Senate debates

Wednesday, 25 November 2009



9:31 am

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That, on Wednesday, 25 November 2009:

the hours of meeting shall be 9.30 am to 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm to 11.40 pm;
the routine of business from 7.30 pm shall be consideration of the government business order of the day relating to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and 10 related bills; and
the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 11 pm.

We are in the end of session week. It is usual to set additional hours to ensure that we can deal with the legislative program. Doing that does require the cooperation of the Senate as a whole. It is necessary to complete the work that we started on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The Senate will need to sit tonight to achieve that. The Leader of the Opposition has clearly indicated that the CPRS should be completed this week. This is the first step in that process and we will set hours which will provide clarity around what we can finalise tonight. It is my intention to also provide a notice of motion in consultation with the chamber to ensure we can use the remaining part of the week, that is Thursday and whatever additional hours we require, to finalise the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme this week. I foreshadow that.

I add that this will require the broad cooperation of the chamber to ensure that people do get sufficient time to deal with the legislation as indicated, and also to ensure that the staff in this place are provided with sufficient breaks. That is one of the matters we need to keep cognisant of to ensure this place works effectively and the program can be finalised as I have indicated. We also need the cooperation of senators to ensure that if other matters do come up such as ministerial statements, notices of motion and the like we can still find ourselves in a position—as much as possible—to finalise the debate by the end of this week.

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

Mr President, on a point of order: I understand the second reading amendment seeks the deferral of discussion of the bill. Isn’t the minister pre-empting the will of the Senate by moving for extended hours before we know whether we will be discussing the CPRS bill?

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

It is not a point of order. It is a matter for the Senate to decide, Senator Macdonald, and I am sure the Senate will do that in the fullness of time.

9:34 am

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Greens oppose this motion. It is consistent for us to say that the government has had a long opportunity to sit extra weeks before or after this session to deal with the hugely important matter of the emissions trading scheme legislation. But here we have micromanagement from the Prime Minister’s office putting the Senate into extra sitting hours on the last Wednesday night before the Christmas break, as if a couple of hours tonight is adequate to address the deal that the government and the coalition have come to.

We are talking about billions of dollars of Australian people’s money. We are talking about the transfer, under this deal between the government and the coalition, of $5 billion out of households across to the big polluters. We are talking about an extra $8 billion for polluters on top of the $16 billion for polluters already. That is a $24 billion deal for the big polluters, and the government and the opposition want us to sit tonight to flick that through without a Senate inquiry. What an appalling process this is. What an appalling abrogation of the duty of the Senate to scrutinise such a massive transfer of wealth to the big coal miners and burners in this country just to get a deal. There is no success written on this; it is a failure for the Australian people. The government say, ‘Well, we’ll sit Wednesday night and put it through.’ What an appalling process this is. The Prime Minister’s office is micromanaging the Senate and the coalition is willingly going into that deal. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, can you ever remember the Senate being treated in such a cavalier and rude fashion as we are getting in this motion?

So we have extra sitting hours on Wednesday night—and the coalition are going along with this—to put through a multi-billion dollar transfer of funds. Whichever direction it was going, surely this is up for Senate scrutiny. This is our responsibility. And the coalition—the timeless defenders of the Senate, they say—are flopping into an arrangement with the government to say, ‘We’ll flick this through.’ They had all this travail in the party room yesterday—a completely divided party room—and they come in today and say, ‘We’ll sit Wednesday night and flick this through.’ And it is somehow going to magically, suddenly, be in the interests of the Australian taxpayers in rural and regional Australia, and right across the cities of this country, to get no say in this. The Senate, the watchdog of the people, which gives people the opportunity to have their say, will get no feed in, no feedback whatever. And the coalition is meekly going to go across and vote with the government to do it on a Wednesday night.

So we get this multibillion dollar transfer, this polluters’ bonanza, at the expense of the Australian people, small business, renewable energy businesses, green new energies, green new businesses—right across the board, they get dumped for the coal industry, the polluting industries. There is an extra $40 million in there for the loggers—a bonanza for them. We will not debate it after a committee inquiry; we will just get on with putting it through—we will go through the formalities. I say to both the big parties: you are letting the Australian people down. You are treating the Australian people as if they do not count. The big end of town is the big winner here. But the Australian people are totally dumped by a Senate which is duty bound to look after their interests. How can you look after their interests if you give them no chance to feed into the hugely important decision that was made yesterday by the coalition to go along with the government on a failed emissions trading scheme which locks us into climate change which is going to impact on every Australian—on their lifestyles, their pockets and their security in the future? What a travesty of the Senate is unfolding here. What a travesty. Talk about a Christmas present. This is an abrogation of responsibility by both the big parties. I ask the coalition to think about this again before meekly going over and supporting the Rudd executive in treating the Senate in this fashion. We will be opposing this motion.

9:40 am

Photo of Steve FieldingSteve Fielding (Victoria, Family First Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What a disgrace. It is bad enough for Labor to treat this Senate like a mug, and to treat the Australian people like mugs, but it looks as if they have the coalition supporting the ramming through of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme tonight—no scrutiny from the public, no scrutiny from experts outside; just a cosy little deal, done between the two major parties, on one of the biggest pieces of legislation the Australian parliament will consider. This will impact on every single Australian, every single small business, everyone in the rural and regional areas, in the bush, and here we are treating the Senate like a mug and also treating the Australian public like mugs.

There is no way that we should be allowing this motion to get through today. We are just training the Rudd government and the Labor management of this chamber, and allowing them to continue to be sloppy in the way they go about their business. Coalition policy was to wait till Copenhagen. That is what they said to the Australian public. They are in danger of risking any economic credibility they had left. The Australian people are not dumb. They know what you folks promise, and they know that we should be waiting to see what the rest of the world does. This is wrong, totally wrong.

I spoke to some people in the coalition yesterday. They were saying, ‘What is going to change?’ They were thinking we could still negotiate this thing through next year; there was no need to rush this thing through—except for political expediency. It is not about policy; it is about politics. It is wrong for this chamber to allow that to happen. This motion goes to the heart of it. I urge the coalition senators to stand up and say no to this motion. There is no way you should be allowing this to go through tonight. There is no way. Don’t train them to be sloppy all the way through to the election. Don’t let them get away with it. They are treating you like a puppet. They are pulling the strings and you are jumping, your hands are going up. Don’t allow them to do it. This is seriously wrong. The public understand this. They are watching. They are not stupid; they understand the nuances. They know what is going on. Don’t allow the government to get away with this motion. This goes to the heart of it. Stand up and be counted and say no to this. This is wrong.

