Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Clean Energy Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Household Assistance Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Tax Laws Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Fuel Tax Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Customs Tariff Amendment) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Excise Tariff Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment Bill 2011, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Unit Shortfall Charge — General) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge — Auctions) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge — Fixed Charge) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (International Unit Surrender Charge) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Charges — Customs) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Charges — Excise) Bill 2011, Clean Energy Regulator Bill 2011, Climate Change Authority Bill 2011, Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011; Consideration in Detail
The confidence in our democracy has been seriously damaged by the way in which this government has introduced its carbon tax legislation. The government promised faithfully, before the last election, that there would be no carbon tax. The Prime Minister said it quite clearly. She could have withdrawn the statement; she could have corrected it if she had been misunderstood.
The Deputy Prime Minister was even more vehement and ridiculed anybody who suggested that Labor might, at some stage during this next term of government, implement a carbon tax. Every Labor member sitting opposite today was elected on a promise that there would be no carbon tax. Today they are giving the lie to that promise. They are not honouring the word they gave to the Australian people before the election. All Labor candidates said there would be no carbon tax. All Liberal candidates said there would be no carbon tax. All National candidates said there would be no carbon tax. The only member of this House who supported a carbon tax and who is therefore being honest to his word in supporting this legislation today is the Greens member. This, therefore, is a crisis in confidence because the government failed to honour its promises. This is a major change. It is way ahead of anything anybody else in the world is doing. In fact, most of the rest of the world is moving in different directions. There are no models to follow. There are no international agreements to implement this kind of arrangement. So it is appropriate that the people have a say. We suggested there be a plebiscite; Labor rejected that. The Howard government gave an example by going to the Australian people and seeking a mandate before introducing the GST reform. That was the model that this government should follow. People have a right to a say. That is a fundamental part of our democracy and, therefore, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition that this bill should be tested by the Australian people at an election is an appropriate way for a democracy to work.
I refer briefly to some of the other amendments before the parliament. The amendment of the member for O'Connor has considerable merit. It proposes to exempt the relatively small emitters from having to pay for the effects of the carbon tax. It also has significant benefits for regional areas. It reduces some of the massive disadvantage that is built into this carbon tax through the way the government has proposed it. People in country areas will pay more carbon tax than those who live in the cities. Most of the jobs lost will be in regional areas. This tax is a particular burden on people who live outside the capital cities. So I welcome his proposal to look at ways to reduce that disadvantage. I think we need to look at the amendment in the context of the legislation as a whole. Taking some of the tax away from the small users would undoubtedly result in a fairer system.
This legislation is full of anomalies. The government has never been prepared to address those in the debate. Whenever anybody has raised questions to the Prime Minister and others about various issues, she has simply dismissed them and said, 'You are a climate change denier.' If you raised any areas of detail you were immediately accused of being opposed to taking any kind of action to protect our climate or she said, 'It is the right thing to do,' never justifying that. It is just some right thing to do. It was never a right thing to include many of the anomalies in the legislation.
The government have admitted today that the legislation has significant anomalies and they have come into the House with amendments. They gave these amendments to the opposition only as the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency spoke. There was no real chance for us to consider them in detail. I note the comments on the changes to landfill, an issue I have raised in this parliament on a number of occasions and have been ridiculed by the minister opposite for daring to so do. This proposal seems to address the issue for only three years, so local government would also be concerned. I have also raised the changes to aviation on a number of occasions. But does this amendment also deal with the smaller airlines like Rex or is it something for only the larger airlines? The government always refuse to deal with the detail, even if the detail can be corrected. There are lots more anomalies that the government have not sought to address which I do not have time to raise now but which I may raise later in the debate. But, even if the anomalies are corrected, this is still an evil tax. This is still a tax that costs Australian jobs and the only practical thing to do is to vote the bill down.