House debates

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Prime Minister

Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

2:30 pm

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately—That this House censures the Prime Minister for her announcement today that confirms that she will introduce a carbon tax this year breaking her solemn promise to the Australian people that “there will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead” and in particular:

(1)
that the Prime Minister stand condemned for:
(a)
inflicting another new Labor tax on families already battling to make ends meet because of the rising cost of living;
(b)
hitting pensioners and carers with another new Labor tax at a time when they are already struggling with soaring power bills and increased grocery prices;
(c)
burdening small business with another new Labor tax at a time when many of them are barely surviving;
(d)
adding an extra $300 to the average household power bill with her new carbon tax; and
(e)
adding an extra 6.5 cents per litre to the cost of petrol with her new carbon tax; and
(2)
at a time when there is no global agreement on reducing emissions and, under this new Labor tax, Australia will bear an unacceptable economic cost that wont be shared by our international competitors.

Let us be clear on the extent of the betrayal. Before the election the Prime Minister said:

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

Before the election the Prime Minister said:

I rule out a carbon tax—

on the front page of Australia’s major paper the day before the election. We even had the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister calling the claim that a carbon tax would be introduced post election an ‘absolutely hysterical allegation’. That hysterical allegation has turned out to be cold, hard fact. Cold, hard fact is the betrayal of this government.

Mr Speaker, I want you to listen to the words of the Prime Minister in ‘full sincerity’ mode. She said in an interview with Jon Faine:

I think when you go to an election and you give a promise to the Australian people, you should do everything in your power to honour that promise. We are determined to do that … this is a Government that prides itself on delivering election promises. We want Australians to be able to say well, they’ve said this and they did this …

They said one thing and they did another thing.

We have heard a lot about Real Julia and Fake Julia. Was it Real Julia or was it Fake Julia who said, ‘We gave our word to the Australian people’? Was it Real Julia or Fake Julia who said, ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’? I tell you what: nothing is more fake than making a promise to the Australian people before the election and breaking it after the election. I am sure that this Prime Minister, in her heart of hearts, in those quiet moments of reflection in the still, small hours of the night when she considers what she has said and done, like some latter-day Lady Macbeth would consider the statement ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’ and say ‘Out, foul spot!’ ‘Out, foul spot!’ But she said it and she will be judged by it.

There has been no greater betrayal in recent Australian history. This is the greatest breach of faith with the Australian public since the l-a-w law—fake tax cuts of another Labor Prime Minister. I say to the Australian people: if the Australian public could not trust the Prime Minister on this, how can they ever in the future trust her on anything at all?

Opposition Members:

Just ask Kevin!

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

This is the truth: we have a Prime Minister who simply cannot be trusted on anything at all. I hear ‘Just ask Kevin.’ The promise not to introduce a carbon tax was actually the second most solemn pledge that this Prime Minister made in the course of the last election. The most solemn pledge, perhaps, was the pledge to the former Prime Minister: ‘I’m with you, Kevin. I back you all the way, Kevin. I even back you on your emissions trading scheme until it all gets too hard, and I’ll stab you in the back on that. I’ll stab you in the back on the leadership and I will ultimately stab the Australian people in the back with this broken promise.’ She ratted on Kevin Rudd and now she has betrayed the Australian people. Shame on this Prime Minister. And we know she does feel some shame. She would not say the word ‘tax’ in carbon tax in her press conference, but the shame is starting to get to her, because she just half admitted that it was going to be a tax. ‘In effect, a tax’ she says! In total reality, Prime Minister, a tax—a hit—on the Australian people’s standard of living.

This is a prime minister who has raised breaking promises to an art form. This is a prime minister who holds the world record for breaking promises. Today she has broken her promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Already she has broken her promise to have a citizens assembly. This was going to happen before the election. That lasted until the day—it did not even last until she was confirmed as Prime Minister—she needed the vote of one Green in this parliament. There was the East Timor detention centre that was definitely going to happen before the election but will never, ever happen after the election. There were the onshore detention centres that would never, ever have happened before the election and are now being built after the election. There was the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that she was adopting sight unseen before the election but running away from at million miles an hour after the election.

There was the hospital takeover. Remember the hospital takeover! After climate change, that was the second greatest moral challenge of our time. She was definitely doing that before the election—completely dumped after the election because she was beaten by the Liberal state premiers. She says this is the year of decision and delivery. The only decision that she has made this year is not to deliver on her election promises. This year will be the year of backflips and broken promises from this Prime Minister—this inadequate, disappointing Prime Minister—leading a government that has broken every promise that it has ever made.