9:43 am

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The National Party’s view has been from the outset that we should use whatever mechanisms are available to us to make sure that this package of legislation, the emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—even that term we find obnoxious—is prevented from being foisted on the Australian people. It is nothing more than a massive new tax. And as a massive tax it comes hand in glove to try and garner support, with the bankers and the brokers saying, ‘We are going to make a motza out of this; therefore, we’ll lend our shoulder to your wheel and say it has business support.’ But it does not have actually have business support.

More to the point, it does not have working families’ support. It is working families that are going to be held over a barrel. I cannot work it out. The Labor Party went to an election saying they were for working families, they were for easing the squeeze and they were going to be mindful of the problems of working families. And the greatest, the most substantial piece of legislation they put up is one that walks right over the top of working families. Somebody at the end of the day has to pay, and that will be working families. Are we to be part of this process of putting the government’s hand into working families’ wallets and ripping the money out to hand to stockbrokers and bankers? Are we to go to the coalmining areas of the Hunter Valley, the Illawarra and Mackay, to those areas of good blue-collar working-class people and say, ‘What we are delivering to you on behalf of the nation is a massive new tax and a sword of Damocles over your job’?

There is one thing that, though coming from completely different sides, the National Party and the Greens agree on—that is, this is not going to change the temperature of the globe. This will be completely ineffectual. If you believe what they say about global warming, chapter and verse, then you are way off the mark. We have a different proposition. We believe that the ETS is, as far as dealing with an environmental issue goes, peculiar and obnoxious. I know that in the Labor Party there are people who, if you took them to a confessional and asked them for the truth, would say that they do not believe in the ETS. It is just that to keep the dignity of the Senate, this collegiate place, we do not express publicly the views that have been expressed to us privately. That is one of the great things about the Senate. The Senate is a different house to the other place. Here people can privately express different views without our breaking their confidence. Quite obviously, our good Liberal colleagues and close friends have an overwhelming sentiment, a strong view, about this. But let’s put this aside.

The Labor Party tacticians have decided that they have to try to truncate this debate and force it through so that they can get the item off the agenda, because the Labor Party are hurting. We got over 15,200 signatures on our petition, which will be lodged today.—

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Polley interjecting

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This morning we received 1,300 emails, personally written by members of working families, Senator Polley, saying: ‘I can’t afford this. Why are they doing this to me? Why have they enmeshed me in some political debate? Why do I, as a member of a working family, now have to pay for some new Labor Party scheme, to fit their agenda?’ The Australian people are awake to this. This is not about the climate. This is about conceit, about bloody-mindedness in policy. We in the National Party and other colleagues have to make sure that we do not put ourselves in a position of somehow supporting the Labor Party in their overarching desire to foist on the Australian people a massive new tax, a tax that is so insidious. This is the tax that you will pay even if you are a pensioner, you are unemployed, you are an invalid or you are broke. This is the tax you will pay because you cannot get out of it. This is the tax that is delivered to you from the power point, in the food you buy, in transport costs and in the price of a bag of concrete. Yet you never have the option to say, ‘I can’t afford this tax’; you just have to pay it. And what happens—does the nature and the course of the environment change? Do global temperatures change? No, they do not. They stay on precisely the trajectory that they were already on.

The Labor Party, in their deceitful approach to this, have enmeshed in this debate cataclysmic events, saying the Great Barrier Reef is going to die, there are going to be droughts and the polar ice caps will melt. That would imply that this tax will change those outcomes. But when you drill down and look for the reality, you find that it will not change those events—it will not affect them one iota. If you believe in the Greens’ proposition you have to go far further. It is just a ridiculous approach to take. It will be amazing to see how the Labor Party pull this one off. They are going to say, ‘We look after working families by delivering a massive new tax to those who can’t afford it.’ That is an interesting trick!

All the time the rhetoric was about the environment, the environment, the environment. But what is this, at the end of the day? It is a massive new tax—$70.2 billion in the first six years. Does that kind of money grow on trees? No, it does not. So that money is going to come out of someone’s wallet. The Labor Party said at the start of the debate, ‘After we’ve taken the money off you we’re going to give some of it back.’ But only four of their amendments are described by legislation. The rest are just regulatory instruments or Hansard commitments—they are not even written into the legislation. Of course, this gives the Labor Party the opportunity in the future, when the nation’s finances get into a parlous state, to reach into that bucket, pull out the environmental money and use it to prop everything else up.

Are they going to use this $70.2 billion for renewable energy? No; it just goes to general revenue. What are the Australian people saying—what have we have garnered through our emails, through blogs and through the petitions? They are saying one thing: ‘Do not launch this massive new tax on our lives.’ It is for us to determine and work out a mechanism that prevents this. We are not going to support the Labor Party railroading this through. We cannot. We are quite happy to go through this piece by piece until Christmas, if that is what it takes. We do not care because we have to clearly ventilate the issues. If the Labor Party wants to ultimately take us to an election where their mantra will be: ‘Vote for Mr Rudd and you will get a massive new tax,’ then I will happily participate in that election. I will say on behalf of the National Party and, hopefully, our coalition partners: ‘Vote for us and you will not get this tax and we will not completely redesign the economy of this nation.’

It is peculiar in the extreme that in a matter of just days before Copenhagen the conceit of the Labor Party—or is it the concern of the Labor Party—is so enlivened that they are now in a bun rush to get this through. They do not want this issue ventilated. Well, I am afraid that we are going to do everything to make sure this issue is ventilated. We are going to do everything in our power, day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour, to tell the Australian people exactly what you are up to with this massive tax.

The one thing I know in politics is that things change so quickly. Sentiments change so quickly. At the start of this debate, when we said we were not going to support the ETS, it was said that there was a rump—a crazy minority—representing only five or eight per cent. Now it is in excess of 50 per cent and growing day by day by day. As the Australian people become awake-up and ask questions, the penny drops. They say: ‘This is peculiar. The National Party does not support it. A vast number of other people in the Senate do not support it. The Independents do not support it. The Greens do not support it. Who does support this massive new tax? Who does want this massive new tax? Maybe it is just a fluke of nature or an alignment of the stars. Or maybe this policy is, for a whole range of different reasons, completely and utterly flawed.’

