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Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Page: 8553

Senator MASON (Queensland) (16:03): After all the tumult and shouting, Australia will now be subject to a carbon tax. I even enjoyed making a quiet and considered contribution to that debate. Sure, as Senator Cormann said, the Prime Minister did lie. Yes, it was an act of prime political dishonesty visited upon ordinary Australians. And in the end ordinary Australians will end up paying for the lie.

We will learn soon enough that this tax is not in Australia's national interest. I do not believe that the Prime Minister's lie, her deceit and her dishonesty before the last election, was the greatest lie in this debate. I do not accept that. Going back for a second, you will recall that the coalition has always argued—we have been arguing it for two, three or four years—that a tax on carbon in Australia is justifiable, but only when there is a sufficiently comprehensive global agree­ment to support it. If there is, then it may be in our national interest. If there is not, it certainly is not in our interest. That was John Howard's view before the 2007 election. It should never have gone to Copenhagen; that was the wrong forum. It is the sort of issue that should have gone to the G20 and been sorted out there. It never was.

One of the great lies in this debate is that there is a sufficiently comprehensive global agreement. That is rubbish. That is not right. There still is not. Our major competitors, the ones that really count, are the energy rich, trade exposed economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. So often we heard Senator Wong, Mr Combet and the Prime Minister say, 'Oh, the Chinese are doing something.' Yes, they are doing something, but nothing that will stop their emissions from growing 500 per cent between 1990 and 2020. That is the second lie. And, as we know, the United States and Canada, as the latter's foreign minister has so recently made so very plain, have no intention at all of embarking upon a price on carbon.

Senator Bushby: Very few do.

Senator MASON: Very few do. So our competitor nations, the energy rich, trade exposed nations are not moving on this. It is a lie.

But it gets worse, and this perhaps is the most sinister part of the entire debate. Under great heat Senator Wong, Mr Combet and the Prime Minister, even when the facts are forced down their throats and they finally concede, 'Well, perhaps our competitor countries are not moving sufficiently quickly and perhaps they should be doing more,' they still argue that, even in the absence of a sufficiently comprehensive global agree­ment, it is still in our national interest. That is the argument that Senator Wong has made over the last week and a half, that even in the absence of a sufficiently comprehensive global agreement, even in the absence of activity by our competitor nations, even if those energy rich, trade exposed nations do nothing, it is in our national interest. That is the great deceit, a deceit far greater in my view than the Prime Minister's lie before the last election. Often under great pressure Senator Wong over last week has said, 'Oh well, it doesn't really matter what other countries do.' Yes, it does, because if other nations do something we just go backwards. We lose our comparative advantage in energy export, we go backwards.

Labor argues fundamentally that it is in Australia's national interest to go first irrespective of what the rest of the world does even when we know it will have no impact on global emissions, which are still rising, and no impact on climate change. That is the debate in one paragraph—magic from the other side. That argument will kill the Labor Party over the medium term. In one paragraph that is the argument. If it was such a good idea to go first in the absence of a global agreement, if it was such a good idea to move straightaway before other trade exposed, energy rich nations, then why didn't the United States of America do something? Why not Canada? Why wouldn't China do more, why wouldn't Russia do more, why wouldn't India do more? Because they know to move first, to move unilaterally, is against their national interest. The bill is now through. The Governor-General will sign it into law. The fundamental bastardry is this—

Senator Lundy: Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I would like to draw your attention to a comment earlier in Senator Mason's presentation. While you were discussing matters with other people, I believe he said something unparliamentary, and I ask that you review the Hansard and call him to withdraw if it is required.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Unfor­tunately, you have chosen to raise this late in the debate. In light of the fact that it is later, I am sure the Hansard will be reviewed and if any action needs to be taken it will be taken.

Senator MASON: If it was such a good idea to move in the absence of other nations, to move unilaterally, why don't other nations move first? That simple, fundamental question was never answered by Senator Wong in a week and a half. I listened to her and I received no answer. What does this government know, what does Senator Wong know, what does the Prime Minister know, what does Mr Combet know that President Obama does not know, or the leadership of India, China, Brazil and Russia? What does she know that they do not know? Why does she want to move unilaterally? Those other nations know fundamentally that to move unilaterally rather than multilaterally is against the national interest. That is the great deceit, the great lie, in this debate. That is the one I object to fundamentally, far more than anything else. It is something that Senator Wong and the Labor Party, and indeed the Greens, have never answered in a week and a half of debate. Labor has sold out their own country just so they could form a government with the Greens, and I suppose now the bourgeois Left will feel a lot better about themselves. Isn't that just wonderful? And the possibility of this tax is founded upon a lie. But, as I say, that is not the worst part. It is the fundamental deceit about other countries that I find even more objectionable.

Our carbon tax in the end will have to rely upon carbon markets. As the Canadian foreign affairs minister pointed out the other day, there is not one properly functioning carbon market in the world. Before my friends on the other side say, 'What about the European Union?' which is of course the largest carbon market, that is a corrupt, limp and rife-with-abuse market. It is a hopeless and pathetic carbon market. It spends more time being investigated than it does in operation. What sort of precedent does that set for a carbon market internationally? None at all. Yet again this tax built upon a lie somehow is justified.

Finally, the Prime Minister says the coalition is out of step with the future. Let me make these predictions, and I do not mind putting them on the record. Firstly, carbon emissions will continue to rise for the foreseeable future in Australia and in those competitor countries, the resource rich, trade exposed countries. They will continue to rise. Secondly, this tax will have no impact on climate whatsoever—none, zip, zilch. Thirdly, Australia will be a poorer country because of this tax. If that is the better future that the Prime Minister talks so glowingly about, I do not want to be part of it, because that is the sort of future that just does not work.