Senate debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Taxation, Energy

3:39 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to questions without notice asked by Senators Singh and Chisholm today relating to the Turnbull Government.

The questions without notice addressed the chaos and dysfunction at the heart of this government. The coalition's focus on itself is having real impacts on everyday Australians. Nothing could be more self-indulgent than the junking action on climate change and energy to turn the focus onto who is the least unelectable member of the coalition. But, sadly, that's exactly what this government has decided to do.

How out of touch could you possibly get, but to decide to walk away from our obligations under the Paris agreement and instead to look to which alternatives to Prime Minister Turnbull the government could offer? I'm not sure what's worse: the fact that they're asking these questions at the moment or the fact that the only answer they can offer is Mr Dutton. At this time of the coalition's self-obsession, we have a state of rising energy prices, climbing carbon emissions and a range of industry groups in a state of flux—at the very time that businesses and consumers are calling for certainty. How completely self-indulgent can they be, but to turn inwards at such a time? Only yesterday, the leader of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, told RN Breakfast:

And, now that it appears the government has decided not to follow through … with the NEG, we're back to a point where businesses are wondering what's next.

At the same time, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry head, James Pearson, described this government's focus on itself instead of the nation as:

… short-term political opportunism which runs the risk of scuppering vital, long-term policy.

Both of those people have hit the nail right on the head. This government is out of touch. This out-of-touch rabble are more interested in undermining the investment and energy planning of some of the nation's leading business groups than they are in working on a sensible, coherent policy, and it's really starting to hit home.

The government's lack of a coherent policy agenda has seen them trailing in the polls since just about election day in 2016. But we are seeing that it is not just in the polls that people are expressing their frustration. It's not just that these decisions are hurting the ability to progress public policy and climate policy in the best way possible; it's that we're running out of time. As the Property Council's Ken Morrison decried yesterday:

We simply cannot afford to leave the question of emissions reduction unresolved.

Australia is facing a drought-stricken winter, with forest fires raging in New South Wales, and this government has decided that it needs to put on hold any energy policy it may have been working on in order to deal with the internal division and dysfunction of the government. They're doing this despite their Liberal colleagues in my home state of Tasmania—and this is Minister Barnett, who is a former Australian senator—claiming:

The NEG is good for Tasmanian jobs and puts more downward pressure on power prices.

Of course, this government is far more interested in its own infighting than it is in placing downward pressure on power prices or helping to generate local jobs. Meanwhile, the member for Braddon, Ms Justine Keay, has continued her passionate advocacy for Tasmania, calling for the government to stay true to its commitments to the north-west coast of Tasmania. She's warned of the impact this government's haphazard policy changes could have and has warned that Prime Minister Turnbull's latest policy backflip threatens thousands of potential renewable energy jobs. Unlike those opposite, the member for Braddon has been a champion for Tasmania and for Tasmanian jobs, just like the rest of the Labor team. (Time expired)

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