Let’s go through some other issues. We have got a massive turnaround in these amendments. There is an extra $8½ billion in concessions and a $5½ billion cut to household compensation. That is a $14 billion turnaround. It is one of the largest appropriations in modern times—except for your ridiculous stimulus packages. And what sort of examination do we get? Who is asking the questions here? Is this house financially sloppy? Are these the actions of an economic conservative? How is that for an economic conservative? Fourteen billion bucks and he wants to do it in a couple of hours. Is this where it has got to?

Sooner or later the scales have to start falling off people’s eyes. Have a look at Mr Rudd and what he is doing—really drill down into this. Ask about the rhetoric and the reality—ask about the grandiose rhetorical statements and then ask about the reality. The reality is: a massive new tax. The rhetoric is that Mr Rudd single-handedly and unilaterally and omnipotent-like—godlike—is going to change the temperature of the globe. Mr Rudd, without anybody else, is going to change the temperature of the globe. Incredible! I will believe that after he makes it rain. The day after he makes it rain I will start believing that he can change the temperature of the globe. Until such time I am not going to be part and parcel of launching a massive new tax on the Australian people.

Going beyond that, Mr Rudd says: ‘I am an economic conservative. I wring my hands and in a parsimonious fashion I watch the money around me.’ Then he brings in an amendment, which he has known about for five weeks, and presumes that the Senate will in a matter of hours make a decision on $14 billion. I find this an amazing statement. Maybe we will go along with the charade. Maybe the media will keep saying, ‘Oh, yes, he is an economic conservative. It is just that he can drop $14 billion on the ground and does not need to pick it up.’ Well, as an accountant, if I drop $20 on the ground I will pick it up. I see our parliament about to change the expenditure on one side of this program by about $8½ billion and then on the other side cut the compensation to households by about $5½ billion, and we are not supposed to ask questions about that. What, then, are we doing here? The process of this chamber is to review and amend legislation. On that ground, I would have no problem with the extension if it were to further engage in debate. But the tactic of the Labor Party with this extension is to try to railroad the legislation through. So I say to the Australian people that the Labor Party is now in the process of railroading through a massive new tax on your life. They do not want the Senate to properly examine this. They are now bringing about tactics to try to truncate and circumscribe the debate because they know the Australian people are hearing this out there and saying: ‘Hang on. I am awake-up to this. This is a massive new tax and I do not like it. I do not understand why I, in my “weatherboard and iron” or my “brick and tile”, have to pay for this massive new tax when a broker ultimately will be making billions of dollars of commissions on this.’

And what is it all for? Does this mean that after this tax passes we wait for the impending floods as the Murray-Darling Basin becomes inundated with water? Do we tell people to evacuate Greenland because it is about to freeze over again? Do we throw a celebration for polar bears because their lives have changed? Do we say to those in the Antarctic: ‘You had better get out of there. The place is about to freeze over because Mr Rudd has passed the ETS. That is why it is all going to change.’ No, they are not that foolish. The only argument the other side comes up with is, ‘Would you just sit back and do nothing?’ No, we would not sit back and do nothing. We will come back and do the right thing—not anything, not something and not this ridiculous thing; we will do the right thing. And you do not define the terms of the ‘right thing’. The right thing will be defined more by a process that goes beyond just a massive new tax.

My colleagues and I intend to follow a process of trying to ensure that the Australian Labor Party does not foist this massive new tax on the Australian people. We will be supporting measures to stop it, which means that we will be supporting measures not to have this railroaded through tonight. We will not be supporting an extension of hours.

9:59 am

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would certainly find it very difficult to support a constriction of hours on this very important legislation. But I know why the Labor Party are doing it. I understand it, because their polling would be exactly the same as our polling and it would be the same as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry polling. The ACCI poll says that 54 per cent of people in Australia—and this is over all age groups—do not want it. They do not want a bar of it. They may be interested in having legislation after Copenhagen, when the rest of the world makes a commitment. They do not mind paying their way. In accurate polling 54 per cent of the people said no and 34 per cent said yes.

But the polling went further. The polling said that the blue-collar workers are reacting—and they are more reactive than other people. The blue-collar workers have woken up. As I have said before, if it ever comes to a race between the blue-collar workers and the Greens, the blue-collar workers will always come second by a mile. That is why the rush is on. Across all age groups, 54 per cent of the people say, ‘I don’t want this until after Copenhagen,’ and 34 per cent say, ‘I want it now.’ I do not have the results in front of me but I know that that result is across all age groups. The younger people want it immediately; the second group do not want it at all until after Copenhagen; the third group want it; the older people do not want a bar of it. But overwhelmingly what has come through in the polling is that the people who do not want this legislation are the people who Labor are supposed to represent. And you have gone missing in action. You have traded your constituency for the Greens vote. You have traded it; you have deserted them. You have walked out on them.

I have been around this place for a long while and I have never experienced the pressure as I have experienced it over the last couple of weeks. If you go out to the shops people run up to you and say, ‘Please stop this.’ Then you go to church and people come up and say, ‘Please stop this.’ If you sit in a cafe people approach you and say, ‘Please stop this.’ If you go in a lift people automatically talk to you and say, ‘Please stop this.’

I have never seen pressure like this. From Friday until Monday—the day before yesterday—I think I had around 250 emails. They were not listed emails on a pro forma; these were genuine people who were concerned and who were emailing us everywhere. They were emailing you people; those opposite would be getting as many emails from blue-collar workers. We are getting emails from the business community. We have been getting emails from the small business community saying: ‘Please don’t do this. Don’t inflict me with a $70 billion tax in six years.’ I believe people are prepared to pay their way if China, America, Indonesia and India come in. They are prepared to pay their insurance premium but they are not prepared to take on the world’s insurance premium.

The Premier of Queensland had some research done on behalf of all the states, and it was buried. She was the senior premier of all the states, and they were all Labor governments at the time, I think—maybe bar one. That research came out and showed that all states were going to lose jobs in the mining industry. That research was buried. I do not know why the premiers of this nation, who are basically Labor—except Western Australia—would bury this. Why don’t they come out and fight for their people? They are going to lose billions of dollars in revenue. But, no, the deal has been done. It has been stitched up with the trade union movement: ‘Brothers, we’ve signed this in blood. You guys—the right wing of the Labor Party and the blue-collar workers—get your job choices. And the progressive sector should just shut up and lie down because you’ve got your bone: it was called job choices. So just shut up, get in the corner and be quiet, because you’ve got what you wanted.’ Now you say, ‘We’ve got to look after our progressives—the doctors’ wives; the teachers’—and they want the legislation—‘so, let’s have two bob each way, and we’ll make everyone happy.’

