Senate debates

Monday, 7 November 2011

Matters of Public Importance

Gillard Government

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A letter has been received from Senator Bernardi:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

The Gillard Government's broken pre-election promise not to introduce a carbon tax and their wholesale adoption of the policy agenda of their alliance partners, the Australian Greens.

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.

3:35 pm

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

The Gillard government's wilful betrayal of the ALP's solemn promise of no carbon tax is a matter worthy of discussion, as suggested by the acting Manager of Opposition Business, Senator Bernardi. This gross breach, in lock step with the Australian Greens, is something that one would never have suspected of the once proud ALP—a once proud ALP that has now become a light green shadow of its former self. Along the way it has betrayed its base of manufacturing workers, miners, forestry workers, agricultural workers and those on low incomes.

We in the coalition say, and the Australian people are now understanding, that the Australian Labor Party have sold themselves out to the Australian Greens agenda, extreme as it is. That is why their fundamental promise of no carbon tax was breached by the Prime Minister and the Australian Labor Party. Why? It was because the Australian Greens demanded it of them and the ALP followed suit. That is why Labor in this place were willing to move the gag in relation to the carbon tax debate. Indeed, the fact that we are having the motions put as of 11 o'clock tomorrow was not something that the Leader of the Government in the Senate told the opposition as a matter of courtesy. It is was something that we read on the Greens website.

The Greens having determined what should occur, the Labor Leader of the House then rang the coalition to advise what the Labor Party would be doing.

What about the chair of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee? The Greens say they want another chair, in breach of all of the agreements and understandings in this place. What does the Labor Party do? They say, 'You betcha; we'll support you,' and the Greens are given another chair on a committee in this Senate.

What about the media inquiry? That was something that was never on the Australian Labor Party's agenda, but after Senator Bob Brown got needled a bit—after he was questioned a bit—in relation to his ongoing duplicity and double standards, all of a sudden there was a need for a media inquiry. And the hapless Australian Labor Party, in breach of all its previous understandings and promises in this area, just went meekly along.

What about the intergovernmental agreement on forestry in our home state of Tasmania, where, at a public rally that I was able to address with Senator Richard Colbeck, we also had trade union officials of the Australian Workers Union and the AMWU standing side by side with the coalition condemning the Australian Labor Party's stance in this area? Why has the Australian Labor Party sold out the forestry industry in Tasmania and, I might add, elsewhere? Because the Greens are setting the agenda for them.

Why were MPs in the other place asked to survey their electorates about the issue of gay marriage? The Greens said so, so the Labor Party voted for it and agreed to survey their electorates on this burning issue of gay marriage! On the question of carbon tax, the government said, 'Do not ask the electorate about that.' Who should form government, the coalition or Labor? The government said, 'Do not ask your electorates about that, because we are scared of what the answers might be.' But because the Australian Greens have a particular policy position in relation to gay marriage the Labor Party meekly went along with that question.

Why have we seen the unravelling of the border protection policies that worked so well? That is because of the Green agenda, which the Australian Labor Party has adopted. Albeit now they are trying to product-differentiate themselves, I simply say it is a bit too little too late in that regard.

Why did this parliament submit to a week-long debate on Afghanistan? The Australian Greens demanded it so the Labor Party went along with it. Why were live exports from Australia banned? Because the Greens demanded it. Cabinet determined their position without the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry putting a submission to the cabinet and without the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade putting a submission to the cabinet. It was just at the behest of the Australian Greens.

So those who used to be the loyal supporters of the Australian Labor Party are asking themselves some fundamental questions. Where is the Labor Party that used to represent their interests on issues like keeping the cost of living down, job security, border protection and the freedom of the press—the sorts of things that people genuinely care about? On the issue of the cost of living, the people are going to get a carbon tax which Labor faithfully promised would not be imposed—a carbon tax which will increase everybody's energy bills, by 10 per cent for power and nine per cent in relation to gas.

On the issue of job security and jobs for the future, today we have heard that Coogee Chemicals, who were willing to invest $1 billion in Australia, in the cleanest methanol plant to be built anywhere in the world, creating 150 jobs and providing $14 billion of export revenue—a great opportunity for the workers of this country—have now shelved the project because of Labor's tax. That facility is now going to be built in China, where the carbon footprint will be four times worse than it was going to be in Australia. So that is bad environmentally, bad economically and bad for jobs.

And Labor's heartland is asking the question: why is this so? Why is our cost of living being increased? Why are job security and new jobs being thrown out the window? The simple answer is that the Australian Labor Party—once a proud party—has sold its soul. The Australian Labor Party has sold everything over to the Australian Greens for them to determine and to dictate.

