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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3835

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (1:21 PM) —It is quite obvious that we are heading towards the debate on the emissions trading scheme—one of a range of possible carbon pollution reduction schemes but one that is completely ridiculous for our nation at this point in time. That debate will be one of the biggest debates that has ever been held in this chamber. That goes without saying. You would have to have been living under a rock to think that that debate is not going to be one of our most hard-fought debates. So it is prudent to clear the decks of other issues prior to the winter break and to go out and find the other bills that we can get through so as not to unduly put at risk things that do not need to be collateral damage in this debate.

You could start with the Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 2009. This bill is to allow the National Rural Advisory Council to be appointed for a third term. It is a small, non-controversial matter. We could get through it. It is easy. We could get that one out of the way straight away. If we do not, then that body will be basically left without the capacity to continue to operate. Then what do we do? We should not be affecting those people, because they have an extremely important job to do. They are out there looking after the crisis in rural Australia, especially the people who are still affected by the drought, and trying to restructure things. It is something that we could be dealing with right now, in an expedient way, and clearing the decks of it. There is a tax laws amendment bill which concerns, so I am led to believe, overseas employment. That bill should be dealt with now, as should the Health Workforce Australia Bill 2009.

We all know that, as soon as this ETS debate starts, it is going to be hard-fought and bitter and go on for days and days. We have to allow the Australian people every possible chance to understand the full ramifications of what this ETS means. The Labor Party is putting forward the idea that the only form of carbon pollution reduction scheme is their ETS. Well, there is actually a multiplicity of forms of carbon pollution reduction scheme, of which their emissions trading scheme is a very peculiar and distinct subset.

If you look at that Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the debate we are going to have is going to be about the capacity of Australia to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, in the air we breathe, by 0.0000000798. This is obviously a ridiculous place for Australia to take itself in the middle of a global economic recession. That is the reason there is going to be so much fervour in the fight over this, because we are trying to make sure that the costs that will be passed on to people are not passed on for the sake of a mere gesture—a political gesture with no effect on the global climate but with an absolutely dramatic and detrimental effect on the economy of regional Australia, on farmers, on coalminers and on all the people who are going to be dragged into this gesture-like piece of politics that will destroy regional communities and take away the capacity of people to work with confidence in the future of regional Australia. What else would you expect but an immense debate on that? However, we seem to be using this as a gun to people’s heads. We are going to delay these other bills that could be so expediently dealt with and got out of the way, and for what? For a tactic, by which we make these other people, such as those involved in rural adjustment, collateral damage.

Let us be honest: it really does not matter whether we start this debate on the ETS now or start it tomorrow; it will go all week. And it should go all week, because it is a ridiculous process for Australia to be putting forward an emissions trading scheme prior to Copenhagen and in the form that is currently before us. It would not have mattered whether we started this debate today or last Thursday. This debate will go on for as long as it takes to convince the Australian people of the ramifications of what will happen to them if they proceed with this current emissions trading scheme—what will happen to their lives and what will happen to the economics of this nation—and how completely and utterly pointless it is. Even if you have a genuine concern about the environment, it still is completely and utterly pointless.

The trap that is obviously being laid is the argument that this is a filibuster. Whatever tactic it takes to save the Australian people from this process is a genuine and a worthwhile tactic, and if that has to be to debate this for as long as possible, if the outcome protects the weakest in our economy from the effects of what is a peculiar, detrimental and environmentally pointless piece of legislation, then so be it.

It is always interesting when people throw out the word ‘filibuster’ as if it were a graver sin than murder. The first time it was actually brought into play was by Cato the Younger in 60 BC, and the whole point of it was to stop Julius Caesar making himself the tyrant of Rome. Well, that was a pretty good tactic. He failed in the end, but it was a pretty good tactic to try and bring about a just outcome. And if this debate is part of a process to get to a just outcome—and what you are trying to get in the end is justice for the weakest in our economy—then whatever tactic is available will not be precluded because of some sort of sensibility about what is appropriate in this chamber. We are allowed to debate this issue for as long as needed to give everybody a chance to bring up the issue.