Photo of Michael ForshawMichael Forshaw (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Forshaw interjecting

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You can laugh at this as much as you like, Senator Forshaw, but you know that what I am saying is totally accurate. You have tried to place two bob each way on your progressive sector and your blue-collar workers. You have played one off against the other and you have told them both to lie down because they have both been bought off.

That is the way that the trade unions work. I know that it works that way, because some indiscrete Labor Party people have told me, ‘You have to lie down. It’s been agreed. Once we agree on things, we’re locked in.’ Well, you might be locked in but the research tells us that, across all age groups and across all workers and business people, 54 per cent of people do not want it. Only 34 per cent want it. Your research would not show anything different to this; it would not be the slightest bit different. Your polling is done by people who are accurate and this polling is done by Galaxy, and that is accurate. And you are thinking: ‘So what do we do? We’re in trouble. We’re losing our vote. Let’s get this thing through immediately. Let’s get it through as fast as we can.’ That is why I do not believe that we can extend the hours. There are other issues that need to be investigated. I am not an accountant, but my colleague Senator Joyce is.

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A good one.

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And a good one. He has discovered a $14 billion hole in this.

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A $14 billion turnaround.

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A $14 billion turnaround. Surely we have the right to investigate that. Surely Senator Joyce has the right to put that to a committee and ask for an explanation, and so has anyone else on this side or the other. Where is the $14 billion turnaround? Who finances it? Is it financed by increased taxes or is it financed by cuts in other expenditure? Someone has to pay. You do not create money out of nothing. We are going into a $70 billion tax on the people who can least afford it. It will be a tax on every industry in Australia, whether it is the local ice cream industry in Toowoomba or the pig abattoir in Kingaroy that is the iron lung of Kingaroy and employs 400 people or the abattoirs in Beenleigh that employ 1,000 people. It is going to affect every one of those.

You presented us with amendments yesterday. You on that side might be bright enough to be able to sift through them and pick up what these amendments mean.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We are.

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You are very skilled! But surely we have the right to examine these amendments. They said, ‘Oh, we gave you agriculture; we gave you primary industry.’

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It was never in.

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Primary industry was never in. What a fiasco. You told us that you would take out something that was not there. Primary industry was going to be reviewed in 2013 and maybe go in 2015. I do not know how you would ever measure it.

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It was never going to go in.

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think that Senator Milne is right: I do not believe that it was ever going in. What a fiasco. The National Party are supposed to jump on board because we got something called primary industry taken out. What a farce. It was never in there. How can you get something taken out that was never there in the first place? This needs to be reviewed.

There is another aspect to this that I want to point out. This has to come back after Copenhagen and be presented. I believe that it has to be reviewed. The deal includes ‘an automatic statutory review of the CPRS legislation, including EITE policy, as soon as practicable after Australia signs a new multilateral agreement on climate change which imposes obligations to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ So, as soon as Copenhagen is over, we will be back here reviewing it. What is the point of this? In nine days or whatever, Copenhagen is going to be on.

I will here paraphrase the headline in the Australian: Mr Rudd is treating us like mugs, and he is treating you like mugs, and he is treating the Australian population like mugs. Do not underestimate them, because there are some very clever people out there and they do not all run small businesses; they do not all drive Mercedes; they do not all drive Volvos. A lot of them are trade unionists who you have neglected. And they are clever people. They might not have degrees in medicine, but they might drive the dragline, be on the wharf or in a factory. They are not dumb. They know that this is a setup. They know that this is tax that is being imposed on them at a time when they do not need it, because you only have to wait nine days. But you cannot even wait until after Wednesday night; you have to put it through on Wednesday. If I was you over there, I would be hanging my head in shame. I would be going to the trade unions and your blue-collar workers and begging forgiveness. Instead, you are saying, ‘Brother, you know what solidarity is. You got your share. Just shut up and roll over.’

Photo of Michael ForshawMichael Forshaw (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is what happens. You know it, Senator Forshaw. You are a representative, and one of the few, who have ever picked up a tool in anger in their lives. I know that you have a law degree. I would not be ashamed of it. It would be much better if there were a few more workers over there instead of academics and lawyers It would be better if there were a few more people who had picked up a tool in their lives and earned their living—worked for their living—like my colleague Senator Williams, who was a shearer and worked for his living. You have lost touch. You all ought to go back and pick up a shovel for six weeks over Christmas and learn what hard yakka is and learn what it is like to earn a quid; learn what it is like in the sun.

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

When did you last use a shovel?

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I ran a business that had nine people employed. I paid the wage bill; I paid the electricity bill; I paid the petrol bill; I paid every bill that came in. I know my small business colleagues are going to have this legislation inflicted on them. I know what they are going through now out there. It is not only me that knows but the Chamber of Commerce also knows. This is the biggest employer group. I salute them, because they have stated the truth. They have not tried to get in bed with the Labor Party like Ms Heather Ridout, whom my colleague called a camp follower, yesterday—and I think that she was perfectly right. The Chamber of Commerce have not gone with the Business Council of Australia; the Chamber of Commerce have represented their constituency.

It says here that the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ‘Australia’s largest and most representative business organisation,’ says that consumer concerns about the impact of carbon reduction on electricity prices are as follows: 71 per cent believe CPRS will raise electricity prices; 49 per cent believe there will be job losses; 82 per cent do not believe enough information has been provided about the CPRS; 54 per cent believe Australia should delay the introduction of a CPRS until after Copenhagen; and 12 per cent do not know. So you have 54 per cent of 90 per cent. Every one of you, although you might not ever have been involved in active work or blue-collar work, certainly knows how to spend and certainly knows how to read a poll. That is what you are good at. You can read polls and you can spin, but you have lost your way. You have lost your way to represent the blue-collar worker. You have lost your way.

