Senate debates

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Western Australia State Election

5:10 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I would just like to introduce myself to Senator Smith as a west Aussie. I have probably lived there longer than you, mate. I am not proud that I am older than you, but I just had to get that out there.

I am looking forward to making my contribution to this debate. I know it is Thursday arvo; I understand. But I just want to clarify a few things before I start. I should have had a bet with myself about what would be the content of Senator Smith's contribution to the debate, and I would be interested to see if Senators Back and Eggleston follow, but here we go again. We all know that six or seven months ago was the last election. We all know what happened then, but we west Aussies also know what was the basis of the Liberal campaign in September of 2013. This is going to come as a great shock to any poor bugger who is sitting here listening to this debate going on here today, but on the carbon tax Senator Smith was on the money. On the mining tax, here we go again. As soon as he said, 'I've got one more,' I should have had that bet—asylum seekers. I honestly believe Senator Smith and Senator Back do have a great appreciation of our state, but unfortunately their hands are tied when the elections are on and they have to toe the party line, even if it is as ridiculous as some of the comments they put forward.

One would think that nowadays, as we are having a re-run of a Senate election, the Liberal Party under Mr Abbott as the Prime Minister would have a vision not only for our great state of WA but also for this great country. You would think that they would enter into a Senate election in the largest state in Australia with a grand plan for what they are going to do as the government for our kids and our grandkids. But no: they have no plan for the future or for Australian jobs—and I will get to that in a minute. They come out and rehash the same nonsense, all about what they will not do if they are elected. Here we go again. The dog whistle is out. Quite frankly, I am happy to say that this time around Western Australians are over that nonsense. They are well and truly aware of the three-word slogans that the Liberals used to great effect in Western Australia. I will be out there backing WA tonight, and I will be using every opportunity I can to challenge Western Australians to ask the government what they are going to do, because the government have no plan.

Let us talk about the lack of a plan on jobs. The shemozzle and shambles that is the Qantas scenario at the moment is something that resonates in Western Australia. Unfortunately, Western Australia is not a manufacturing state. When Holden were goaded to leave the country and Toyota and the workers at SPC Ardmona were told they were going to get no help, it is a long way to the other side of the country and west Aussies do not make cars, so it possibly did not resonate as much as it would have in the eastern states. But job losses resonate everywhere in this country. We had the Treasurer, Mr Hockey—after being courted by Mr Alan Joyce and the board of Qantas, and anyone else who was down here representing Qantas—publicly coming out and making statements in the paper alluding to the opportunity or availability of guaranteeing the debt, only to get a political smack-down when the Prime Minister came out and reinforced that there is no plan for any Australian jobs.

There are still a few other things that I need to clear up. Senator Smith could not wait to go on about the carbon tax. Senator Smith is right in a lot of his commentary, but he is not completely telling the truth. He talked about the rising cost of electricity bills in WA for Western Australians. Yes, there was a significant increase, as you would know, Acting Deputy President Bishop. Every three months when the bill was checked, I know my eyebrows were raised. It was not the carbon tax, although those on that side, and Mr Abbott and his partner in fibs, Mr Barnett, the Premier of WA, would have you believe it was. What a load of nonsense. We know what happened: the Barnett government put up electricity prices in their first term by about 67 per cent—someone can correct me if I am wrong—or maybe it was a bit more. That is where the price increases came from, not through the carbon tax. We were actually compensating people.

I remember a stunt in that other place. Mr Abbott was the Leader of the Opposition at the time. I do not know if it was him or one of his shadow ministers, but they tabled a power bill from WA—from a pensioner I think. But at the bottom of it, which they did not read properly, it actually showed that the carbon tax increase was less than the compensation that they were getting. So you see we have to clear up the truth there.

It is a well-known fact that Labor agree that the carbon tax should be replaced. We have made it very, very clear that we believe climate change is real. We are not blind to the science. We engage with the scientists; we engage with the experts. We know we are being continually fronted with adverse weather conditions—bushfires and cyclones. And that side over there can yell out, 'We've always had bushfires and we've always had cyclones'. Yes, we have, but the severity and the numbers are definitely increasing. So it is an absolute load of bull and the science deniers hide behind the fact that they agree with science as long as the scientists are telling them what they want to hear.

