Senate debates

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bills

Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011, Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011; In Committee

10:42 am

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | Hansard source

As Senator Birmingham said, the opposition support amendment (3) and (4), proposed by Senator Xenophon. I will come back and say a couple of words about the amendments, but before I do that I want to raise a couple of issues that came up in this debate last Wednesday, I think it was.

I must say, Senator Ludwig is an important person! I have just been out to the rally at the front of Parliament House, and his name is being mentioned quite a lot out there. I might also say, though, that his name is not being mentioned very favourably. A lot of the people out there are the sorts of people who are now in desperate straits because of the government's bungling of the live cattle exports issue. I suspect that some of these people have spent their last pennies to come down and make their views known here in Canberra.

It is very sobering, and quite moving and emotional, to see all these people, some of whom have driven trucks 2½ to 3,000 kilometres. One of the speakers was just saying to the crowd that he gets about two kilometres to the litre of fuel in one of his big trucks. You can imagine what it has cost him to come 2½ thousand kilometres—money he does not have. He is from the north west. The whole of the north of Australia—rural Northern Australia—are struggling because of the live cattle ban. They are in absolutely desperate straits. We are going to see the bankruptcies come in the not-too-distant future. These people are making a last-ditch effort to try and make their government listen on things like live cattle exports and, more importantly, on things like the carbon tax. Out there, there are a lot of trucks, a lot of truckies. If Senator Sterle were in the chamber he would agree with me on this. There are people who understand that their livelihoods are about to be destroyed by the carbon tax brought in by this government whose leader promised us just a year ago that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. And here we are a year later with these people.

It is quite emotional to be out there. They are making a last-ditch effort to come down and try and make people in this building, this government, understand just how they are hurting and how the decisions of this government have impacted so badly on ordinary Australians. I would hope, Minister, that you would have the courage and perhaps the time to go out and speak with these people, because the more you interacted with them the more you would understand the hurt that you have caused by a stupid decision, a poorly thought-through decision made on the balance of what you thought was a political opinion from GetUp! and the left-wing parties around the world. Your original decision was correct, Minister, but why you changed we in this parliament know: because you were done over by the left of your party and the Greens and the GetUp! group and some of the unions.

But I have distracted myself from the debate before the chamber. On Wednesday, Minister, I was making a plea again on behalf of some northern agricultural people. I was asking you about the banana industry, which your carbon tax will have a very heavy impact upon because they use a lot of electricity in their coldrooms and ripening rooms and they use a lot of fuel in bringing bananas, a bulky product, from Tully down to Sydney and Melbourne. I was saying that they are really getting it in the neck. I asked you, you might recall, whether this Carbon Farming Initiative that we are debating would perhaps give them something back. You assured me, yes, it will be good for them.

Coincidentally, a couple of banana growers, in fact a couple of horticulture growers, from my state of Queensland—and your state of Queensland too, of course—have been in touch with me and they say that this Carbon Farming Initiative is not going to help the horticultural industry one iota. They rightly point out that if you have a banana farm of 100 hectares, to take 20 per cent of that farm and put on trees for under the Carbon Farming Initiative will mean that that is 20 per cent fewer bananas they can grow and so their income would fall by far more than they might ever achieve from this Carbon Farming Initiative bill and the good things that are supposed to come from it. I am a bit naive. I said: 'But if you are growing banana trees, isn't that like growing trees? Won't that help, won't that qualify?' I am told no, that banana trees are business as usual and if you are growing things in a business as usual style you will not be able to take advantage of anything this bill might make available to you. So the information you gave me on Wednesday is quite wrong, unless some of the facts that I have mentioned are not correct, in which case I am sure you would take the opportunity of the debate today to tell me that the banana industry can in fact get some positive outcome from this Carbon Farming Initiative.

