Monday, 28 February 2011
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately the following censure motion:That this House censures the Prime Minister for breaching faith with the Australian people and introducing a carbon tax because she is now beholden to the Greens and in particular:
- for stating on 16 August, five days before the election, that “there will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead”;
- for stating on 20 August, one day before the election, that “I rule out a carbon tax”;
- for declaring that a necessary pre-condition to any carbon tax was the support of the Australian people in her statement on 24 June, that “I also believe that if we are to have a price on carbon and do all the things necessary for our economy and our society to adjust we need a deep and lasting community consensus about that. We don’t have it now; and
- demand that the Prime Minister first seek a mandate from the people before introducing her carbon tax which is set to destroy jobs, damage our economy and hurt families at a time when there is no global low emissions agreement
Today we had the Prime Minister driving a Holden off the assembly line. Good on her for driving a Holden off the assembly line, but why didn’t she tell people that running that Holden is going to cost at least 6½c a litre more every time the tank is filled, as a result of her policies? She talks about living in the past and here she is in a self-conscious echo of good old Ben Chifley, driving the first Holden off the assembly line. I did not think there was too much similarity between this Prime Minister and good old Ben Chifley, because to start off with, Ben Chifley would never have gone to the Australian people telling them a barefaced lie about his policy.
But there is this similarity between this Prime Minister and Ben Chifley: Ben Chifley loved petrol rationing and this Prime Minister loves the carbon tax. Ben Chifley wanted to stop people driving their cars and this Prime Minister wants it to be more expensive for people to drive their cars. Petrol rationing and bank nationalisation cost Ben Chifley an election and the carbon tax and the mining tax and all the other taxes that this Prime Minister wants to impose will cost her the next election. Let us remember the words of the Prime Minister that will haunt her every day of her political life:
There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.
Just what was the Prime Minister thinking when she said that? Was it idealism? Was it principle? Was it the need to be an altruistic reformer? Was it the need to be on the right side of history? No, it was political desperation. It was political panic which led her to tell a barefaced lie, to put a barefaced lie to the Australian people.
I do. The interesting thing is that, in response to the claim that this was nothing but blatant, naked deception of the Australian public, all this Prime Minister can do is act like an alternative opposition leader. There is nothing remotely prime ministerial about the person in the most important job in our country.
Why did she make that statement? She made that statement because I had been saying day in and day out that, as sure as night follows day, if this government is re-elected, there will be a carbon tax. On the one hand, I was saying there would be a carbon tax if this government were elected; on the other hand, this Prime Minister was saying, ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.’ I say to the Australian public: I submit myself to your verdict as to which of us—the Prime Minister or the leader of the coalition—is the more truthful person in Australian politics.
This Prime Minister brought in a carbon tax. She did not consult the people. She did not consult the caucus. I tell you what: she certainly did not consult her cabinet. Just imagine the cabinet discussion that they had about the carbon tax: the Prime Minister says to the cabinet, ‘I think I’m going to introduce a carbon tax.’ You can imagine the Minister for Foreign Affairs, can’t you? You can imagine the foreign minister saying: ‘Yes, a carbon tax, Prime Minister. What a good idea. You politically assassinated me over wanting to introduce an emissions trading scheme. Sure, Prime Minister, you have your carbon tax.’ I tell you what: he would not have been just rushing to catch the 6.55 plane.
You can imagine this Lady Macbeth of Australian politics, the person who just killed Banquo, saying to the cabinet: ‘A little water clears us of this deed.’ You can imagine this Prime Minister saying to the cabinet: ‘A little carbon price clears us of this bloody deed.’ Well, it does not clear her of this bloody deed, because Banquo is still ghosting around the capitals of Europe. He is still here hovering and waiting and he has his knife out for the Prime Minister, as he should because this Prime Minister has betrayed not just her predecessor but all of her colleagues whom she did not consult, her colleagues whose electoral offices are now besieged by angry Labor voters wanting to know why their petrol prices are going to go up by 6.5 cents a litre and why their power bills are going to go up by $300 a year.
She has betrayed the Australian people because she has broken the solemn obligation of the truth, which prime ministers owe to the Australian public. Let me quote the Prime Minister on standards of honesty. She said:
If the minister had been a businessman and offered a promise like that and not kept it, he would have been sued. If the minister had been in a court of law and made a statement like that and it turned out not to be true, he would have been tried for perjury. If the minister had been in a church—
and she knows a lot about that, doesn’t she?—
and made a statement like that and it turned out not to be true, the congregation would have known that he had broken the ninth commandment.
This is the Prime Minister of this country:
I do not see why the standard should be different in business, should be different in churches or should be different in courts from the standard in public life. If anything, the standard in public life should be higher.
She is right: the standard in public life should be higher, and that is why this Prime Minister deserves to be condemned by this parliament and that is why she will be condemned by the Australian people at the first available opportunity.