I dare say the carbon tax is the worst example because it will have the greatest impact. And the Labor Party cannot shy away from it, because it was Adam Bandt, the member for Melbourne, who said, when he walked into Ms Gillard's office, 'If you want our vote in the parliament, we want a price on carbon; we want a carbon tax.' As a result, Ms Gillard broke that solemn promise. And everybody accepts and acknowledges that she would not be Prime Minister of this great country today if she had told the Australian people that she would have a carbon tax.

Indeed, if this carbon tax is such a great idea, as all those opposite keep telling us, why didn't they go to the last election promising a carbon tax? Surely it would have been a great winner for them! Surely it would have given them a majority beyond all expectations! They knew the Australian people did not want a carbon tax . That is why they promised no carbon tax. That is why, when challenged about whether they were serious about no carbon tax, they said that those asserting otherwise were being 'hysterical'. That was the word used by the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. So the faithful within the Labor Party voted Labor in at the last election under a false premise, under a dishonest assertion, and it is something which many of them now regret.

And here we have the Australian Labor Party thinking about changing its leader, and doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things. But do you know the problem with the Australian Labor Party? It is not their leader. It is their policy. It is their platform. It is the fact that they have sold out to the Australian Greens. They have a formal alliance. By it, they got into government, and I fear they will be thrown from government because of it. (Time expired)

3:44 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think senators should ask themselves this question: why would the opposition propose a matter of public importance on an issue which is currently the subject of a committee stage debate in this chamber? Why take an hour from the detailed consideration of the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills, particularly as the Senate is debating this package of bills under time constraints agreed to by the Senate last week? Is it unfair to draw the conclusion that the opposition is either unwilling or unable to examine the detail of this exceptionally important legislation in the Committee of the Whole? After all, we are now debating just the first of 37 amendments that have been moved.

I suppose the opposition thinks: why turn up the opportunity for some more negative politics? Why be constructive when you can be destructive? Why talk about the great challenge of climate change to Australia's environment and economy and what we should do about it when you can spend an hour or so bagging your political opponents? Why talk about the actions that responsible governments around the world must take to minimise the impact of global warming when you can take the easier path of just slagging those you do not agree with in the Senate chamber?

Australia has a particular responsibility, in my view, to act on climate change. Australia is heavily dependent on carbon based fuel for the supply of electricity, and, as a result, we are the highest per capita greenhouse-gas-emitting OECD country. In fact, per capita, Australian emissions are nearly twice the OECD average and more than four times the world average. We even beat the Americans—which, I have to say, is saying something! So, yes, it is true: the Australian government does support pricing carbon emissions in Australia and the government encourages the development of clean energy. The truth is we need to take action on climate change, and we need to do it now.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, last year was the warmest on record globally since instruments were first used systematically to make such measures in the 1880s. Nine of the 10 hottest years in history have occurred in the last 13 years. The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology report that the last decade —from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2009—was the warmest ever in Australia. Not only was the last decade the warmest decade on record but the number of record hot days has been increasing every decade for the past 50 years and the number of record cold days has been decreasing. The science shows that south-eastern Australia is getting less rain and is getting drier. The drying of south-eastern Australia is of great concern because this is, obviously, where most Australians live and, as every senator knows, it is where most of our food comes from.

The warming planet affects not only air and soil temperature but also water temperature. We know that the warming of the oceans is melting polar ice caps, melting glaciers and causing sea levels to rise. An enormous mass of ice, more than four times larger than Lord Howe Island, broke off Greenland last year and slipped into the sea. Sea levels rose by around 10 centimetres from 1920 to 2000, measured by monitoring stations around the Australian coast.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change'sfourth assessment report finds: 'Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.' This is an authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world. These are scientists who do not use the word 'unequivocal' lightly. What the reports from the IPCC and those of our own scientists at the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology show is that the climate is warming. It will continue to do so as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow unabated, the problem will get worse.

The science of climate change, of course, has been endorsed by every national academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming, and almost—not quite but almost—every climate scientist. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear: sea levels are rising and coastlines are shrinking. The science is telling us that Australia is warming; the science is telling us that the world is warming. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. Climate change is real and is being caused by human activity.

There is an overwhelming case for sensible precautionary action to limit the impacts of climate change. Precautionary actions that encourage energy efficiency, encourage businesses and households to switch to clean energy, and encourage the development of sustainable energy supplies are all measures the Australian government supports. Only through measures that minimise industry and household use of carbon based fuels will we reduce the impact of climate change.

I say to the opposition: the time has come for that political party to end its opposition just for opposition's sake on this issue. It is too important an issue for that to occur. I strongly believe it is in our national interest to act on climate change, it is in the national interest to act with resolve and it is in our national interest to act now.