I made a statement on radio just a couple of days ago when the Coral Sea was closed down. The blue-collar workers, the tradies, up there who have a boat and an outboard motor and generally vote Labor asked: ‘What have we got to do? How do we get to these people?’ I said: ‘Well, it’s obvious. Elect the people that represent you.’ Then McKenzie, the commentator, asked, ‘Was having all these meetings a waste of time?’ I said, ‘No, it wasn’t a waste of time’—

Government Senators:

Government senators interjecting

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

and Senator McLucas knows who I am talking about—‘because those people at that meeting had their say in the highest court in Australia, the Australian parliament, and it went down by a tied vote.’ Senator McLucas was there. She was on the other side. She is supposed to be representing Cairns, but she was AWL when Cairns needed her. The point I made to McKenzie was this: do not ever back the blue-collar worker, the tradie, the people that usually support Labor, when it comes to a race with the Greens. They will come second every time by a long way, and that is what is happening here. You have put forward a dog and now you expect us to give you a tick through. I find it hard to accept that we cannot wait even a couple of hours, that we have to push this through in the Senate. Why do we have to push it through? There is absolutely no reason to push it through. There are a billion reasons—in fact, there are 70 billion reasons—why we should not push it through. There are 70 billion reasons, and you are going to inflict them on Australia. That is what it is going to cost this nation.

It will be churned around and there will be some benefits. The guys that drive the Mercedes, the guys that drive the Volvos, the bankers and the traders will love you. They will say: ‘You beaut. The Labor Party’s our friend.’ They will love you. They will say, ‘You are going to make us a fortune.’ There will be maybe 200 or 300 screen jockeys that will make a lot of money. But that money will be taken from the working families and given to the guys that drive the Volvos. They will be able to afford the luxury cars that you increase tax on. They will be able to afford two of them. They will buy one for their wife and they will buy one for themselves. You are going to make them a billion dollars. You are going to make billions for them, and you want us to condone it. Come on. You have lost your way, but we certainly have not. We know where we are going. We have always known where we were going and we are going to stick the course.

10:18 am

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What an unbelievably gobsmacking display of arrogance we are seeing from the other side. Here we have the biggest piece of legislation to come before this parliament in goodness knows how many decades and what do you want to do? You want to extend hours so you can just ram it through. The people of Australia are smarter than that. If the people of Australia could actually see this right now, they would see their Labor senators sitting over there and laughing and giggling their way through this. I can tell you right now: those people out there in the communities are not laughing or giggling about this.

Government Senators:

Government senators interjecting

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Do you know what, Senator Marshall? Yes, I do know your name, Senator Marshall. I know your name very well. They actually understand this. You might not. Your leader, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, might not have a clue how this is going to affect the people of Australia but I can tell you they know. They know absolutely. They are contacting us in droves, in the thousands. They are emailing us, writing to us and begging us. They are saying, ‘Please don’t pass this ETS.’ These are people that care about the environment. These are people that know we need a sustainable future for the environment. These are the people that want a healthier future for the environment, but they are smart enough to know that this ETS is not going to do it. It will not even go close. It will not do one bit.

Government Senators:

Government senators interjecting

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Do you know what it is going to do, Senator Marshall? Senator Forshaw, you are over there as well. I would suggest that the people of New South Wales should contact all their Labor senators right now and tell them what they think about this ETS. What they are telling us is that they do not want a bar of it. What is it going to do? All of these costs, colleagues, are going to land right in the laps of our working families—that is, the working families that this Labor government purports to represent—right across this country. As my good colleague Senator Boswell said, the government have completely forgotten about them. They have completely forgotten about those blue-collar workers. They have just disregarded them because all of those costs are inescapable. They are inescapable in this ETS, and they know it.

What is absolutely gobsmacking is that this can even be called ‘action on climate change’, because it is not going to change the climate one bit. That is what is so absolutely extraordinary about this. We have this Labor government going hurling down the path of trying to ram this through. That is why we are standing here now: they are trying to ram this legislation through. They are trying to ram this through, completely disregarding those people. The people that I am particularly concerned about and the people that my Nationals colleagues and many of my Liberal colleagues as well are concerned about are those people in regional Australia, who have been completely disregarded. Let us have a look at what this is going to do to farmers. As my colleague Senator Joyce said the other day, isn’t it peculiar that people are jumping up and down saying, ‘Isn’t it fantastic that we’ve had agriculture excluded?’ It was never in, and it was never likely to be in. We know, because the department already told us, that they had absolutely no ability to measure the emissions from the animals anyway. So we have had this great win—supposedly—but it was never going to be in the scheme at all.

And guess what else will happen, Senator Forshaw? Start writing to Senator Forshaw, all you people out in rural New South Wales, and to every single one of those Labor senators. Guess what will happen? All the embedded costs that are in the ETS now will land right in the laps of our farmers in our regions: fuel, transport, electricity, fertiliser, chemicals, packaging, cement—absolutely everything. How can those on the other side say, ‘Agriculture has been excluded; isn’t that great!’ when they were never going to do it and all of those costs are still there?

Our farmers are at the bottom of the food chain. As my colleagues over here know and have said on many occasions, there is nowhere to pass those costs on to—absolutely nowhere. Why should our farmers have to wear this for something that is going to make absolutely no difference to the climate? We produce 1.4 per cent of global emissions. We are reducing our emissions by only five per cent. If the rest of the world is not on board, if our major trading partners are not on board, it is not going to make the slightest bit of difference to the climate. So the Labor government can jump up and down as much as they like and say, ‘This is action on climate change.’ They are just weasel words. They are absolute rubbish.

The thing that is so sad and makes those of us who understand this so angry is that all of those costs are going to fall on people who can least afford them. It is not only our farmers across the regions who will be affected; it is our small businesses across the regions and all those people in hospitality across the regions. And it goes further than just the regions—it will affect everybody in our metropolitan areas as well. What are you going to say, Senator Forshaw, to all the blue-collar families in your state who say: ‘We can’t afford this. We’re pushed to the limit anyway’? Why are they being asked to pay higher costs and to wear the embedded impacts of this legislation for something that they know is not going to change the climate anyway? It is simply wrong.

It is absolutely extraordinary that we are being asked today to extend the hours of sitting to ram this through. The arrogance of this government knows no bounds. There is a complete disconnect between what the Labor government say and what they do on the other side of this chamber. They purport to care for working families and they do not—not one bit. What are they doing now, in their arrogance? They are asking us to ram through hundreds and hundreds of pages of legislation with a $14 billion turnaround, as identified by Senator Joyce. What opportunity do we have to look at it in detail? Absolutely none. The government says: ‘A couple of days and a bit of extended sitting; that’ll be fine. We’ll whack it through the Senate.’ No: that is not right and it is not on, because the ramifications of this are huge. It is about time this government started listening to the people of Australia and what they want. It is simply not fair.

