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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1581

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (2:48 PM) —I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately the following censure motion:

That this House censure the Prime Minister for breaching faith with the Australian people and introducing a carbon tax because she is now beholden to the Greens and in particular:

(1)   for stating on 16 August, five days before the election, that “there will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead”;

(2)   for stating on 20 August, one day before the election, that “I rule out a carbon tax”;

(3)   for declaring that a necessary pre-condition to any carbon tax was the support of the Australian people in her statement on 24 June, that “I also believe that if we are to have a price on carbon and do all the things necessary for our economy and our society to adjust we need a deep and lasting community consensus about that; and

(4)   we demand that the Prime Minister first seek a mandate from the people before introducing her carbon tax which is set to destroy jobs, damage our economy and hurt families at a time when there is no global low emissions agreement.

Today we had the Prime Minister driving a Holden off the assembly line. Good on her for driving a Holden off the assembly line, but why didn’t she tell people that running that Holden is going to cost at least 6½c a litre more every time the tank is filled, as a result of her policies? She talks about living in the past and here she is in a self-conscious echo of good old Ben Chifley, driving the first Holden off the assembly line. I did not think there was too much similarity between this Prime Minister and good old Ben Chifley, because to start off with, Ben Chifley would never have gone to the Australian people telling them a barefaced lie about his policy.

But there is this similarity between this Prime Minister and Ben Chifley: Ben Chifley loved petrol rationing and this Prime Minister loves the carbon tax. Ben Chifley wanted to stop people driving their cars and this Prime Minister wants it to be more expensive for people to drive their cars. Petrol rationing and bank nationalisation cost Ben Chifley an election and the carbon tax and the mining tax and all the other taxes that this Prime Minister wants to impose will cost her the next election. Let us remember the words of the Prime Minister that will haunt her every day of her political life:

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

Just what was the Prime Minister thinking when she said that? Was it idealism? Was it principle? Was it the need to be an altruistic reformer? Was it the need to be on the right side of history? No, it was political desperation. It was political panic which led her to tell a barefaced lie, to put a barefaced lie to the Australian people.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am reluctant but I draw your attention to your previous ruling that the Leader of the Opposition is defying.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw.

Mr ABBOTT —I do. The interesting thing is that, in response to the claim that this was nothing but blatant, naked deception of the Australian public, all this Prime Minister can do is act like an alternative opposition leader. There is nothing remotely prime ministerial about the person in the most important job in our country.

Why did she make that statement? She made that statement because I had been saying day in and day out that, as sure as night follows day, if this government is re-elected, there will be a carbon tax. On the one hand, I was saying there would be a carbon tax if this government were elected; on the other hand, this Prime Minister was saying, ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.’ I say to the Australian public: I submit myself to your verdict as to which of us—the Prime Minister or the leader of the coalition—is the more truthful person in Australian politics.

This Prime Minister brought in a carbon tax. She did not consult the people. She did not consult the caucus. I tell you what: she certainly did not consult her cabinet. Just imagine the cabinet discussion that they had about the carbon tax: the Prime Minister says to the cabinet, ‘I think I’m going to introduce a carbon tax.’ You can imagine the Minister for Foreign Affairs, can’t you? You can imagine the foreign minister saying: ‘Yes, a carbon tax, Prime Minister. What a good idea. You politically assassinated me over wanting to introduce an emissions trading scheme. Sure, Prime Minister, you have your carbon tax.’ I tell you what: he would not have been just rushing to catch the 6.55 plane.

You can imagine this Lady Macbeth of Australian politics, the person who just killed Banquo, saying to the cabinet: ‘A little water clears us of this deed.’ You can imagine this Prime Minister saying to the cabinet: ‘A little carbon price clears us of this bloody deed.’ Well, it does not clear her of this bloody deed, because Banquo is still ghosting around the capitals of Europe. He is still here hovering and waiting and he has his knife out for the Prime Minister, as he should because this Prime Minister has betrayed not just her predecessor but all of her colleagues whom she did not consult, her colleagues whose electoral offices are now besieged by angry Labor voters wanting to know why their petrol prices are going to go up by 6.5 cents a litre and why their power bills are going to go up by $300 a year.

She has betrayed the Australian people because she has broken the solemn obligation of the truth, which prime ministers owe to the Australian public. Let me quote the Prime Minister on standards of honesty. She said:

If the minister had been a businessman and offered a promise like that and not kept it, he would have been sued. If the minister had been in a court of law and made a statement like that and it turned out not to be true, he would have been tried for perjury. If the minister had been in a church—

and she knows a lot about that, doesn’t she?—

and made a statement like that and it turned out not to be true, the congregation would have known that he had broken the ninth commandment.

This is the Prime Minister of this country:

I do not see why the standard should be different in business, should be different in churches or should be different in courts from the standard in public life. If anything, the standard in public life should be higher.

She is right: the standard in public life should be higher, and that is why this Prime Minister deserves to be condemned by this parliament and that is why she will be condemned by the Australian people at the first available opportunity.

There is more than a slightly desperate quality in the Prime Minister’s shrill rationalisations of this breach of faith. No amount of brazen repetition can hide the desperate quality that has entered the Prime Minister. I refer to the infamous interview where she says:

… rather than play any semantic word games I was frank enough with the Australian people to say that the first few years would work effectively like a tax.

She still cannot quite bring herself to admit that it is what it is, but she wants credit for being frank. This Prime Minister is not frank; she is a fraud. That is what she is.

She even had the hide to somehow liken this campaign for a carbon tax to the former Prime Minister’s campaign for tax reform. I tell you what: that Prime Minister did not lie to the Australian people before an election. He had the guts to go to the people promising to bring in a new tax. Those guts constitute real leadership. Those are the guts that this Prime Minister does not have. Because she lacks those guts and that honesty she should be condemned by this parliament.

The SPEAKER —Is the motion seconded?