Tuesday, 21 June 2011
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately—
That this House calls on the Prime Minister to explain to the Australian people why she arrogantly refuses to give them a vote on whether Australia should introduce a carbon tax, a vote that she denied them at the last election when she said "there will be no carbon tax under a Government I lead", and now rules out a plebiscite. If the Prime Minister thinks the Australian people want a carbon tax, why is she so scared to give the people their say?
This motion to suspend standing orders is necessary because this debate and this plebiscite cannot wait. We have a government which is now rushing to sneak through this parliament a carbon tax for which it has no mandate whatsoever. It is typical of this frightened and floundering Prime Minister that she has yet again scurried from the chamber rather than stay for this debate, listen to what people have to say and defend her position. No previous Prime Minister in this House would have run away from debate the way this Prime Minister has. She runs away from debate and now she is running away from a vote on the biggest policy change that this parliament has ever been asked to make. She is running away from a vote on the biggest decision and the biggest change that the Australian people have ever been asked to contemplate.
This cannot wait, because the first task of national leadership is to tell the truth. That is the first task of national leadership. The first task of national leadership is to tell the truth when the Australian people are listening before an election. What we had from this Prime Minister was a complete deceit before the last election. Let us not forget what she said six days before the last election. These are words that will haunt her to her political grave and these are words that will echo around this chamber again and again until this government is defeated. She said before the last election, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.'
Having failed to seek a mandate at the last election, having refused to seek a mandate at the next election, there must be a vote now. There must be a vote now so that the Australian people can have their say on this massive change. Let no-one be under any illusion about the extent of the change that the Prime Minister wants to foist upon them without a mandate. This is the biggest single policy change in our history. This is not just a tax change. This is not just a revenue measure. This is a tax that purports to change the very way we live. This is a tax that proposes to change the very way we work. Every aspect of Australians' way of life and every aspect of Australians' way of work will be affected by this tax. That is why it is absolutely imperative that standing orders be suspended so that the Prime Minister can explain. A change of this magnitude must be put to the people first. There is no recent Prime Minister who would have run away from taking this tax to the people. We used to hear from the Prime Minister about the GST. She does not refer to the GST anymore because Prime Minister Howard had the guts to take his tax change to the people at the 1998 election. Prime Minister Howard had the guts to do it and this Prime Minister should also have the guts to face the people at a vote. She should have the guts, she should have the ticker and she should have the honesty to face the people at a vote.
Let there be no doubt in this chamber about the impact of this carbon tax should it go ahead. There will be a 25 per cent increase in the price of electricity, and that is just for starters. This suspension is urgent because this matter cannot wait. There will be a 6½c a litre increase in the price of petrol, and that is just for starters. There will be an up to five per cent increase in the price of groceries, and that is just for starters. There will be 16 major coalmines closed, and that is just for starters. Standing orders must be suspended because the fate of those mines and those workers must be debated now—their fate should be put to a vote of the Australian people.
There will be 45,000 jobs lost in energy-intensive industries. There will be 126,000 jobs lost mainly in regional Australia. Isn't that why members opposite are so scared of this tax? Isn't that why members opposite are openly talking to journalists about whether this Prime Minister can survive? The only job that this Prime Minister is interested in, it seems, is her own job. We know her record. She sabotaged the former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, over the emissions trading scheme. It is urgent that we suspend standing orders so that she can explain herself. She deceived the Australian people at the last election and now—and this is why standing orders should be suspended—she is trying to deny the Australian people a vote on this matter, which is absolutely vital to their future.
It seems that this Prime Minister is now deaf to everyone. When Paul Howes, the man who more than anyone else put her into the leadership, says, 'I want a guarantee from you, Prime Minister, that not a single job will be lost,' she does not listen. When Jennie George, former President of the ACTU, says, 'I want a guarantee from you, Prime Minister, that the steel industry will be wholly exempt from a carbon tax,' she does not listen. We know that members on her own backbench, such as the member for Throsby and the member for Cunningham, are now terrified of what a carbon tax will do to jobs in their electorates. We know that the member for Capricornia is terrified about the closure of multiple coalmines in her electorate.
Why won't the Prime Minister listen? Why won't she listen to her own backbench? Why won't she, above all else, listen to the verdict of the Australian people? The first duty of any democratic politician is to tell the truth and then to trust the people. Tell the truth and trust the people are the duties of a democratic politician and this is what this Prime Minister must do. She must tell the truth and she must trust the people. That is why standing orders should be suspended so that for once, just for once, we can hear the truth from this Prime Minister.