We should debate it, because every day the momentum behind this issue and the belief of the Australian people is changing. More and more, they see that this is going to come and rest on their heads. It is going to rest on their heads in the way they pay their power bills. It is going to rest on their heads as some obscure, bureaucratic, Kafkaesque nightmare that will descend on those in rural places, as people start looking at how many cows you have and how much they are belching and deciding what sort of carbon tax you are going to have to pay after 2013 or 2015—when they will undoubtedly bring it in. The government always seem to be looking at the back end of the cow but not looking at the front end and understanding exactly what the true ramifications of this scheme will be.

I have been looking at some of the modelling that has been put forward. The National Australia Bank talks about the price of carbon ranging between $10 and $100. If a beast produces 70 kilograms of methane and if under the Kyoto protocol—which we have been signed up to or dragged into or made a political point about or a ploy for—we have an uplift factor of 21 on 70 kilograms; that is 1,470 kilograms of carbon. Let’s be even; let’s call it a ton and a half of carbon per beast per year. Let’s make it halfway between the National Australia Bank’s modelling of $10 and $100 for a credit—that is, $50—multiply that by 1½, so that gives $75 per beast per year. If we look at the ramifications, we will not have a cattle industry. It will cease to exist in this nation, and for what? It is for this number—a 0.0000000798 reduction in carbon. It is absolutely manic.

BlueScope Steel has said that 25,000 people will lose their jobs. That is just one company. For what? For a 0.0000000798 reduction in carbon. This is how peculiar this whole scheme is. The only people at the end of the day who will be barracking for this scheme are people driving their 7 series BMWs in their Giorgio Armani suits who work as traders in the middle of town. They will be collecting the money from the pain that is inflicted on everybody else, because somebody somewhere has to pay. It will always be the weakest members in our economy that end up paying. We talk about the noble gesture of changing the climate when, in the authenticity of that statement, you have not got a skerrick of a hope of changing the climate from a domestic position.

This is a forerunner to the sort of debate that we are going to have. In the meantime, we can get out of our system the Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill, the Health Workforce Australia Bill, the tax law amendment bill—all these issues can be dealt with expediently. We can clear the decks of those issues and then move on to the debate in proper. I hear the Greens talking about the morals of filibustering. From a party which created the stunt last week of trying to draft off the people in the Caroona—

Senator Milne —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order about a senator reflecting on the motives of other senators and ask him to withdraw.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Trood)—I think Senator Joyce was probably making a debating point. There is no point of order.

Senator JOYCE —As I said, last week we had the theatrics—call it what you may—of the way the Greens acted first of all by using the people of the farming areas of Caroona as a pawn in a motion that they decided to bring into this chamber where they did not lobby anybody. There was a notice of motion where they did not lobby the Labor Party, they did not lobby the Independents, they did not lobby the Liberal Party and they did not lobby the National Party. They just brought the motion in and created absolute division that day, and brought hurt and pain to people who are already under immense pressure in the Liverpool Plains. They brought Mr Windsor into the gallery so they had a beautiful shot for Four Corners, but forget about the reality of actually trying to do something. Forget about actually getting off your seat in the chamber and walking round this place to actually—

Senator Marshall —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order to do with relevance. There is a question before the chair and it would surprise me if anybody could link the contribution Senator Joyce is now making to the question before the chair as being in any way relevant. I would ask you to bring him to talk to the question before the chair or to sit down.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Generally, there is allowed to be a measure of latitude in these debates, but I would encourage Senator Joyce to return to the question that is before the chair.

Senator JOYCE —What I am doing here is refuting the allegation that was made by the Greens, calling to mind the consistency and the construct of their argument, and actually laying before the chamber how when you really flesh out the practice of the Greens and the authenticity of their position it falls to pieces. We have quite obviously seen that the Greens last week pulled off a stunt that hurt the people of Caroona on the coal issue. Then we had the issue the other night with Senator Hanson-Young, which could have been put away so quickly, but of course Senator Brown had to stand up and turn it into a complete theatrical sideshow—

Senator Marshall —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order to do with relevance. Again, I put it quite clearly that there is a question before the chair. Senator Joyce is now wandering all over the place using examples of debates that may have been had or are going to be had. He really should either address the question before the chair or end this stunt and sit down.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —As I said a moment ago, the general position in the chamber is that we allow senators a measure of latitude when they are addressing any question before the chamber, but I would encourage Senator Joyce to be relevant to the matter at hand.

