Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 30 March 2023
Page: 49

Senator DUNIAM (TasmaniaDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (12:51): We are shortly to vote, as was rightly pointed out by the minister. This is the guillotine that Labor and the Greens set up to confine debate to a certain period of time on what is probably going to be one of the most important pieces of legislation this parliament deals with—because the economic impact of this will be felt for a very, very long time.

It was most telling, though, in the minister's last answer, her last contribution, when she said this legislation is all about emissions. That absolutely is the case, clearly it's the case, because that's all we're focused on here; not the impact of the policy to deal with emissions, the flow-on impact, the cost to the economy, the threat to jobs, the cost-of-living pressures that we're going to be seeing as a result of these laws. This is the problem when you look at something in such a one-eyed fashion and don't reach out to industry, to the 215 facilities. As Senator Scarr said earlier on, in the time this crew have been in government they could have gone out and spoken with one of them a day. Instead, what they've done is they've hatched up this deal. They've had what's been described as consultation. They've tabled a bill and then gone and done a deal with the Australian Greens.

This is a far cry from the claims by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, who said on 6 December 2021 that as a result of Labor's climate policies not one miner's job would be lost. Now, it's a bit like that promise they made before the election that $275 would be coming off your power bill. So they'll say something before the election, like, 'No miner's job will be lost as a result of these laws,' but then when we ask about it here, when we're dealing with the legislation they brought in as a result of that promise, plus some dodgy deals cooked up in a smoke-filled backroom with the Greens, that same promise is not there. It is missing in action. They can't promise today that not one miner's job will be lost, because the indication, the signal they're giving to the market, is not going to secure employment, is not going to secure investment decisions, is not going to make sure that those regional communities that depend on these entities—and, of course, those of us who use electricity every day—will now face increased costs. They can't make this promise around the miner's job being secure.

What's changed? Oh, I know, they never intended to honour those promises. And I don't think it's right to characterise questions, specific in nature, around the impact on specific facilities as a result of Labor's laws to, as they say, drive down emissions because that's all they were focused on. They were not focused on the economic impact, the jobs, the cost of living or the cost of fuel. These are the things that we asked to see modelling on and these are the things we sought to understand the government's thinking on. It seems to me that, based on those specific facilities I referred to—fuel refineries, train operators, refuse disposal sites—they're going to be faced with increased costs as a result of Labor's laws.

But Labor, in partnership with the Greens, have not gone out and asked these entities what increased costs they will be facing. 'How will this impact on your business? How will you comply with our regime to drive down emissions at 4.9 per cent per annum each year until the year 2030?' If they had done that, of course, I'd have answers to these specific questions. I'd have answers to those questions around: can you guarantee that one job will not be lost? Can you outline for us what modelling has been done on the increase to fuel Australian drivers will be facing? How will it eat into their household budget, which is already under strain? Of course, as we've seen characterised as repeated questions that are somehow irrelevant—hang on. No. Everything we do here has an impact on the way Australians live. To try and dismiss our concerns on behalf of all Australians as irrelevant or climate denial is mad.

I tell you what: it's that attitude which is going to come back to haunt the Labor Party and remind people of the deal they've done, the $275 promise not honoured and the promise that not one job will be lost for miners as a result of Labor's climate policies. I look forward to interrogating that over time. I can only assume, given the broken promises and given the inability of the government to outline to us exactly what impact their policies in partnership with the Australian Greens will have on jobs and on the cost of living, that they just didn't go and talk to people that disagree with them. They reckon there was an invitation out there to engage, but why are there so few answers when it comes to the negative impacts of this bill? Did they just go out and talk to people that said yes? Did they just go out and talk to people they knew would agree with them? I think the answer is 'absolutely'. If you went out and looked anywhere else, you'd have considered these flow on impacts.

As I say, I can't get over the situation we find ourselves in, where a government have left a minister—who is a very diligent individual; who works very hard at her portfolio and her responsibilities as a senator for New South Wales—to not be able to answer questions about what impact these laws will have on everyday Australians: how much more they will be paying for fuel, how much more they will be paying for food and groceries and how much more a train ticket in Victoria will cost when V/Line is forced to comply with the safeguard mechanism. I find it astounding that the minister has been left unable to answer these questions because the government deemed them irrelevant, somehow, to a long and in-depth consultation process.

I was pleased to hear that all these stakeholders who have come to see the government feel so refreshed by the new approach that has been taken—an interesting approach, I suppose. A new government in town for three years. You'd probably want to be on their right side, so you'd probably tell them what they want to hear anyway, despite the bad policies that we see tabled every other day of the week. The reality is that, when I go out and talk to people, they're very nervous about what this crew are going to do in partnership with the Australian Greens, just like Tasmanians were before the 2010 state election, when Labor did a deal with the Greens—and I tell you what, it did not end well at all. To boot, of course, we have a Labor Party on their own, without the aid of the Greens, that decided: 'You know what? You know that little promise we made about power prices, of $275 off your bill? You can take it to the bank, ladies and gentlemen.' Without the aid of the Greens, they decided they would not honour that promise made 97 times to the Australian people. It wasn't worth honouring. In the same way, sadly, we are seeing a promise made to miners across regional Australia and states like Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia: 'Your jobs are safe under our climate laws—until we get elected! Then, of course, everything is off the table because we have to consult and work our way through.'

Senator Scarr interjecting

Senator DUNIAM: I think that's right, Senator Scarr, and Senator Hughes made the point: it's this deal with the Greens, which no-one saw coming—except those who know what happens. Labor return to form, Labor-Green power-sharing agreements and Labor-Green laws which don't do anything to grow the economy. In fact, they send it in the other direction.

As I said at the beginning of my contributions, this is not just about emissions reductions. It is about the impact this will have on the economy. There are better ways to do what the government says they will do. There are better ways to treat Australians, and that is with respect and integrity of policy rather than breaking your promises.

Government senators interjecting

Senator DU NIAM: Some in this chamber find it amusing, but, I can tell you this now: no-one will be laughing when power bills are opened and they're higher than they were before, no-one will be laughing when fuel costs are higher. This will be the hallmark of this government—

The CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Duniam. We have reached the appointed hour.

Senator Hughes interjecting

The CHAIR: Senator Hughes! Senators, it being 1pm, I will now put the question before the chair and then put the questions on the remaining stages of the bill. The question before the chair is that the amendments on sheet SK147 moved by Senator McAllister be agreed to.