3:55 pm

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

I thank Senator Faulkner for that very clear and incisive presentation to the Senate on the need for action on climate change. I have very rarely heard it put better.

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Did you write it for him, Bob?

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

The best that any of the three opposition members—this motion has come from the opposition—and now Senator Kroger can put forward is: did I write it for him? Of course I did not. But I guess Senator Kroger, who is so used to having pieces written for her, has the belief that that is what happens with other people.

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not noted for having things written for me.

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

No, Senator Faulkner, you are not noted for having things written for you; you are noted for being your own person.

Senator Bernardi interjecting

What I do note here is that this is a matter from Senator Bernardi and, unless the speakers list that we have before us is incorrect, he is not speaking on it.

What I want to say in the few minutes I have—and Senator Milne will be adding to this later—is that it is very easy to get passionate about which party opposes or supports another party in the place, but the thing that is relevant is how well the progress of legislation in the interests of the wider Australian public is going. What we do know is that now well in excess of 120 bills have passed the parliament in a bit over a year that this government has been in place, and that is quite a remarkable record considering the rate of bills that went through the parliament back in even the Howard years.

One of the bills that went through before this parliament came here was the stimulus package, and that kept Australia out of recession; it saved 200,000 Australians' jobs and many small businesses from closure. There was a case of the Greens supporting the Labor initiative—the initiative of Treasurer Swan at the time—after it became clear that this opposition, this Liberal-National Party coalition, was going to oppose the legislation, with all the terrible consequences for business and for jobs in this country.

Sometimes it turns around and there are some Greens initiatives that are put forward which are taken up by government—although rarely is it that any of these things come out of the blue and do not have support in parties in varying degrees when their time has come. Senator Bernardi gets excited about that, although not to the point of speaking on his own matter.

There are a number of pieces of legislation which we disagree with the government on. I want to point that out. First of all, there is the minerals super profits tax, which was recommended by Treasury, and the Greens supported it. The government, under the influence of the big mining corporations, has come up with an alternative which is going to fail to recoup $60 billion to $100 billion over the next 10 years. That is that much money that will not be available for schools or hospitals or transport—high-speed rail included—or housing. However, the opposition is going to collect nothing at all. Mr Abbott has made it clear that he would not entertain any sort of tax and in fact would rescind the tax if it were passed. That matter is being dealt with in the House of Representatives at the moment. The Greens have proposed a five per cent tax reduction for small business, because we can fund it—unlike the opposition. We have shown how we would fund that, but that is opposed by the opposition as well as the Labor Party. I asked questions earlier today about the withdrawal of our courageous troops from Afghanistan, as the Netherlands and Canada have withdrawn their troops. That is opposed by the government and it is also opposed by the opposition, although the latest poll shows it has huge popular support in Australia among Greens-inclined voters, Labor voters and Liberal and National voters. I think it is time adequate debate and serious consideration are given to withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan. Here is a situation where Senator Bernardi and the opposition are in lock step with the Labor government.

Equal marriage, junk food advertising and having a deposit on beverage containers nationally: these are issues where we see the government and the opposition together but the Greens taking the lead. We are proud of taking that lead and we are proud of the input we are having to this parliament. (Time expired)

4:00 pm

Photo of Judith AdamsJudith Adams (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this matter of public importance: the Gillard government’s broken pre-election promise not to introduce a carbon tax and their wholesale adoption of the policy agenda of their alliance partners, the Australian Greens. The Greens held their conference in Perth on the weekend. I was quite surprised to see the headlines in the West Australian and the Australian'Political payback as Greens go own way' and 'Don't take us for granted, Greens leader tells Labor'. I just wonder if we have a divorce on our hands. This all seems rather strange. What has happened to the alliance?

I was quite surprised, Senator Brown, to see that your conference did not allow the media to be there and actually had them locked out. Senator Brown has always called for open discussion and for the media to be involved in most areas, but in Perth we saw a very brief shot of the Greens sitting there and that was that. This really does surprise me. An article written by Amanda O'Brien for the Australian quotes Senator Brown:

He paid tribute to Julia Gillard for advancing the carbon tax legislation, which is expected to pass the Senate tomorrow, but he reminded the Prime Minister of the role the Greens played.

"Hats off to Julia Gillard and her government … but it's there because of the Greens," he said.

I think that says it all. What is happening is a bit confusing. The Greens are really mad because the Labor Party are obviously not going to preference them. So now the Greens are going to have, for the House of Representatives, open preferences for their members because it seems that their alliance partners have really done the dirty on them. Senator Brown talks about this open ticket in a quote from an article in the West Australian written by Jane Hammond with the heading 'Political payback as Greens go own way':

"The big parties are going to have to negotiate with people at the local level," Senator Brown said. "Things are going to get a lot more complicated.