Farmers, who are going to have to face all of these increased costs, are the very people who feed this nation. I would say to all of those people living across the cities at the moment: the next time you walk into a supermarket, have a thought for the farmers who are putting the food on your supermarket shelves. I know our city cousins have a very high regard for our farmers. But particularly in terms of this ETS debate, every time you walk into a supermarket think to yourself: ‘I wonder which Australian farmer is going to get belted today if an ETS comes in? I wonder how much the cost of produce on my supermarket’s shelves is going to increase?’ Let me tell you: it will, because all of those costs are going to be passed on. They are going to go right back in the laps of those farmers and then onto our supermarket shelves.

People in the cities are going to get hit as well. This scheme is going to come at them. As my colleague Senator Joyce said, it is going to come out of their shopping trolleys, out of their light switches, out of their power points—it is inescapable. At the same time you are considering that, my good city cousins, think about your farming cousins. Think about the farmers across this nation who are spending their lives producing food for our supermarket shelves. They are doing it day in, day out, at the end of drought. And in a lot of areas it is not the end of drought. People need to realise we have some farmers in very serious circumstances at the moment. They are in the middle of harvest and, in a lot of areas, are really doing it tough. It is not fair for this arrogant Labor government to bring in an ETS that is going to belt regional Australia harder than anywhere else, belt our farmers harder than anywhere else, yet not make one bit of difference to the climate.

To all of those people who have written to me and to my Nationals colleagues: thank you very much for taking the time to let us know your views, because we can only represent you if you tell us what you want—and we know overwhelmingly that you do not want an ETS. Get onto your Labor senators in New South Wales—though I am betting pounds to peanuts you do not even know who many of them are. Go to the website to find their names, contact them and tell them what you think, and maybe, just maybe, it will make them change their minds and make a better decision.

I came into this place believing that the decisions we take in this place should make the lives of Australian people better. When I use that premise to look at this legislation I see that it simply does not. It is going to impact enormously on the regions, on people right across this country, on our working families, our mums and dads, single people—everybody. The costs are going to increase, yet it is not going to make the slightest bit of difference to the climate. By my judgment, that is not making the lives of Australian people better.

10:28 am

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I do not wish to delay the Senate unduly but I do wish to agree with my colleague Senator Bob Brown and remind the Senate that we wrote to the Prime Minister some time ago saying that there should be an additional week’s sitting in order to deal with this matter. It was obvious to us in September that we would need more time to deal with these issues. The Prime Minister did not even have the courtesy to answer our letter, which is the kind of contempt for the Senate that we are seeing from the government.

The most recent example of that contempt has come from the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr, who is in here at the moment. He has said that he will defy a Senate motion to table a paper which the Senate voted to have tabled in here. That is the kind of contempt we are now seeing from the government for the Senate. People might ask, ‘Why not just have a couple of hours of extra sitting time to deal with this?’ The fact is that it needs a lot longer than a couple of hours—another week of sitting time is needed to look at this—and I want to go through a couple of things. The Senate has had no opportunity to scrutinise the deal that the coalition and the government have come to. It has had no opportunity to scrutinise the deal at all. Making such a huge allocation of money without scrutiny is unprecedented in the history of the Senate when scrutiny is our job and our responsibility. For example, the Prime Minister said yesterday that the additional compensation to the coal industry would be around $7 billion. When you look at the small print, you find that $7 billion is expressed in 2008 terms and is not consistent with the way the forward estimates are usually dealt with. Usually, you would look at that in real terms for the future rather than looking at it in 2008 dollars, especially when the sum is projected out to 2020.

When we had a look at this last night, we discovered that the $7 billion extra to the big polluters was based on a five per cent reduction target. We should not have been surprised by that, because the government has conned the Australian people into thinking that it is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between five and 25 per cent. But, no, the government’s only promise is a five per cent reduction. That will guarantee the death of the Great Barrier Reef, the loss of the Murray-Darling and the worst case scenario that we all know from the science of a half- to two-metre sea level rise by 2100, which was talked about most recently overnight. A five per cent reduction does not cut it. A 25 per cent reduction does not cut it. That is the absolute bare minimum where you need to be starting, not finishing.

As I said, the figure of $7 billion was calculated on 2008 figures on the basis of a five per cent reduction. When you look at a 15 per cent reduction, you find the amount going to the coal industry, in addition to the $16 billion that was already there, would go out to $10 billion—and we have not yet calculated what a 25 per cent reduction would mean. The government dressed it up yesterday to try to minimise how much it is giving to the coal industry, but it is actually many billions of dollars more than that, and it has taken it out of the compensation to households. This is a massive wealth transfer, taking the money away from the community and giving it to the coal fired generators.

Another thing that the government is not looking at is the legal advice, which shows that once this deal is done and goes through the effort that the electricity sector—the coal fired generators and the energy-intensive trade-exposed industries—has to make to achieve a reductions target will not be changed until 2020. So not only has the government taken the compensation away from the community but also it is saying that if we increase the target in the future, which no doubt this country will have to do because the target is such a disgrace, all of the effort will be outside those sectors locked into the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. In other words, the coal industry—the big emitters—is now insulated out to 2020 from any future effort and will have its compensation locked in and be able to sue if anyone tries to make it do any more. That means that the community, having already lost the compensation of $6 billion that it was to be given, will also have to shoulder the additional benefit into the future. We need to look at that really carefully.

Another thing is that there are serious ramifications for rural and regional Australia in the deal that has been done between the government and the coalition, and it is not clear yet what that means. For example, the government has said that agriculture will be out, but the fact of the matter is that that was no concession to the coalition. The coalition has been conned completely on that, because the government was not going to make a decision on that until 2013. Next year there will be a federal election. The federal election after that will be in 2013. So we are talking about a decision two federal elections away for an implementation phase post 2015, which is three federal elections away. Even people who take only a passing interest in federal politics know that it is the stuff of fantasy land to tell people, ‘We have changed our minds about something that was going to happen three federal elections away.’

The coalition thinks that now it not only has got agriculture out but also has this ability for rural Australia to claim credits. But go and look at the fine print and you will find that it is not there at all. All the government has said is that it will give these credits to rural Australia if its task force can come up with robust accounting that would make it possible, and we all know that that will not happen. So the farmers are deluding themselves right now into thinking that they got carbon credits for abatement when they did not. Instead, they got a task force which will determine whether there is robust accounting to enable it to happen. It will not happen. I can tell you that now. I can tell you who it will happen for, though, and that is the loggers. The deal here is not for the farmers but for the forest industry, because they are the ones in here getting the big concession. Yesterday’s deal gave them another $40 million as well as carbon sink forests, which this Senate has shown that it opposes time and time again. The deal between the government and the coalition provided for carbon sink forests to get guaranteed water rights and planning rights.