There is more than a slightly desperate quality in the Prime Minister’s shrill rationalisations of this breach of faith. No amount of brazen repetition can hide the desperate quality that has entered the Prime Minister. I refer to the infamous interview where she says:
… rather than play any semantic word games I was frank enough with the Australian people to say that the first few years would work effectively like a tax.
She still cannot quite bring herself to admit that it is what it is, but she wants credit for being frank. This Prime Minister is not frank; she is a fraud. That is what she is.
She even had the hide to somehow liken this campaign for a carbon tax to the former Prime Minister’s campaign for tax reform. I tell you what: that Prime Minister did not lie to the Australian people before an election. He had the guts to go to the people promising to bring in a new tax. Those guts constitute real leadership. Those are the guts that this Prime Minister does not have. Because she lacks those guts and that honesty she should be condemned by this parliament.
I second the motion. The day before the election this Prime Minister sought to differentiate between a carbon price and a carbon tax. It was this Prime Minister who sought to lead the Australian people to believe that she would not introduce a carbon tax; that she would introduce a carbon price. She was the one who used the semantics. It was this Prime Minister, in an effort to win the people at the very last moment before the last election, who sought to rule out emphatically a carbon tax. It is this Prime Minister who has deliberately deceived the Australian people with her words and with her actions.
By doing that very deed the day before the election this Prime Minister has now laid down before the Australian people her bankrupt integrity, because the Prime Minister not only emphatically said that she would not introduce a carbon tax; she said to the Australian people, ‘Trust me, I’m telling the truth.’ Therefore, this Prime Minister is setting a benchmark after only a few months in her term of office. She has been the Prime Minister of this nation not even for one year. But it does not give us any good wind—it gives us no satisfaction—to be here less than a year into her prime ministership debating her core integrity and whether she is honest and fit for the job.
The Prime Minister has set the terms of this debate. We will stand up for the Australian people here. We will stand up for the honesty that is so absolutely necessary when it comes to the issue of everyone dealing with the cost of living in their homes. We have a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who have set out to deliberately deceive the Australian people. He is sitting there with a new smirk but this Treasurer, before the last election, described allegations of a carbon tax as hysterical. He lied to the Australian people on Meet the Press. He lied to the Australian people in an interview with Kerry O’Brien on The 7:30 Report. He sits there with a warm smile because he is like no other Treasurer: he has introduced more taxes than any person in memory.
And he did not have the courage to front the press conference. He did not have the courage to look the Australian people in the eye and say, ‘I am going to increase your cost of living. I am going to do that.’ No, this is not a man with the ticker for the job. This is a weak and insipid man—a man who always takes the easy options. He is following a Prime Minister who is equally weak and insipid, because at the very moment the Australian people are asking for trustworthiness we have a Prime Minister who sets out to mislead the Australian people and to seek their support based on an untruth.
Some people might call it a ‘terminological inexactitude’. It is a tax. As Lord Byron said:
After all, what is a lie? ‘Tis but the truth in a masquerade.
So I say that this is a Prime Minister who is engaging in a deceitful game. She is a Prime Minister who is determined to wing her way to power and to preserve power on the basis of a lie. At this very moment, when the Australian people are trying to deal with higher interest rates, increased tobacco prices, increased alcohol prices, higher petrol prices and all the challenges of modern life, the Labor Party is introducing a carbon price, a mining tax, a flood tax. They are doing so with absolute disregard for the challenges that every household has at the moment in meeting their daily bills. That is because we have a liar as a Prime Minister.
I withdraw. We have a Prime Minister who has set out to mislead the Australian people. She has set out to gain power in a partnership with the Greens that is based on an untruth. I say to you, Prime Minister: if you have any courage—if you have any guts or core principles—go to the Australian people now and get a mandate for your bad tax.
There are times when this parliament is called upon to consider what it takes to lead the nation—what national leadership means. There are times in the life of this nation when you have to make a decision on whether you stand for hope and change or whether you stand for fear. There are times in the life of this nation where you have to decide if you stand for the national interest or your political interest. On each of those decisions the Leader of the Opposition is decided. He stands for fear. He stands for his political interest. He does not stand for the national interest.
In the Leader of the Opposition’s position there are three important things to recognise: there is no principle in it; there are no facts to support it; there is no future in it. On the question of there being no principle the Leader of the Opposition has had five different positions on pricing carbon. There is no principle in anything he says to the Australian people or to this parliament. He has had five different positions on pricing carbon. Even the former Leader of the Opposition said that the current Leader of the Opposition has had all of these different positions and that he is a weathervane in politics.
First the Leader of the Opposition said that he respected the mandate of the government to introduce it. Then he said that the coalition should not be browner than Howard. Then he said that if amendments were accepted the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme should go through. Then he said that you cannot have a climate change policy without supporting this ETS at this time. And then he backflipped, described climate change science as absolute crap and decided his political interests lay in a fear campaign.