What is her justification for this assault on the cost of living of every Australian, this $300 a year hit on power prices, this 6½c a litre hit on petrol prices? What is her justification? Oh! The parliament changed. There is one member of parliament right up the back there who said before the election—he is not actually here now—‘I will support a carbon tax.’ Every other member—and I accept the Prime Minister’s whispering—of this parliament went to the election ruling out a carbon tax. Every single member on this side ruled out a carbon tax. Every member on that side ruled out a carbon tax. I say to the Prime Minister: by what tortured logic, by what bizarre arithmetic, does one vote trump 149?

This is truly the weirdest justification that we have ever seen. The only explanation for the Prime Minister’s backflip is that the real Prime Minister of this country is in fact Senator Bob Brown. This is a prime minister who now has almost no credibility left. She has never seen a tax she did not like. She has never seen a tax she would not hike. This is a prime minister who has let down the Australian people no more so than today. (Time expired)

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

2:40 pm

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

What we have seen on display from the Leader of the Opposition today is why Australians do not trust him to be Prime Minister—a performance of hysteria, a performance of the ultimately hollow man, the man who believes in nothing and does not want to do anything to benefit the nation in the future. People come to this parliament wanting to work hard, wanting to make a difference, wanting to ultimately leave this parliament saying to themselves, ‘I did that; I created that; I built that—that is only in Australia today because I was in the Australian parliament.’

The Leader of the Opposition is the only man I have ever met who came to this parliament saying, ‘I want to leave the parliament with people able to say about me, “I destroyed this, I stopped that, I ended something else.”‘ What he wants to do is destroy the capacity of this nation to deal with climate change. What he wants to do is destroy the capacity of this nation to have the jobs of the future through the NBN. What he wants to do is destroy the capacity of this nation to have health reform. What he wants to do is destroy the capacity of this nation to properly manage the mining boom and to get a proper return on the mineral wealth in our ground. What he wants to do is destroy the ability of Australians to even move from one bank to another freely—he would rather have them charged unfair exit fees. What he wants to do is destroy all of these things because in his hollowness and in his bitterness he has no positive ideas for the future.

On this side we know why there is all this hysteria today—because the Leader of the Opposition has clutched to his old slogans like a drowning man to a passing piece of wood. We watched the member for Wentworth on Lateline last night and we could read between the lines. Yep, it was on—back to their old days of chasing each other around about the leadership, the member for Wentworth trying to distinguish himself as a man who believes in the future, who believes in positive propositions like a multicultural and tolerant Australia and who wants to leave the Leader of the Opposition like a dying man clutching onto his One Nation emails. That is what is happening in the opposition today. So, faced with that politics, the Leader of the Opposition has come in here and he has clutched to his old slogans like a dying man. But the problem with his old slogans is that every time he says them they ring less and less true, and every time he says them they have less and less force in the Australian community. He is like a boy who has cried wolf too many times. He is no longer believed by the Australian community. Let us take away the hysteria, the carry-on and the assaults that the Leader of the Opposition has on any facts in this debate and let us go through them calmly, rationally and with some reason. I know that is not the Leader of the Opposition’s strong suit, but let us just try and do it.

No. 1: do you believe in climate change? We do; we believe it is induced by human activity. What do they believe over there? They have no idea, and I can see the ones who are dropping their heads now because they are embarrassed by the position of the Leader of the Opposition. No. 2: if you believe climate change is real, then what is happening around the world? People are moving to create clean energy economies. Should we be stranded on the sideline with a high pollution economy? Should we continue to be the biggest emitters of carbon pollution in the world or should we act as the world acts, as that wave of change for clean energy goes through the world economy? I say we should get on the right side of history and we should act now. Then once you have determined to act you bring to the task your market based principles. How can we best do this? I believe we can best do it through a market based mechanism that will give us the biggest transformation in our economy for the lowest cost.

I believe we should do this fairly by looking after Australians who are impacted by the change. We will do that. I believe we should do this by making sure businesses have certainty. We will do that too. I believe we should do this understanding that we are a confident nation, that we have made big changes before, that we have made big changes even when there have been hysterical campaigns against them and those big changes have led to the prosperity that we have today. The proud record of reform of the Hawke and Keating governments was something that transformed our economy for the future. That is what carbon pricing is about. It is the reform that we need now.

Here we see the opposition wandering around like Brown’s cows because they are actually so scared of this debate, so scared of their hysteria and hollowness being on display that they are desperately hoping they can distract from their shameful failure in this debate.

Increasingly, Australians understand that the Liberal Party, under the Leader of the Opposition, is part of the past with no real policies or plans for the nation’s future. What would the Leader of the Opposition have the nation do? Devote $10.5 billion of more tax to climate change programs that would not work. Any abatement through those programs would be at a higher cost than a market based mechanism. Waste on an epic scale is what the Leader of the Opposition wants to do. He wants to engage in that waste and that $10.5 billion of new tax, extra tax with no compensation for Australian families. He wants to stand by idle as power prices go up, providing no compensation to Australian families. That is the low road of more tax, of higher prices for families, higher electricity prices and no compensation. That is the low road of having a high-polluting economy where in the years to come we can no longer compete and keep our place in the global economy. We will not go down the low road. You get judged ultimately in this parliament by what you decide to do and what you deliver.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Cowan has been warned and he will be very careful. The Prime Minister has the call. The member for Hughes should be very careful and take his place.