That is not something that the Senate has ever agreed to. In fact, we have made it clear time and time again that we do not like the carbon pollution forests thing because it is exactly like managed investment schemes. It is yet another lurk for the National Association of Forest Industries and for Collins Street investors; it is not good for rural Australia, for all of the reasons that managed investment schemes have been a disaster in rural and regional Australia. That is part of the coalition deal. I wonder how many coalition people understand that they have just agreed to give carbon sink forests guaranteed water entitlements and planning rights but that the farmers have got nothing except a task force that might come up with a robust accounting scheme which might incorporate their emissions in the future.

Yes, there is a $40 million Green Carbon Fund. That is there to equal the amount they wanted to give to the forest industry. The most sensible thing to do would have been to take out the plantation sector entirely, have the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as a fossil fuel scheme and have an alternative mechanism that looks at carbon in the landscape. This mechanism would incorporate food security, water sustainability, biodiversity outcomes and resilience in rural communities. If you had taken all of that out and created a separate program, as the Greens have advocated, you would actually start to address some of these issues. You would allow rural Australia to start bringing together consideration of where we are going to grow food, how we are going to have the water to grow that food, how we are going to improve biodiversity in rural and regional Australia and how are we going to do it in such a way as to improve job prospects in rural communities and build resilience in those communities.

That is what we needed to do, but if all we have is a couple of extra hours of sitting, this will not be discussed, because these are not amendments to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. They are off-legislation deals. They are not going to be amendments that come before the Senate. This is a deal separate from the Senate. It has no legislative status. It is part of a deal. In the future, you are going to see Liberal and National Party senators standing up and saying that they did not understand, at the time of the deal, that there was nothing guaranteed and that there were no specific agreements being made.

So I would urge the Senate not to go down this path of a just a few extra sitting hours. We need an extra week of sitting time. We need it so that we can get the government to outline in detail what this deal actually means. I think people out there assume it is going to be a legislated deal. It is not. It is a backroom deal. We do not know exactly how it is going to play out, but what I do know is that those people in rural Australia who thought they were going to get carbon credits are not going to get them in the time frame they thought, because the accounting framework does not exist.

That is why agriculture was left out. It is why agriculture was always going to be left out and, having been left out, did anyone ask the question: why did the government agree to leave it out? The answer is: no accounting system. The Liberal Party thinks it got some deal because the government says, ‘We will count the abatement from all these activities in rural Australia,’ but there is no mechanism. That is why they left it out. There is no accounting mechanism.

So, before you go ahead and agree with this deal and agree to ram it through in an extending sitting period without proper scrutiny, go back to Ian Macfarlane and the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong, and ask whether there are accounting methods in place today which will allow farmers to measure the abatement opportunities that are supposedly there for them and, if they are, whether those methods would be sufficiently rigorous to support qualification for a permit? I can tell you now that the answer is no.

It is a disaster for the Australian parliament to ram through something it does not understand, because you always end up with perverse outcomes. One of these perverse outcomes will be that the community will suddenly discover that the $7 billion, in 2008 dollar terms, on a five per cent reduction will be $10 billion, at least, under a 15 per cent reduction and an unknown figure if we go higher—on up to 25 per cent.

How dishonest is it for the government to stand there and say, ‘This is what we have done,’ when they are not telling the Australian people what they really have done; to try and pitch this to people who are already suffering from the collapse of the Murray-Darling system; to pitch this to people in rural communities who have already suffered huge losses as a result of the managed investment scheme rip-off; to now pretend to those people that they are going to get some benefit when the government knows full well—I know full well and Minister Wong knows full well—that there will not be one permit issued to one farmer because there is no robust accounting? That is why agriculture was left out of the scheme. So I really want people to think about this carefully and to support proper scrutiny of this deal and what it means before they agree to just ram it through and live with the consequences, because fixing it up later, we have discovered, is not something that is easy to do. Once this goes through, those who benefit from it will sue at any prospect of any of their deal being unpicked.

10:42 am

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I cannot support the government’s motion, and I would urge every member of the Liberal Party not to support this motion either, for a number of very important reasons. There is no more important piece of legislation for the economy and the environment of this nation than this package of legislation and we need to get it right.

If we go down this path, we will create a massive wreck of our environment and of our economy. I am grateful for Senator Milne’s contribution because she has made a very salient point about carbon sinks. If this deal provides more money for carbon sinks, it will mean more water going out of the Murray-Darling Basin—more interception. It will create absolute chaos for an already dying river system. It will be the death knell of the Murray-Darling Basin.

I say that to my South Australian colleagues, each and every one of them, and to Senator Birmingham, in particular, who has been an outspoken advocate, through his committee work and in this parliament, for the Murray-Darling Basin. This will be the death knell of the Murray-Darling Basin if we go down this path, because this backroom deal cannot be unravelled after this legislation is passed. It cannot be unravelled. When it comes to the Murray-Darling Basin, we have an opportunity to get it right—to revegetate the basin and to get the whole issue of water rights on the right track—but this deal will actually make things worse for the Murray-Darling Basin. I cannot accept that any opposition member who is concerned about the basin will want to go down that path. This is a train wreck coming our way unless we pause and refer this matter to a Senate committee to look at the ramifications of this deal to ensure that we get it right.

My position is clear: I believe we need to have decisive action on climate change. To the sceptics out there, to Senator Bernardi for instance, who I have a lot of regard for personally, my plea is to think of this in terms of risk management. Unless they are 101 per cent sure that they are right and all of those scientists are wrong, then we need to manage the risk, and managing the risks involves having a responsible emissions trading scheme, one that will actually work and deliver real cuts to greenhouse gases and do so in an economically responsible way.

