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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8849

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (20:51): On a day when 1,000 workers in New South Wales and Victoria received the horrible news that they are potentially about to lose their jobs at BlueScope, and at a time when the region and the globe are grappling with enormous political difficulties, terrible instability and some really big challenges, it is very unfortunate that here in the national parliament, the place where all of our electors expect both sides to come and engage in serious debates about serious issues, we are bogged down in a ridiculous debate about a political stunt. It comes from a bloke who over the last 12 months of this parliament has engaged in more stunts than Evil Knievel in his entire life as a daredevil and a stuntman. He runs around the country in search of glowing vests and funny hats. There is not a small business in the country whose premise he will not terrorise in the hope of a media opportunity. Today we saw him attempting to bolster the numbers in something called a cavalcade or a convoy or some such thing in some attempt to blockade Parliament House and terrorise the residents of Canberra.

What we have here is an $80 million stunt, and I can tell you the people in my electorate, the electorate of Throsby in New South Wales, could come up with a lot better use for $80 million. I know those on the other side do not like school buildings, but $80 million would build around 80 libraries and school halls, science labs and language labs—that is about one for every high school in my electorate. That $80 million would go a long way to building much needed infrastructure to provide more hospital beds, and more doctors and nurses in my electorate, but those on the other side of the chamber suggest that that $80 million would be better spent on a political stunt.

We know it is a political stunt and it is all about the politics of no. It comes from the champion of no who launched himself on the political stage championing Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, whose first act as a political player in this country was to ensure that we live for another decade or so as a constitutional monarchy and not have the opportunity to reach full independence as a republic. The next mission—and I find this one really interesting—of the champion of no, deputised by his political godfather, the former Prime Minister, was to destroy Pauline Hanson, the former member for Oxley. He set himself off on that task and did a pretty good job of it, which I am sure is something that irks her enormously. It has always struck us as rather strange on this side of the House that, after he spent a year or so engaged in the task of destroying Pauline Hanson, he has spent the last 12 months in this parliament attempting to emulate her. When you pull out all of the policies, all of the populism and all of the ideas that he has brought before this parliament, you are reading from the One Nation playbook.

This is a bloke whose answer to everything is no, so it comes as no surprise to those of us on this side of the House that, the day after he proposes this stunt to the Australian people—this plebiscite that he wants to spend $80 million on—and before the vote has been held, he has already pronounced his verdict on the outcome of that plebiscite. He has told the people of Australia it does not matter what they say. He will reject it—this is the champion of no. So whatever the Australian people say in this proposed plebiscite, the Leader of the Opposition's answer is no.

We all know that in politics the issue is all about the question you ask. Further evidence of the stunt is in the question itself, because they had an option. They could quite easily have put up a bill that said that, given that we both have the same bipartisan target on reducing our carbon emissions—that is, five per cent over 2000 levels by 2020—and a bipartisan position on the contribution of renewable energy to that reduction in carbon emissions, and I know there are many on that side of the House who do not agree with that bipartisan proposition, it would have been very easy for the Leader of the Opposition to propose a question that said something like this: should we reduce our emissions in the most cost-effective way? That would have been a bona fide question to put in your plebiscite bill, wouldn't it?

Opposition members interjecting

Mr STEPHEN JONES: The 'member for Tutu' over there is rolling around in riotous laughter in search of a pair of ballet slippers. It would have been possible if he were fair dinkum. If he had any bona fides, the champion of no could have put a question to this parliament and to the Australian people in his draft bill: should we reduce our bipartisan target; should we reduce our emissions in the most cost-effective way?

We know that the Leader of the Opposition and those that follow in his cavalcade of no do not have the guts to put that proposition, because then we would have to engage in a debate about the costings. A debate about the costings would enable all Australians to see that the coalition's plan, the subsidies for big polluters plan, is in fact a tax on every Australian household to the tune of $1300 per annum. You will not see that in any of their propaganda. You will not see that in any of their speeches, but the fact of the matter is that, if we engaged in a debate about the most cost-effective way of reducing our bipartisan position on carbon emissions, we would be putting up our proposition, which puts a charge on the biggest polluters in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions. We will reduce those emissions by five per cent by 2020. We will see that theirs is a tax on every Australian household of $1,300 per annum, contributing to the $70 billion black hole in their budget costings.

If they were fair dinkum, they would put that question to the Australian people, but they are not fair dinkum. They know that all they are engaged in is a political stunt with a predetermined outcome. They will say no because that is all they know how to do on that side of the House. We are engaged in a serious debate about how we can reduce our carbon pollution in this country and play our part in an international effort to reduce carbon pollution to stave off dangerous climate change.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The time allocated for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.