Also on Wednesday I asked you about whether all of those graziers, those cattle owners up in the north of Australia, many of them Indigenous people, I might say, Indigenous enterprises, might be able to get some advantage from this Carbon Farming Initiative. That is problematic as well. I am told by some of the people I was speaking to earlier today that a lot of them could reduce some of their costs in their cattle farming operations if they were able to plant some sorghum, some silage crops, and feed their cattle. But as you know, Minister, thanks to your Labor Party colleagues in the Queensland state government, you cannot chop a tree down. I know you, Madam Acting Deputy President, have been up that way and have seen trees everywhere across the north of Australia. They are not allowed to chop one of them down. So the opportunity of reducing their costs to try and make their industries a bit more viable is taken away from them.

I have just mentioned a couple of things, but if you walk outside there are about 5,000 people outside trying to make your government understand the hurt that is being imposed upon the people of rural and regional and remote Australia. I do hope you are able to spend some time with those people today, Minister. I thought you were fairly courageous in going to Mount Isa to address angry farmers not long after you made those silly decisions. I am told from people who were there that, whilst you at least had the courage and courtesy to go there, you did not answer any questions. People kept wanting to ask you things, wanting to get answers from you at those meetings, but they got absolutely nothing. I understand the mayor of Carpentaria Shire, Fred Pascoe—a very competent and able mayor; a very quietly sounding sort of fellow who never gets excited—was asking the minister a lot of questions which, again, he gave the politician's answer to. The minister never answered the question. But Mr Pascoe kept coming back to you and saying, 'That was all very well, Minister, but could you please answer the question.' I understand that everyone went away disappointed.

This is happening right around Australia. In front of Parliament House today there are some timber workers from Tasmania. The timber industry used to be one of Australia's greatest industries. If any of you have been to Tasmania, you will know that there are millions and millions of old growth forest trees in that state. Thanks to the Greens, there is no industry in that state anymore. There is no way in the world you could interfere with the sustainability of the Tasmanian forests. Hundreds and hundreds of workers are now without a job. Those sort of people are out the front protesting. These are hardworking, decent, genuine Australians. They are not after a government handout—all they want is the right to work in what has been, for as long as Australia has been going, a very sustainable industry, the timber industry, particularly in Tasmania. There are some Tasmanian senators here. As Senator Milne would know, some of these forests have been logged for over 150 years. But they are the forests that the Greens go and put a placard in, saying, 'Save these virgin native forests.' Those forests were cut down 120 years ago and have regrown. That is why this industry is so sustainable.

This is relevant to the debate before the chamber because in certain instances land in Tasmania could be used for the Carbon Farming Initiative. I raise the matter in the context of the hurt around Australia that is demonstrated out the front of this building as I speak. That hurt will get worse when the Gillard Labor government brings in the carbon tax. I can talk about the carbon tax, because the Carbon Farming Initiative bill is one of a suite of bills that we will be dealing with in this chamber this year concerning the carbon tax that will be imposed upon Australians—that tax that just a year ago the Labor leader, Julia Gillard, promised hand on heart would not be introduced under a government she led. While some people might say perhaps she made a mistake, perhaps she did not mean to say that, we have on record the Treasurer, the deputy leader of the Labor Party, who said I think on no less than a dozen locations that Tony Abbott was being hysterical when he kept saying to people before the last election that Labor and Greens in alliance after the next election would bring in a carbon tax. Wayne Swan said Tony Abbott was off his brain—how dare he suggest that; they were not going to bring in a carbon tax. Wayne Swan said Tony Abbott was being hysterical. We have the leader and the deputy leader of the Labor Party both just a year ago, before the election, promising Australia there would be no carbon tax under this government and here we are, a year later, debating one of a suite of bills which will introduce a carbon tax.

Senators might also recall that before the last election Ms Gillard told the Australian public that she would not be doing anything on climate change until there was consensus. Do you remember that? A year ago there was consensus—99 per cent of the candidates standing for election a year ago promised that there would be no carbon tax. What more consensus can you get than that—99 per cent of all candidates promised there would be no carbon tax. Yet here we are, just a year later, dealing with this bill which is part of a suite of bills to introduce this toxic tax that is going to destroy even more Australians and which those many thousands of people out the front of this Parliament House at this very moment are expressing their concern about.

Unfortunately I have cut myself short of time to actually address the amendment. As Senator Birmingham says, we will support it. (Time expired)

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