By not listening to anyone anymore, who does this Prime Minister most resemble? Her predecessor. Remember her predecessor. Remember what it was like 12 months ago when we heard constant off-the-record briefings from members opposite to journalists—the Prime Minister will not listen, the Prime Minister is a dictator, the Prime Minister has abolished cabinet government, the Prime Minister has lost his way. I tell you what: this Prime Minister has lost her way. She is more lost than he was. That is why, even at this late stage, she should start listening and, most of all, she should start listening to the people.
Things are so bad for this Prime Minister that just about every broken-down old Labor warhorse now wants to come to Canberra to rescue the situation. Even Peter Beattie wants to come to Canberra. Even Morris Iemma wants to come to Canberra. Morris Iemma would be worth while having in this parliament because he understands the Hawker Britton style; he understands government that is all spin and no substance. Why don't we have him here as a reproach to the Sussex Street death squads that have done so much damage to Labor. What we want above all else is democracy, not hypocrisy, and that is why standing orders should be suspended. That is why we need a vote.
I second the motion. This Prime Minister should return to the House immediately to explain to the Australian people why she will deny them the right to vote on one of the most significant economic changes in Australia's history. But we also think that the Prime Minister needs to come back to the chamber to explain—and this is why I am seeking a suspension of standing orders—why the Australian people find her so untrustworthy on this issue. In fact, the Prime Minister is considered to be so untrustworthy, so disappointing, so incompetent and, dare I say it, so misleading on this issue that just before I came into question time I looked on the ABC website—they have a little survey running about the Prime Minister; this is the Australian public broadcaster—
Our ABC. They have asked the Australian public to submit three words that come to mind when they want to describe this Prime Minister. Then, with the wonders of technology, they create a word cloud, and that word cloud then highlights in large capital letters the words most often used by the Australian people replying to this survey about this Prime Minister. What do you think the first word is, the largest word?
Opposition members: Liar!
Liar. That is what the Australian people say—'liar'. The second word is 'incompetent'. The third is 'disappointing'.
The Prime Minister needs to come into this chamber and explain why it is that the Australian people describe her as a disaster, as dishonest, as ineffective, as hypocritical, as weak and as hopeless. But, in amongst the words, there is 'Kevin'. Why is it that when you mention this Prime Minister's name they remember Kevin? Because this Prime Minister betrayed her leader. She betrayed her leader and then she betrayed the Australian people when she promised there would be no carbon tax under the government she led. So this Prime Minister betrayed her leader, having promised never to challenge her leader. She would sooner fly to the moon or Mars or play full forward for the Doggies than challenge, but challenge she did. In this week-long festival of Kevin's revenge, this Prime Minister is too gutless to come into the House and explain to the Australian people why she betrayed them on the issue of a carbon tax.
Last Thursday we were subjected to the spectacle of the Prime Minister dismissing out of hand the votes of the House of Representatives and the Senate. A majority of the 150 members and the 76 senators voted to condemn a motion of this government in relation to the so-called Malaysian asylum seeker solution. Yet this Prime Minister, having not learnt the lesson that she is not above the will of this parliament, arrogantly walks out of this place and refuses to explain why it is she will not let the Australian people have a say on the most significant issue facing the Australian economy.
This is not a GST, which put up the price of some goods and which has been embraced by countries around the world. No, this is a tax that no other country on earth has introduced—a comprehensive, economy wide carbon tax that no other country has. This is a tax that will send jobs offshore, send production and manufacturing offshore. This is a tax that will damage our economy because it is designed to damage our economy. It is designed to go up and up, year on year. The government knows that it will be passed on, cascading through the economy, because it is a tax on energy. It is designed to change the way we live, the way we shop, the way we work. It is designed to change our behaviour by punishing people, making people victims of this government's ideology.
The Australian people deserve a say on this. They deserve a say. We can do this without going to an election. We know the result of an election. We are not putting it to an election; we are asking the government to give the Australian population the opportunity to have their say via a plebiscite. Let the Australian people have their say. Why is this Prime Minister so afraid? If she truly believed in a carbon tax, she would argue her case before a plebiscite. If she truly believed that this was good for the Australian people, why did she say before the last election that there would be no carbon tax? Do you know why she said that? Because she knew she would not be Prime Minister today if she told the truth about the carbon tax.
