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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1418

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her repeated promise before the last election, including on the very day before the election, ‘I rule out a carbon tax.’ How can she justify today’s betrayal—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Members will remove those posters. Order! The House will come to order. Whilst I have tolerated, but not encouraged, the use of props by the questioner and others, that sort of display is outside the standing orders and unruly.

Mr ABBOTT —My question is to the Prime Minister, and I repeat it: given her repeated promise prior to the election, ‘I rule out a carbon tax,’ how can she possibly justify today’s betrayal? If the Australian people could not trust her on this, how can they trust her on anything—(Time expired)

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question, because what the Leader of the Opposition may have noticed following the last election is that the Australian people have voted for change, they voted for a carbon price, and this parliament gives us the opportunity to price carbon and to deal with the issues that Australia needs to for the future.

Mr Tehan interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Wannon is warned!

Ms GILLARD —Let me explain this to the Leader of the Opposition, bluntly, without the Leader of the Opposition’s characteristic spins and slogans—the characteristic use of words that we associate with the Leader of the Opposition, where he seeks to destroy and wreck and spin and mislead. Let’s be really clear about what we need to achieve here. Climate change is real—I believe that. I believe that it is caused by human activity. We need to act on climate change and build a low-pollution economy for the future. We need to do that because other parts of the world are acting. It is not in our interest to be left behind. We are a confident people. We are a people who have achieved change before and we will achieve it again. In achieving that change, we will make sure that we act fairly and have a fair carbon price.

The carbon pricing mechanism that I have announced today, arising from the discussions of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, is a carbon price mechanism that would start on 1 July 2012. It is a scheme that would start with a fixed price for a fixed period, effectively like a tax. It would move to a cap and trade emissions trading scheme, following that fixed-price period of three to five years. The carbon price would exclude agriculture, though we would have our farmers able to participate in initiatives like our carbon farming initiative. We will design a carbon price that meets these requirements. In doing so, because we are a Labor government, we will make sure that we act fairly towards Australians and that they are treated fairly as they adjust to carbon pricing.

Now is the right time to act—the right time to modernise our economy into a low-pollution, clean energy economy of the future. What Australians expect from the people that they send to this place is that they will work together for positive change. I actually believe the vast majority of people in this parliament came to this place wanting to be associated with changes that are positive for Australia and will make a difference to our future prosperity and future opportunity. Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition came to this place hoping to make his name on what he can wreck, stop and destroy. We will continue working through the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee to price carbon. It is the right thing to do by Australian prosperity, by Australian jobs and by a clean energy future. By doing the right thing on climate change, we will keep working to price climate change and treat Australians fairly.

Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the Prime Minister that one member of this House—just one—was elected promising a carbon tax. One hundred and forty-nine members of this House, including every coalition member and every Labor member, were elected ruling out a tax. I ask the Prime Minister: since when does one vote trump 149 votes, unless the real Prime Minister of this country is Senator Bob Brown?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —Well, heavens above! The member for Wentworth was elected ruling out a carbon price, was he? I do not think so. Have a look behind you. Did you have a look at Lateline last night? You probably should have. Let us have a look at the coalition and its promises to the Australian people. Prime Minister Howard—whom I disagreed with across many long years—came to this place wanting to change Australia and make improvements for the future of Australia. He wanted to be remembered for the things he had created, not the things he had destroyed—unlike the Leader of the Opposition. Prime Minister Howard went to an election promising emissions trading.

Then, of course, there are the members of the frontbench who engaged in negotiations with the government and endorsed carbon pricing every step of the way. The member for Groom was there talking about the importance of carbon pricing. The member for Wentworth, who led the discussions on carbon pricing, was reinforced by people on the coalition back bench, who go to their electorates and try to clothe themselves as people who care about climate change and want to act on carbon pricing. So let us not have any of this hypocrisy. Let us not have any of the hypocrisy that was just on display by the Leader of the Opposition.

Effectively, this comes down to a decision as to whether you believe in acting and making a difference for Australia’s future, whether you believe in listening to what the Australian community is telling us—

Mr Simpkins interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Cowan is warned!

Ms GILLARD —and whether you believe in using the opportunities that this parliament has given us to make a change for the future for this country—a change that will be better for prosperity, better for jobs, better for a clean energy future, better for climate change and will be a change that is delivered fairly—or whether you decide that your politics is about destruction and you want Australia to miss the change in the global economy to a clean energy future. No new jobs and staying stuck in the past—that is what the Leader of the Opposition is advocating.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition that now is the time for him to put aside the brutal politics he has played with climate change—his weathervane politics of believing climate change is real one moment and not real the next and believing carbon should be priced one moment and not priced the next. Now is the time for the Leader of the Opposition to actually try to do something right for this country. Now is the time for the Leader of the Opposition to put away his slogans, put away his spin and put away his propensity for political destruction and actually work with the rest of the parliament to do the right thing by this country. It is time he looked inside himself and tried to see whether there are any convictions in there about the nation’s future—because I cannot identify one from his behaviour.