and as I am advised by the Clerk, it is notice No. 6 and the debate should relate to whether or not the motion moved by the Leader of the House should be adopted or rejected. This is not a general cognate debate on whether the bills should be carried or not; we are talking about whether the order of business should be varied.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am addressing very much the question of the increase in time allotted to the discussion of 19 bills which will have the greatest impact on the economy that we have seen in many decades. The fact that we need additional time is something I thoroughly agree with. I am very much prepared to point out that there is a built-in guillotine which would in fact lessen the amount of time that we will have to discuss the bills. On the proposal that we have this additional time, the member for Berowra pointed out very forcefully in his remarks that it is during a time when the political parties meet and when normally things are discussed—like other legislation that is coming before the House. Whilst I am very much in accord with idea of having more time to discuss these bills, I am making the point that it is not the appropriate way for that to be done. But I am wholeheartedly in agreement with the need for more time—and that is the essence of this motion.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, the member should continue to focus on the motion moved by the Leader of the House.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: That is exactly what I am doing.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I now call, once again, the honourable member for Mackellar.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: That is exceedingly kind of you, Mr Deputy Speaker. As I return to my remarks concerning the need for more time to discuss these bills—as the motion in front of us is to provide more time—I would point out that there is not sufficient time for the general public to have their point of view considered by way of consideration by the committees that are being established and run concurrently with the debate of these bills; that there is a built-in guillotine, which is lessening the time available; and that at the same time the government comes back and argues that we need more time. That is a conflicting statement, and I think we are perfectly entitled to point that out.

I think I also pointed out earlier that there is no mandate for this tax to be introduced and that people had said, 'We will not have a tax,' and yet it is to be brought in. In the face of that situation we can only compare the way in which, shall we say, change-of-heart legislation was dealt with by previous governments. You can draw the analogy with the GST, where Mr Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, said there would be no GST but then had a change of heart and went to the people and asked and got a mandate.

We have said again and again in this place that the proper course of action should be for Ms Gillard, the Prime Minister, to go to the people and seek a mandate. But she had chosen not to do that and she has chosen that we will have a certain set time for debate and then the guillotine will apply. And now the Leader of the House has said that he would like some extra hours on Tuesday, when political parties normally meet to discuss business, and he is indicating that there is a need for more time to discuss the bills.

In pointing those things out, it is important for the general public to know that this side of the House is prepared to stand up for them; that this side of the House is prepared to say, 'Your voice is entitled to be heard.' We have also given the people a commitment that, should this guillotine succeed and a vote is taken and the legislation is passed, we will repeal it just as the government repealed Work Choices. We will give that confidence to the Australian people and to Australian business—and, when we see investment increasing, it will because we have given them that guarantee and they can see light at the end of the tunnel.

As I said, when you walk through a shopping centre you see that it is devoid of customers because people are so uncertain and concerned about their disposable income. We definitely need two more hours, and more every day, through to such a time that there has been sufficient debate on the bills for everybody to have had their views heard. If we could see a change of heart in the government to move away from this kangaroo court type committee they have established, and refer these bills to the proper specialist committees, we might get some real reporting back and hear the voices of the people through their proper submissions and the ability of members to ask questions of them and to present their reports for consideration by the government.

When the GST was introduced there was a six-month period where people were able to discuss the actual legislation. We have only just seen this legislation. I go back to the motion moved by the Leader of the House. He is admitting that there is a need for more time and yet will not remove the guillotine. And, of course, their partners in crime, the Greens—who have always been ones to scream loud and clear that they would never have a guillotine; that they would want to see things properly argued through—are in it up to their necks, backing the guillotine so that it can take place not only in this place but in the Senate as well.

When we consider that this cascading and compounding tax will get into the nook and cranny of every aspect of everybody's life, that disposable income will shrink for those on fixed incomes and that the cost of electricity, which impinges on every aspect of civilised life is going to be forced up because of a deal between the Labor Party and the Greens, I can only say that, should this motion be carried, I hope to see many more motions come in extending the length of time that we may debate these matters, because this is of utmost importance to the Australian people.