Senator JOYCE —I would like to see the government stand up and explain to the whole chamber why we could not have a more judicious and expedient flow of legislation that takes into account the reality of exactly where we are in this legislative program. What we want to see from the government is why we cannot rearrange business in such a form as to clear the decks of those things that could be expediently dealt with and not unnecessarily cause collateral damage because collateral damage itself is a form of stunt. It is a form of a tactic of hurting people who do not need to be hurt for the purpose of putting pressure on people. I do not think that is necessary. It has been foreshadowed for months, almost years now, that this is going to be one of the major debates that this chamber ever has.

Senator Wong —You’re not fronting up to it. You’re being a coward. Have the courage of your convictions. Be a man. Have the debate.

Senator JOYCE —I take the interjection, Senator Wong. There are lots of things I have been called, but I have never been accused of being cowardly or running away from debates. And this is from a person who does not even have the spine to stand up to Mr Combet!

Senator Minchin —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I wish to draw attention to the behaviour of Senator Wong. She is normally very well behaved but on this occasion she is lowering the standards of this place. Her behaviour—her yelling across the chamber and accusing the Leader of the National Party of being a coward—is disorderly and I would ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to bring her to rule.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, that kind of behaviour is indeed disorderly. I ask you to restrain yourself.

Senator JOYCE —I have always believed that the definition of cowardly is ‘to run away from a fight’ and I do not intend to do that. I am going to fight this every step of the way.

I do note that there are people within the Labor Party who have differing views but who never have the capacity to stand up to their own party organisation for fear of being expelled. That fear is overwhelming and it is the key thing that differentiates that side from this side. If we have a belief, we have the liberty to express that belief. They do not have a belief; they are told what to believe. So it is the absolute height of hypocrisy to get a claim of cowardliness coming from people who never, ever show any ticker whatsoever to really stand up when it counts. This is especially true given the debacle of Mr Combet coming in and standing over the top of Senator Wong. Senator Wong did not have the capacity to stand up to him and stand her ground.

I am looking forward to the debate. I will partake in it in every way, shape and form. I will do everything I possibly can to protect the Australian people from an absolutely ridiculous scheme that will send the Australian economy into a tailspin in the middle of a recession. How can we possibly have equilibrium based modelling that is premised on the fact of full employment when we are in the middle of a recession, for goodness sake? How on earth did we go forward with a policy premised on the capacity of green jobs to miraculously appear, like manna from heaven in Nimbin, for people in the coalmining areas of Mackay as they venture south like some new form of migrating bird to find Penny Wong’s marvellous green jobs. We cannot even find one. It was an absolute farce the other day in the Senate Economics Legislation Committee when it was put to us that the idea of green jobs is to have a landscape festooned with windmills which will employ the industrious people of Australia. This is the ludicrous type of policy agenda that is coming forward.

There was a book written by Charles Mackay called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. This ETS is going to be like one of those.

Senator Marshall —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order, again, of relevance. There is a question before the chair. Senator Joyce is now seeking to debate the very issue that this resolution seeks to avoid on his behalf. He should not be having it both ways. He should either have the courage to oppose this resolution and allow us to get on with the debate or support this resolution which is trying to avoid that debate. He should not be able to have it both ways. He should stop this stunt and sit down.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You are verging on debating the point of order now, Senator Marshall, but I would suggest to Senator Joyce that he focuses on the issue.

Senator JOYCE —I will close with a question for those who might have made the allegation that what we are doing is cowardly. Do you have the ticker to bring forward these items and allow us to expedite them as quickly as we possibly can? Will you allow us to get them out of the way so that we can accommodate your desire to entertain the debate? I bet you will not. I lay the challenge to you: if you have some authority and ticker left over there, bring these things on and let us get them out of the way. We can get them out of the way this afternoon. Then, if you are fair dinkum, we can start your debate. If you do not want to do that then who is pulling the chain?