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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6178

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (11:23): I rise to speak on the Carbon Tax Plebiscite Bill 2011 [No. 2]. I listened quite carefully to Senator Thistlethwaite's speech and I noted that he referred to the $80 million in fiscal wastefulness that would be brought upon the taxpayer in the event that the Carbon Tax Plebiscite Bill were actually passed. Senator Thistlethwaite, if you want to talk about waste be very, very careful—or at least go and look in the mirror—because when it comes to waste the current Labor Party exceeds even the Whitlam government. If you want to talk about waste, let's talk about the billions of dollars that this government wasted on the pink batts scheme. Let's talk about the billions of dollars that the Labor government wasted on mismanaging the school hall program. Let's talk about the billions of dollars that the Rudd-Gillard Labor government has wasted because of its failed border protection policies.

But let us not stop there. When the Rudd-Gillard government came to office, what was the debt ceiling? What was the amount that they were able to spend? Was it $75 billion? Yes, it was. Did they reach that amount? Yes, they did. So what did the Labor government do? They had to go to the parliament and say: 'We've spent all the money in the bank. We want to spend some more because that's what we are very, very good at doing.' They had to ask the parliament to raise the debt ceiling. And what did the parliament do? It raised the debt ceiling to no less than $200 billion of taxpayers' money.

By any standard that was a huge amount of money, but guess what? Guess what they did, in typical Labor Party form? They spent the additional money and they had to come back to the parliament yet again. But no shame! There was no shame associated with this request because 'Hey! What we're good at is spending taxpayers' money'. They came back again to the parliament and what did they do? Lo and behold, they had to tell the parliament, in typical socialist style—chardonnay socialist style of course; nothing but the best for the representatives of the workers—that $200 billion of taxpayers' money was not enough. They had to ask the parliament yet again to raise the debt ceiling, to raise the amount of money that the Labor government could spend on behalf of taxpayers. What is the current credit card limit? Two hundred and fifty billion dollars. It started at $75 billion but that was not enough. It went to $200 billion but that was not enough. It is now at $250 billion and—guess what?—that is still not enough. So when Senator Thistlethwaite comes into this chamber and talks about waste I suggest he has a look at his own party's performance first.

This week was a very important week for the Australian public. This was the week in which the Prime Minister officially broke her promise to the Australian people. This was the week when the Australian public were able to reflect upon the fact that each and every Labor member and senator who was elected at the 2010 federal election was elected on the basis of a lie. And that lie is one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated upon the people of Australia. We all know what that lie is. That lie is the statement made by the now Prime Minister of Australia the day before the election that 'there will be no carbon tax under the government that I lead'.

This lie was made despite another statement by the Prime Minister, on 7 September 2010, after the election, in which she said to the people of Australia: 'Let the sun shine in. My government will open the doors and it will let the sun shine in.' The article in the Sydney Morning Herald said:

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, says her minority government will be held to higher standards of accountability as a result of the deal struck with the independents. … 'We will be held to higher standards of transparency and reform and it's in that spirit I approach the task of forming government.'

But did the Prime Minister stop there? No. She wanted to confirm yet again with the Australian people that her government, Ms Gillard's government, would be held to higher levels of transparency. Again, on 7 September 2010, the Prime Minister said:

Let's draw back the curtains and let the sun shine in. Let our parliament be more open than it ever was before.

It did not take the Labor Prime Minister of Australia very long to break not only her pre-election commitment to the Australian people but also her post-election com­mitment to the Australian people. Despite the promise that the government made the day before the election that it would not impose a carbon tax, the Australian people now have that government. The Australian people are now lumped with a government that believes the only way to tackle what it says is catastrophic climate change is by imposing a carbon tax across the economy. The Australian government, in refusing to support this bill currently before the Senate, is also saying to the people of Australia: 'We made a promise the day before the election; many voters who voted for the Labor Party relied upon the promise that the Prime Minister made but those same voters are now apparently fully supportive of the government's position.'

I say to the government: if you are so sure that the people of Australia support your backflip, despite the fact that you have no mandate whatsoever to introduce a carbon tax to Australia, then let the people of Australia have their say. It is very simple. If you are so sure—and you keep standing up in this place and telling us on this side that that is what the Australian people want, despite the promise that you made to them the day before the election—then put your money where your mouth is. Support the coalition's bill and take this question to the people of Australia. Ask the people of Australia, by way of a plebiscite, whether or not they support the position put into the parliament of Australia by the government this week to put a price on carbon to tackle climate change. Take it to the people and give them their say.

We all know that that is exactly what the government will not do. It will not, despite the fact that it continues to tell us on this side and the people of Australia that it knows it has their support, despite what it said the day before the election that there would be no carbon tax under a Labor government, despite the fact that when it went to the polls it relied on that statement. Now it says, 'We know that you support the fact that we are going to put a price on carbon'. If you are so sure, take it to an election. But we all know why you won't. Because each and every one of those on the other side—the 150 who went to the election supporting no carbon tax—knows that if the Australian people were given their chance to vote by way of a plebiscite on whether or not they support a carbon tax, they would vote 'no'. They would confirm what every backbencher in a marginal seat in Labor electorates knows. They would confirm that this government has no mandate whatsoever to implement the legislation that it brought into the parliament this week.

