Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 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; First Reading

4:17 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | Hansard source

It doesn't exist. Where is the United States carbon tax? It doesn't exist. If we were to have welcomed a delegation from New Zealand and would have asked them where is their carbon tax, they would be saying, 'We are trying to reduce it and get rid of it as quickly as possible.' If we would have welcomed a delegation from the French government, we could have asked them, 'Where is your carbon tax?' and they would have said, 'We will have no bar of it.' And so it goes on.

Why is it that the Labor Party, having promised no carbon tax, are seeking to inflict the highest rate of carbon pricing on the Australian economy in the world? Why are they trying to do it? And why did they pick on the price of $23 per tonne? Why not a round figure of $20 or $25? You know why? Because the Greens went to the last election promising $23 per tonne and so Ms Gillard just accepted that as her policy. If you recall, all of the so-called Treasury modelling that we have been given previously was all based on the price of $20 per tonne. So all the work had to be redone to fit in with Senator Brown's policy and the Greens' policy.

Some people may assert that we in the coalition are somewhat harsh when we say that Ms Gillard deceived the Australian people. She did say, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' So it begs the question: who actually does lead this government? It may well be that she does not and that Senator Bob Brown and the Australian Greens actually lead this government. We happen to think on this side that that may well be the case. But that is for the Greens-Labor alliance to sort out between themselves, because Ms Gillard and every single Labor member and senator are personally, corporately and individually responsible for this carbon tax. They cannot hide behind the skirts of Ms Gillard and the Labor Party collective and say, 'The party room made me do it.' In a democracy you are ultimately answerable to the people that elected you. Mr Perrett, who somehow found his conscience in Moreton Bay, very interestingly thinks it would be unconscionable to change leader but not unconscionable to break a solemn election promise in relation to no carbon tax. It is also interesting given that Mr Bandt, Mr Windsor and a few others think it is important from time to time to consult with their electorate on some of these fundamentally important issues such as gay marriage. If you are in the business of genuinely consulting with your electorate on matters such as gay marriage, why wouldn't you consult with your electorate on the issue of a carbon tax and follow suit when they tell you what they want?

Just the other day I was in the seat of Braddon, at a stand at their local show, with Senator Richard Colbeck. I was standing there all day. Not a single person approached me about gay marriage being a fundamentally important issue for our nation, but dozens and dozens and dozens—indeed hundreds—approached us during the day to condemn the carbon tax and the deceit that had been perpetrated on them. So it is up to Mr Sid Sidebottom, the Labor member for Braddon, to determine whether he will put Ms Gillard's job before the hundreds and indeed thousands of people employed in Braddon in mining and in manufacturing and whether he will put the plight of the pensioners who will face increased costs of living as a result of these measures as his priority as opposed to Ms Gillard. Mr Dick Adams, in the seat of Lyons, will have to answer that as well. Geoff Lyons, in the seat of Bass, will have to answer that. Ms Collins, in the seat of Franklin, will have to answer that. And that is just in the state of Tasmania. Every other single Labor member will be required to answer as well to the electorate.

The issue before the chamber is to ensure that this package of 19 separate bills is dealt with appropriately, properly and extensively. When you have the sham of a joint committee chaired by Labor and deputy chaired by the Greens deliberately not publishing the thousands of submissions against the carbon tax, you know the fix is in. They call a quick committee. They advertise and say, 'You've got to have your response to these 19 bills in within six days.' And then they determine that certain submissions—because they are in letter form or do not actually make out an argument—should not be published as submissions. Yet they do publish those 'intellectually robust' submissions that are about two paragraphs saying: 'I like your carbon tax. Labor's doing a good job.' Oh, they will publish those okay. They will put them up on the internet for everybody to read. But, if somebody were to write the exact opposite of that, the Labor-Greens numbers—like they gagged debate earlier today—will be used to ensure that those sorts of submissions do not hit the internet and do not get publicised. This is the ham-fisted approach this government is taking in cahoots with the Greens.

The reason they are so defensive is that they know they have perpetrated a deceit on the Australian people. That is why they are getting themselves into this terrible, terrible bind. That is why they do not want 19 separate bills ventilated before the Australian people. They would rather have it all hushed up and rushed through as one single package because they do not want to be reminded 19 separate times of the deceit they have perpetrated against the Australian people.

Time and time again in this debate we have been told that the carbon tax is in fact a good idea and will be of great benefit to the Australian economy. If that is the case, I invite them: instead of making the carbon tax $23 per tonne, why not double it and make it $46 per tonne so we can have double the benefit? Of course, that exposes another Labor lie in this debate. The carbon tax is corrosive. It is destructive. Labor know it, and that is why at the last election they solemnly promised, 'There will be no carbon tax,' because they know that in an electoral context and in an electoral contest they would not be able to convince their fellow Australians that a carbon tax is good. In fact, a carbon tax is bad. Indeed, when Senator Wong was the minister for climate change, before she got moved sideways, she said in this place that a carbon tax is not a silver bullet. Now we are to believe that somehow it is a golden bullet and it will resolve all issues.

I happen to believe that the Australian people are a generous people and an environmentally concerned people. I happen to believe that they may well be willing to take a bit of a hit on their lifestyle for an environmental benefit. If you could show on the other side of the ledger a genuine environmental benefit, they may well be willing to take an economic hit. But Senator Wong was asked today, 'What is the environmental benefit?' and the simple fact is that she is unable to explain. Indeed, we were told that without a carbon tax we would face a 40 per cent greater likelihood of droughts in Australia. Well, if she can make that prediction based on whatever evidence she might have in relation to that, why couldn't she answer the simple question from the Leader of the Nationals: 'With this carbon tax, how much less likely is there to be the threat of drought in Australia?' She could not answer.

And of course she could not answer, because everybody knows that a five per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on the 1990 levels, if I recall correctly, on 1.5 per cent of the world's emissions is not going to make any real difference to the world's environment, especially when we know that our manufacturing sector will simply go to China and pollute even more over there than they do in Australia. As a result, we will have a perverse environmental outcome. Talk to the Europeans. They have seen the demise of their aluminium industry. Why? Because it could not compete under their very modest carbon price and it shifted off to Asia, Africa and elsewhere, where the pollution levels are a lot greater because they do not have the sorts of environmental controls that we enjoy in this country and they enjoy in Europe. So we will take these bills through every single stage, as they deserve. (Time expired)


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