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
Members of parliament are often accused of not keeping their promises, they are often accused of breaching faith with the public, and as a result there is a level of cynicism within the Australian public about some parliamentarians. In fact, there was a whole political movement that was based on holding politicians to their promises: the Australian Democrats. As you might recall, they had a famous pledge to 'keep the bastards honest'. Now we have a complete reversal of Don Chipp's famous pledge. The government, the Greens and some of the Independents have decided to keep the government dishonest, complicit as they are in ensuring that the Prime Minister's clear breach of her commitment before the last election now becomes law. Instead of holding the Prime Minister to her promise, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' the Labor Party, the Greens and some of the Independents are holding the Prime Minister to a broken promise, to a breach of faith with the Australian people.
That promise was not some aside or some afterthought on the part of the Prime Minister. It was not just a throwaway line or an unscripted, unguarded moment. No, this was a carefully considered, deliberate statement made to mislead the Australian people into voting Labor. That is why the Prime Minister said, in response to the Leader of the Opposition's constant refrain throughout the election campaign that, 'As sure as night follows day, if this government is re-elected there will be a carbon tax,' the Prime Minister deliberately set about trying to convince the Australian people that she would not introduce a carbon tax. Now, rather than hold the Prime Minister to that promise, we have members who are trying to force through the parliament a policy unsupported by any electoral mandate at all.
Major reforms are challenging and they are difficult to implement, so it is vital to bring the Australian people into your confidence and bring them with you as you seek to implement reforms that will transform the economy, for good or for bad. The Prime Minister did recognise this during the election campaign, when she was talking about a price on carbon but promised it would not be introduced until there had been consultation for a couple of years in order to build a lasting consensus. Yet, when the Prime Minister realised that the government might well lose the election because of the threat of a carbon tax, she set about deliberately misleading the Australian public into voting Labor on the basis that Labor would not introduce a carbon tax.
Compare that to the history surrounding the introduction of the goods and service tax. During his first term as Prime Minister, John Howard became convinced of the need to replace the complex layers of wholesale sales tax with a flat-rate GST. Labor vowed to campaign against the GST, but their attack was blunted because Prime Minister Howard decided to take the proposed GST to an election, to campaign on it and seek a mandate from the Australian people, to ask the Australia people whether they supported the introduction of this tax. He took a risk, but he had courage and he had the respect of the Australian people, and he showed them respect in return: he put that tax to the Australian electorate. I remember that 1998 election. It was my first election. It was very hard fought. But we had the courage to take the Australian people into our confidence, tell them what we were proposing to do and seek their support—and we got it. Through this parliament, this legislation is being foisted on the Australian people, without their having a say on this most fundamental transformation of our economy.
I urge the members of the Labor Party to support these amendments. Show the Australian people some respect. Show them that you care about the promises you make at an election and that you are prepared to stick to your promises—and, if you change your mind, then take it to an election. (Time expired)