Why would they confirm that? I state it again for the record, just in case those on the other side have forgotten what the Prime Minister said the day before the election. It is very simple. When asked the question: 'Will you impose a carbon tax if you are elected by the Australian people?' the Prime Minister of Australia said: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Those clear, concise and unambiguous words will haunt this Prime Minister for the rest of her life. They will haunt her until she goes to her political grave, which, let us face it—if you walk around the corridors of Parliament House at the moment—is being dug. It is well and truly being dug and she could be in it a lot sooner than later.

You have to remember the reason Ms Gillard assumed the position of Prime Minister. That is right, it was because the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had lost his way on none other than the emissions trading scheme. That policy was such a mess and such a disgrace that the Australian Labor Party threw democracy as Australians know it out the window and politically executed the former Prime Minister of Australia. Why? Because he had got it wrong when it came to tackling climate change. Those on the other side must all shake their heads and think, 'How did we get into the mess that we are in now?'

When Australians are given a guarantee by a political leader in the run-up to an election about something so important as not introducing a carbon tax they put their trust and their faith in that political leader to abide by that guarantee. They cast their vote in confidence, relying upon that expectation. If for some reason the Prime Minister decides that she wants to reverse her earlier mandated position of not introducing a carbon tax, it is very clear that, because the voters in Australia cast their vote relying on the Prime Minister's earlier political guarantee, she should have the guts to take this change in policy to an election. After all, that is what the Howard government did when it introduced the GST. That was a fundamental change to the Australian economy, and the Howard government had the guts to take it to the people of Australia and ask them: 'Should this government introduce a GST?' And what did the people say? They returned the Howard government and they gave it the mandate to introduce the GST—and that is exactly the situation that we are now in with the carbon tax legislation. The Australian people should be given the opportunity to tell the current Labor government whether or not they want them to introduce a carbon tax. But they will not. And we all know why they won't—because Australia is now in the situation where it has a Prime Minister who is so unsure of herself, who is so unsure of her support within her own caucus, who is so unsure of how long she will actually remain in the position of Prime Minister and is so unsure of what she is about to impose upon the people of Australia that she refuses to take this policy to an election, to a plebiscite, and allow the people of Australia to cast a vote and tell the government what they actually did.

They are acting on a blatant lie that they told to the people of Australia. But we all know why they do not want to give the people of Australia a say on this legislation. Why not? Because there is escalating opposition in what used to be safe Labor seats—not marginal Labor seats; safe Labor seats. Come to my home state of Western Australia, to what used to be safe Labor seats—come to Gary Gray's seat of Brand. These are safe Labor seats that the government knows, if they went to an election tomorrow, would fall to the coalition—because people in those seats are going to be detrimentally affected by this legislation and they want the opportunity to tell the government that.

A Deloitte Access Economics report, commissioned by Labor Premier Anna Bligh, predicts that Queensland's gross state product will be slashed by 2.76 per cent by 2020 and by 4.11 per cent come 2050 if the federal government introduces its carbon tax. Deloitte goes on to predict a loss of 21,000 jobs in Queensland, while separate Labor Queensland Treasury modelling predicts 12,000 jobs will be gone. Say goodbye to marginal Labor seats in Queensland. The Victorian government has also com­missioned a Deloitte report, which found that there would be at least 23,000 fewer jobs created across Victoria by 2015 as a result of the carbon tax, with La Trobe Valley, Geelong, Port Phillip, Monash and Whitehorse the worst hit areas. Say goodbye to marginal Labor seas in Victoria. New South Wales Treasury modelling predicts 31,000 jobs will be lost New South Wales by 2030 under the Gillard Labor government's carbon tax, with 18,500 jobs gone in the Hunter Valley alone. If I were a marginal seat holder in New South Wales under this Labor government, I would be very scared. On top of that is electricity prices. Electricity prices, if and when this government introduces its carbon tax, will leap $498. That is right: electricity prices in Australia will rise by $498 when the government introduces this tax.

In Western Australia, the Western Australian Treasury has done modelling which shows that over half of WA households—over half of WA households—will be worse off under the carbon tax. And it goes further. It clearly shows that the Gillard Labor government's supposed compensation will not fully compensate households for the increases in the cost of living. If I were a Labor member in Western Australia, in a marginal seat—Gary Gray, where are you?—I would be very worried about the vote that I am about to cast when this comes before the parliament. Labor membership is in steel electorates, coal­mining electorates, motor and other manufacturing electorates. They know that jobs are going to disappear—and we know that they are telling the Labor leadership team this. We know what they are saying in caucus; they are going directly to the Labor leadership and saying, 'Do you know I am in a marginal Labor seat? Do you know that, in my marginal Labor seat, because of Labor government policy, I am going to have people who are going to lose their jobs? And do you know what that means to me? It means that I will lose my seat at the next election.'

But they are weak, the Labor members of parliament, and they will not stand up to the Gillard Labor government and tell them what they need to hear: that this is bad legislation, it is all economic pain for no environmental gain. But, worse than that, average Aust­ralians , the average mum and dad, who just work hard to pay their bills, to put their kids through school, to put food on the table, are the ones who are going to be most badly affected by this tax. They are the ones that are going to have a draw a line in their budget. They are the ones who are going to have to say to their kids, 'No, you can't afford that. We could afford it last year but this year we can't afford it because the Labor government has introduced a tax that has had a negative impact on it. If the Prime Minister was honourable, if the Prime Minister cared about democracy, she would allow the Labor Party to support this bill and take the carbon tax to an election. (Time expired)