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

On this side of the parliament we are determined that from 1 July we will price carbon. We are determined we will have a prosperous, low-pollution economy of the future. We are determined that we will have the jobs of the future. We are determined to make a contribution to tackling climate change. We are determined to do that efficiently, fairly and with certainty for Australian business.

The Leader of the Opposition can engage in his scare campaigns, he can engage in his politics of the past and inevitably we will see him do that. The Leader of the Opposition is so little interested in climate change that he is not even paying attention to this debate. He is, as always, all about the politics and not at all about the policy. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: we will have this debate and we will win it every day. We will contest every proposition and we will correct every attempt to mislead. We will have this debate and we will win it.

If any Australian is wondering what the Leader of the Opposition actually stands for, if they listened to this debate, if they have listened to his hysteria, if they have listened to his carrying on, if they have listened to his misleading claims, if they have read his motion with misleading claims in it, then let me summarise what the opposition is on about. Let me use the words of the member for Wentworth:

Tony himself has, in just four or five months, publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and, if the amendments were satisfactory, passing it, and now the blocking of it.

His only redeeming virtue in this: his remarkable lack of conviction …

Never a truer word spoken. A hollow man out of his depth.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, standing order 62 is very clear:

A Member in the Chamber must:

(a)
take his or her seat promptly;

…            …            …

(c)
not remain in the aisles …

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

We know that those opposite have turned their back on the future—

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The Leader of the House will resume his seat. On the point of order, that is why the member for Cowan is very lucky. It is what I was reminding the member for Hughes of. I assume, naively perhaps, this was individuals’ actions and not orchestrated, but if it was orchestrated it will be remembered and there will be action taken on the next occasion.

2:51 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage) Share this | | Hansard source

This Prime Minister talks about conviction, but who said, ‘I rule out a carbon tax’? She did. This Prime Minister talks about conviction, but who said, ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’? She did. And this Prime Minister today delivered a carbon tax, and that means three very simple things. Electricity will go up by $300 a year—and she knows it. Petrol prices will go up by 6½c a litre—and she knows it. Her credibility will go down and will stay down—and she knows it. What we have had today is a fundamental breach of faith with the Australian people. There is no question as to whether or not this Prime Minister ruled out a carbon tax, and there is no question that what she delivered today is a carbon tax. There is a question about courage, because she does not have the guts to call it a carbon tax, but to make it absolutely clear, we have a carbon tax in every single element. She has broken her election promise, she has breached faith with the Australian people and she has betrayed the Australian people.

The simple question is: why did she make the promise on election eve? Why was she so ashamed of the concept of a carbon tax that her one leading pitch to the nation in the last 24 hours before the election was to rule out a carbon tax? Why was that the single thing that she went to the Australian people with in the last 24 hours? It was because she knew that the Australian people did not want to face higher electricity prices and they did not want to face higher petrol prices. That is why she also tapped the member for Griffith on the shoulder when he was Prime Minister and said, ‘On this whole ETS thing, I care so much about climate change; let’s just put it off.’ She made sure that it was postponed. There is a fundamental issue before the House today, and that is why this motion is important. It is about truth and honesty with the Australian people in your most sacred pitch for their support in order to form a government. It was dishonest, it was deliberate, it was deceptive, it was dishonourable and it was a betrayal of the Australian people which has reached its point at the moment today when she announced a carbon tax but did not have the courage to use the term ‘carbon tax’ because she is ashamed of her breach of promise and she is afraid that the Australian people will discover that this means higher prices for electricity and petrol.

Let us look at this question of higher prices for electricity and petrol when there is a better way available, not just in Australia but around the world. Electricity prices will rocket up. We saw that this week with the Australian Industry Group report. That report made it absolutely clear that over and above every other additional impact on electricity prices there would be an increase of $300 per family in the first year alone. And from there it goes up: $300 per family is the price of perpetuity for this Prime Minister. What we also know from the work of Professor Garnaut—not us, but Professor Garnaut—is that if a $26 per tonne price were introduced, there would be a 6½c per litre increase in petrol prices. If you are honest, if you are serious, you will acknowledge those price rises today. You are raising the price of electricity for families who are already facing electricity price rises. For a Prime Minister who has an argument about markets, you must answer this point: if you add a 62 per cent price rise—

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired. The member will resume his seat. I remind the member that he should address his remarks through the chair.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Abbott’s) be agreed to.