The Leader of the Opposition's followers have morphed into a group of vuvuzelas. They have been listening to him for so long that they have got it right: 'No, no, no, no.' They have got it right, because that is what those opposite are about. You had an extraordinary performance today, and now half of question times have been suspended by the opposition so that they can engage in the ego trip of the Leader of the Opposition—so that he can stand up for 10 minutes and do his ranting and raving and his relentless negativity. They swap around a bit. Sometimes it is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, sometimes it is the shadow Treasurer and sometimes it is the Manager of Opposition Business. But you know one thing: it will never be the member for Wentworth, who can never even get a question in this place. If we did not suspend standing orders so often, maybe he would get a question—which is why we should not suspend standing orders.
They moved this suspension on the basis that it is urgent. I ask you to take yourself back a little bit over 24 hours ago to when you woke up on Monday morning and you read the paper. It was so urgent he was going to do it at 10 am, but of course nothing happened yesterday. No-one was here at 10 am and nothing happened throughout the day. Of course, nothing has happened today either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. Nothing has happened except that his stunt has been rejected as a stunt. And why has it been rejected as a stunt? Because so relentless is the Leader of the Opposition's negativity that when he went on the radio yesterday to sell the idea that it is vital that we give Australians a say and he was asked a simple question—question 1: 'What if they come back and they don't agree with you? Will you change your position?'—he said no. He said 'No, no, no, no' because he cannot help himself. What a farce.
You can imagine them workshopping it yesterday morning. You can imagine them in the tactics room. There they were: 'Well, Tone, it's gone well. We got the front page of the Telegraph. They look pretty stupid. We got the front page of the Herald Sun and they look stupid, and we got the Advertiser and they look stupid.' They all ran that this was going to happen. Imagine the workshop: 'Let's workshop some questions; let's do a little Q&A. First question: will you agree to be bound by the plebiscite? Answer: no.' You are a joke. You do not deserve to be the alternative Prime Minister of this country.
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: while we are in some respects enjoying this pantomime from the Leader of the House, he should actually direct his remarks through the chair and not individually to members.
I will, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition has shown in the last 48 hours, if there was any doubt, that he is unfit for high public office—it is as simple as that. He himself said:
Disrupting the House is not a sign of a disciplined opposition; disrupting the House is a sign of a desperate opposition.
He then said:
What we have seen from members opposite consistently in the course of this year but particularly over the last few weeks is consistent, deliberate, planned and premeditated conduct to disrupt this House.
Does anyone think—does any single Australian who watches question time think—that this Leader of the Opposition does not have a premeditated strategy to trash the parliamentary processes? This person is not a conservative; he is a reactionary who has no respect for parliamentary institutions and no respect for due process as it occurs in this place. What he has respect for is the front page of newspapers. We see it day after day. Last week, we saw the Leader of the Opposition out there with an apparent new victim, Geoff Didier. He forgot to disclose that Mr Didier was a former, failed Liberal Party candidate.
But it gets better. Yesterday on the front page of the Australian we saw jeweller Peter Dracakis, with his assistant, in his store at Warringah Mall, backing up in this case not his opposition to climate change but his love of Work Choices. There are two things the Leader of the Opposition is passionate about: hating climate change and loving Work Choices. Again, the fact is that when you look into it—it does not take much—you find that Mr Dracakis and his father do own the family jewellery store that was featured in the article through their family company, Polmind Pty Ltd but you also find that Mr Dracakis is the president and financial controller of the Warringah Club—the personal fund-raising group of the Leader of the Opposition. That is who is out there arguing for Work Choices.
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Leader of the House is completely off the leash. While it is at times amusing to find him so desperate, he should at least attempt to address the suspension of standing orders.
I would not mind some questions in this House about Work Choices. For example, we might even ask about the investigation that took place last year in relation to this particular company for failing to comply with electoral donation laws. The same group that has raised over $110,000 for the Leader of the Opposition is calling—
While the tellers count the division, I indicate to members that we have present in the gallery representatives of the scientists in Parliament House who are participating in the 12th annual Science meets Parliament. Members would be aware that they have come from all over Australia to share their valuable work with parliamentarians. Some of them might try to propose a hypothesis that can give me some understanding of the phenomena occurring in this chamber at the moment.
The House divided. [15:30]
(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)
The time allotted for the debate has expired.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr Abbott's) be agreed to.
The House divided. [15:34]
(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)
A cheap electronic voting system from any of the scientists in the gallery would be helpful, too.