We have also said very clearly on this side of the chamber, and in the other house too, that we are very, very, very amenable to getting rid of the carbon tax and replacing it with an emissions trading scheme. Mr Acting Deputy President, you and I were here in 2009—and I know Senator Farrell and Senator Mason and Senator Back were here as well. I remember the vote. I remember very well going into that first week in December when we were arguing about the emissions trading scheme. I also remember that at the same time Mr Turnbull was their leader. And Mr Turnbull had entrusted Mr Macfarlane, as the shadow minister, to go and negotiate the emissions trading scheme. And then all the nut jobs came out. They attacked via social media and through emails, and didn't those opposite capitulate! They capitulated to the point where they unseated their leader! They have a go at us, but they unseated their leader, Mr Turnbull, and replaced him with the greatest climate denier as well as a populist in the now Prime Minister, Mr Abbott. So I just need to clear up some of those untruths.

I also have to clarify, and Western Australians know this, that it suits—actually, it is not suiting; no, I will take that back. I think the Liberal Party machine in Western Australia are worried. I really think that they now know that Western Australians say: 'Well, hang on. You're the government. We gave you the opportunity to govern. You've been in government seven months; what is your plan and what is your future for workers?' There is none; there is no jobs plan. There is no future training plan. But those opposite go on and they rehash the other favourite dog whistle topic—the mining tax. Let us get this really, really clear: we proposed the mining tax as a profit-based tax, and I am going to have a lot to say about the mining tax on Monday when I get my opportunity to talk about it. Profit based. If you believed what came out of senators from Western Australia on that side, you would think that the mining industry will crumble. Western Australia will break off and float towards South Africa because they would be broke. They have successfully pulled out the biggest sham and the biggest con that I have ever seen in the time that I have been following politics—that is, WA and Australia would come to a grinding halt. What a load of bull!

I will tell you why I say that, because I am a friend of the mining industry. I appreciate what mining does for our GDP. I also understand, as a Western Australian, how important it is for employment. I get all that. But what I do not and will not accept are the lies that come out from that side running this nonsense line that mining would stop. What we have seen in Western Australia is a significant shift in the mining industry, going from construction to production. And we know darn well that when you go out there and you build a gas plant or you build mines, you are going to employ 4,000 or 5,000 people. We also know, once it is built, there is no need for the construction workers.

I do have to make comments on Senator Milne's contribution. In Senator Milne's contribution—I made a couple of notes—she said that it is the Greens who are the ones who have 'a very clear plan for the jobs'. Senator Milne said it more than once about creating jobs. I also just want to remind those in Western Australia that—and I know this very well because I am very active in the Kimberley and have been active in the Kimberley since 1979—I remember when Woodside and its proponents proposed the Browse gas plant. And I remember the Greens running around the Kimberley with their mates in the environmental movement—and I have seen the piece of paper they all signed: Environs WA, the 'protect the Kimberley' group, Wilderness Australia, the whole lot—saying that they were going to save the poor blackfella. They were going to go up there and they would be the conscience for our Aboriginal people in the Kimberley. And when our Aboriginal people in the Kimberley took a democratic vote, through the KLC, to tick off on the Browse project pursuant to the Indigenous land use agreement, which would have delivered roughly $1.5 billion to Aboriginal advantage through the Kimberley, then they cracked the sads. Then they did not want to know about the Aboriginal people. They are quiet and I know they are not going to challenge me on this.

What we have seen is a commercial decision made by Woodside and its proponents. Unfortunately, the gas plant is not going to come on shore. I was in Broome when the announcement was made, and you could feel the earth rumble for the cheers from the Greens and the environmentalists, who thought it was so fantastic to deny opportunity for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley. Not only did it do that; it killed off the prospect of employment in the 5,000 jobs that would have come with it. But I know there are other issues there that led to the decision being made. So I find it very hard—I find it galling, actually—to hear that the Greens are the party of employment, particularly in WA.

Now I want to get to the basis of the discussion. I want to quote a comment that came from Mr Abbott. Senator Back, you could have been there. You can correct me if I am wrong. There was a WA Liberal Party campaign rally on 17 February 2013. I am quoting the Prime Minister now. He said to the party faithful at this campaign rally that he had 'hoped to model his government on Colin Barnett's' and described the Barnett government as a model government he hopes to repeat in Canberra.


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