Mr Acting Deputy President Trood, you were at the Liberal party room meeting yesterday, as were all of your colleagues. I am concerned that the coalition said a few months ago that the modelling by Frontier Economics indicated that their approach was cleaner, cheaper, greener and smarter. It has come to my attention very recently that the opposition leader, Mr Turnbull, has commissioned further modelling from Frontier in relation to the scheme, and I believe that modelling was carried out by the same modellers used by the government at Monash University. I have not seen that and, as I understand it, neither has the Liberal party room. How can coalition senators make a decision as fundamental as this unless they have all the facts before them? I have not been able to obtain a copy of that report. I requested it this morning in an email to the opposition leader, Mr Turnbull, and I hope I will receive it. How can you in good conscience vote on the most important piece of legislation, in terms of its environmental and economic impact on this nation, without getting all the facts before you? How can you do that? How can you agree to go down a path without having that information before you?

I think you need to ask the question of why that report has not been released to you. I understand it has been confirmed by the opposition leader, Mr Turnbull, this morning in the media, but the government rejected it. I would have thought that the joint party room should have seen that report. How can you have a debate in the absence of that information? If that report shows that the government scheme will impose an even greater impost on the economy than first thought then surely you should have that information before you. It beggars belief that it is not something the Liberal party room would demand before a vote was taken on such a crucial piece of legislation. For goodness sake, have all the facts before you prior to making a decision that will affect this country irrevocably.

Senator Milne is right that, once we lock into this scheme, that is it. Do not think you can go to the next election saying, ‘Oops, we made a mistake, but we can modify it so that small businesses won’t be slugged with massive increases in electricity prices.’ I predict it will be in the order of 40 to 60 per cent. The Frontier modelling says 25 per cent over the next three years with the government scheme compared to five per cent with the Frontier scheme, but that is based on the assumption that the rest of the world comes on board. Those price rises will be much, much more. So does the Liberal Party want to be the party that has abandoned 750,000 small and medium enterprises in this country? Because that is what you will be doing if you go down this path. For goodness sake, you need to have the facts before you. It is a bit like being sold a house by a land agent who will not show you an expert report that says the house is full of white ants, because that is what you will be doing.

I have got great concerns about this particular motion. If we go down this path then you will be locking in a policy disaster. You will be locking in a disaster that cannot be undone. You will be locking in low emissions cuts that will damage our environmental credentials and, just as importantly, you will be causing a train wreck for the economy. I would urge members of the Liberal Party not to support an extension of hours. The only honourable way out of this mess is to actually inquire into the changes proposed as part of this deal. This deal has made a bad CPRS even worse. We have Senate inquiries over tax measures of several hundred million dollars, or over even smaller measures in the millions of dollars, that are referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee all the time. We are now talking about billions and billions of dollars in terms of this particular deal to change the CPRS. How can you in good conscience not allow this to go to the Senate economics committee for the thorough scrutiny it deserves? How can you go ahead with this particular deal without seeing the modelling that your leader, Mr Turnbull, has commissioned for himself but has not shown to his party room? How can that be?

That is why I would urge members of the Liberal Party to do the right thing in terms of the most important piece of policy this country has ever dealt with. You cannot fix it up later. Once this bill receives royal assent, there will be billions of dollars worth of hedging contracts in the electricity sector that will be signed.

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

That is right.

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Milne says, ‘That is right.’ Not only is that right but it is frightening because you cannot reverse it. You will be subject to billions and billions of dollars of compensation. We will have an emissions trading scheme with little environmental gain and enormous economic pain. That scheme will be the laughing stock of this region and indeed the world.

I would urge members of the Liberal Party not to support this motion for extended hours. The right thing to do and the only thing to do is to insist that you are given full information from your own leader as to what this scheme could do to Australia’s economy. If this motion is successful, I dare members of the Liberal Party to guillotine me, members of the crossbench and the National Party if we are asking relevant questions, not filibustering, about this scheme—its economic implications, what it will do to the environment and what the latest deal that has been cobbled together will do to the Murray-Darling Basin. If the Liberal Party wants to do that and wants to be known as the party that guillotines and abandons every small and medium enterprise in this country, then that will be on your head, not on mine. This is a case where I do not want to say, ‘I told you so,’ in years to come. I do not want to be proved right on this. This is do or die when it comes to Australia’s economy and the environment and I urge you to reject this motion to extend hours.

10:52 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Administration) Share this | | Hansard source

I will just take a few minutes to advise the Senate that I will not be supporting the motion to extend hours. This is consistent with a conversation I had with my leader this morning, when I advised him that I will not be able to support his position to vote for Labor’s flawed ETS legislation in the Senate before Copenhagen and before an outcome has been reached at least in the US. I agree with the sentiments expressed around the chamber that a deal that essentially has been negotiated in secret over a six-week period cannot properly be scrutinised over a two-day period. We had a very lengthy debate in our party room yesterday, and much has been said about that in the media today. I think it would be indecent to force the Senate to make a decision on such a significant piece of legislation in the time that is practically available to us, and an extension of hours in an ad hoc fashion is not going to fix that.

I support the proposition that Australia should do everything we can to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Whatever way you want to describe it, this legislation is not strong action on climate change. The reality is that, in the absence of an appropriately comprehensive global agreement, this scheme in Australia will push up the price of everything, it will cost jobs, it will put pressure on our economy, it will put our energy security at risk and it will be bad in particular for regional Australia—and all of that without helping to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce emissions in Australia in a way that will increase emissions in other parts of the world is not effective action on climate change. That is why the coalition has for some time held the very sensible and absolutely sound public policy position that we should wait to see what happens in Copenhagen—not because Copenhagen is some sort of artificial deadline but because Copenhagen is supposed to be the international conference where countries from around the world come together and put on the table the sorts of targets they would be prepared to commit to.

The Treasury modelling of the economic impact of Labor’s ETS is based on a whole series of very heroic assumptions. I am not going to hold the Senate up for much longer. However, the key issue that troubles me is that an ETS in Australia can be an effective mechanism to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions only if it is part of an appropriately comprehensive global scheme; but, with the distortions in terms of international trade competitiveness and in terms of exporting emissions as well as jobs without a global agreement, it will not be. Depending on what happens in other parts of the world, it may well be that I would be quite comfortable to support an ETS at some time in the future, but right now I am not. I do not think it would be appropriate to rush the Senate, whether it be over the next two days, the next four days or the next five days. This has to be properly scrutinised. I intend to support Senator Williams’s motion to defer this legislation. I also intend to support Senator Milne’s motion to refer the legislation to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for further consideration. As I have mentioned to the Senate, I will be voting against an extension of time—and, just to make it absolutely clear, I did have a conversation this morning with my leader, Malcolm Turnbull, to advise him of that.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Ludwig’s) be agreed to.