In the Leader of the Opposition’s position there is no principle. No Australian could actually know what this man believes about climate change. I suspect the worst thing of all: the absolute truth about it is that he has no beliefs. He is so hollow and so devoid of understanding what is in this nation’s interests that he has no beliefs. So he waits for a focus group, he waits for polling and he waits to see what the newspapers are running and then he decides what he believes that day. There is no principle in this and there are no facts in it at all. The Leader of the Opposition is on the record as supporting a carbon tax but now he is out there running a fear campaign.
There are so few facts in their argument that every day a Liberal Party spokesperson uses a different figure. They have no idea what the content of their fear campaign should be, so hollow are they. So the shadow minister for the environment in January was wandering around saying, ‘Families will pay $1,100 a year.’ Then in February he was saying that it will be $300. The shadow finance minister was out saying it will be $1,000 and the New South Wales Leader of the Opposition was saying that it will be $500.
What this should be reinforcing in people is that, day by day, they just go out there and make things up to try to create fear in the community. No facts, no principle, just a perspective about creating fear. Indeed, one of the things they try to do is create the impression that the tax burden on Australians is greater now than it has been in the past. That is 100 per cent untrue. Australia is less taxed now than it was when the Leader of the Opposition sat on the ministerial benches. If you want to pick the side of politics that has delivered lower taxation in this parliament, it is this side of politics with me as Prime Minister.
The Leader of the Opposition’s track record is of higher taxes. Of course, we know that he loves the levies if they are to pay for his election promises; he just hates them when they are to rebuild Queensland.
So there are no facts in this, and there is no future in this either—no future at all. Our nation is at an important crossroad about whether we have a clean energy economy for the future, with all of the jobs that that implies, or whether we get stuck in the past; whether we stump up to the challenge of this parliament to price carbon in the way that earlier parliaments stumped up to challenges like reducing tariffs, floating the dollar and creating the GST. We have to decide whether this parliament can stump up to this challenge.
Just like the challenges in the past, it is easy to raise fear. It is easy to go out into communities and say to people, ‘You’ll pay more.’ It is easy to say to people, ‘Your jobs are at risk.’ Fear campaigns are easy. What is harder, but what is ultimately right, is doing the reform work that makes us a prosperous nation for the long term. I am glad we had the courage as a nation to step up to the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, and we do not have less courage now than we had then. We are a creative, confident people. This is a big challenge but we can get it done. The Leader of the Opposition, as that challenge confronts, just says, ‘Believe in fear.’ I actually believe in the capacities of the Australian people: the capacity to innovate, the capacity to live in a way that is generating less carbon pollution and the capacity to create the clean energy jobs of the future. I believe in the skills and abilities of Australians to do just that.
Today we have seen the most grossly irresponsible statement made by a national political leader in the last 15 years. I campaigned against the GST, but once it was implemented I understood how devastating it would be for businesses to try to take it away. What the Leader of the Opposition has said today is that, if this parliament successfully embraces the opportunities of the future and prices carbon, he will go to the next election sweeping that away, with all of the consequences that will have for business certainty and for the loss of jobs that that will create. People who have moved into the renewables sector, people who have got themselves the skills they will need for the future—their jobs and prospects are to be trashed by this Leader of the Opposition. He talks about cost of living pressures on Australian households, but he has guaranteed today that if he is elected at the next election he will smash carbon pricing and he will rip out of the hands of Australians the generous household assistance we have put into their hands. He will go to the next election promising to make Australians worse off and to take away from them household assistance that will come with carbon pricing.
No-one should believe the Leader of the Opposition’s fear campaign. He believes in nothing. He stands for nothing. He has no facts to support his case and he has no ideas for the nation’s future. On this side of the parliament we have the courage to act. We understand what needs to be done. We must price carbon. We have worked with people of goodwill to work out how in this parliament, the parliament that the Australian people voted for, we will price carbon. I have done that just as prime ministers in the past have done that, just as Prime Minister Howard sat down with Meg Lees to negotiate the GST—working with people of goodwill to get a major economic reform through this parliament. We will bring in carbon pricing. It will create clean energy jobs. It will transform our economy. We will give households generous assistance. We will meet this challenge that our age requires us to stump up to. I will make this prediction: Australians are growing tired of the Leader of the Opposition’s scare campaign. They know: day 1, you go out and you try to engender a bit of fear, and people get a bit scared; day 365, you go out and engender a bit of fear, then it is starting to wear off. To the Leader of the Opposition I say: what will you say to Australians when we price carbon, when Australian households have received the generous assistance we will give them, when the system is working? How will he look then? He will look then as he looks now: a hollow man, worried about his political interest, with no ideas for the nation’s future.
We will get on with the job. We will meet your fear campaign with facts, we will meet your fear campaign with courage and we will see this through. We will stare you down and we will get this done.