In reply to this, political analyst David Black from Western Australia said:

… the implications of the decision would vary from seat to seat and on the order of candidates on the ballot paper but in general Greens preferences tended to flow to Labor.

He said the decision could be seen as an attempt by the Greens to distance themselves publicly from Labor.

Once again we have lots of balls up in the air as to where it is all going to go. With an election two years away anything could happen.

I was also very interested to hear Senator Siewert on the radio championing aged care as the Greens' main policy for the next election. I do wonder what is going to happen to the Greens' death duty policy from the last election, which surprisingly enough was removed from their website the week before the election. The Greens say they are going to help those people who are reaching the twilight years of their lives and looking to pass on their properties and houses to family members, but the impost of the death duties would be pushed onto those families. Things are very mixed up in that respect.

The Prime Minister has lost control of our borders, her own party and her own cabinet. Unfortunately it seems to be Senator Brown who is calling the shots and leading the country. Last night we had the 50th boat arrival of 2011, with 60 people on board. I think that the policy for immigration is very sadly lacking. We have Senator Hanson-Young saying that she feels every refugee who arrives on a boat should be given the privilege of coming to Australia and being let out into the community, that it is their right and that they have had a terrible time, are all very hard done by and should not be locked up until they have had their credentials certified. Under that circumstance we would not know who is coming into Australia. That is the Greens—things change all the time.

Prime Minister Gillard has been held to electoral ransom by the Greens. What a disaster, not for her or her government but for the thousands of Australian families that are worse off. Since when did slapping a tax on something make it greener, offer incentives for investment or deliver certainty for business? We started off with a carbon tax aimed at the 1,000 biggest polluters. Then it was 500. Then, according to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, it was 400. Now we are back up to 500. Another article that was in the West Australian says real estate agents are attacking the Greens' slug on homeowners. The Real Estate Institute of WA president, Alan Bourke, said the move was 'a token green initiative that would achieve little greenhouse gas reduction but would saddle the housing sector with significant extra costs'. That means that, if you are selling a house or a unit, you have to get an assessor in to look at the green potential of your home. That would add another $1,000 of cost for those who are selling or renting a home to get an energy assessor to come in and rate it.

The next thing is that the Greens are getting $30 billion for their renewable energy project, mainly wind. I would draw to the attention of the Greens that the local residents' appeal against AGL's Hallett 2 wind turbines, which are non-compliant with the EPA noise guidelines, was upheld in the South Australian Supreme Court. South Australia is being used as the basis for guidelines and other states are following its example, but 16 of the 34 turbines were turned off overnight by AGL. So renewable energy is not what it looks like. (Time expired)

4:08 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Here we have another round of navel gazing and obstructionism from those opposite—obstructionism at a very important time in this parliamentary cycle, a time when we are attempting to get on with the job of pricing carbon. The Committee of the Whole is seriously looking at eight hours of wasted debating time already when there are amendments to the legislation, but we have this motion put forward by the opposition. This motion fails to comprehend history and fails to comprehend, I might add, their voting record in this place on this issue. It fails to understand economics and fails to abide by their own principles—that great liberal philosophy of markets and efficiency. It fails to predict and plan for the future—a future which, as Senator Faulkner has quite eloquently outlined, is at risk because of climate change.

In this motion there is a veiled implication that there is an alliance between the Labor Party and the Greens on this issue. Some have described it as an unholy alliance. Let me say to the Senate that the only unholy alliance that has occurred in this place in recent times was the alliance in which the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Greens voted together to oppose the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, to oppose the pricing of carbon. If that decision had not been taken by the Greens and those opposite then our economy would have an effective price on carbon. We would be investing in renewable technology. We would be driving jobs growth in the renewables sector. We would be trading permits in a domestic and an international market. So the only unholy alliance that has occurred in this place was on that unfortunate occasion when those opposite and the Greens combined to stop this parliament moving on with pricing carbon in our economy.

If there is any party that has been consistent on this issue, it is the Labor Party. Our plan was developed in 2006 in consultation with members of the community and members of our party. We came up with a plan to price carbon through an emissions trading scheme. We took that to the 2007 election and the proposal was successful. Because we believe in climate change, we have been consistent about taking action on this very important issue. There have been no fewer than 37 inquiries in this parliament, dating back to 1992. All bar one, I believe—and that was the committee that Senator Cormann chaired—have recommended putting a price on carbon.

Even the inquiry commissioned by former Prime Minister John Howard in 2007, the Shergold review, recommended support for an emissions trading scheme, a move to price carbon within our economy—but, then again, so did most of those opposite. If you go back to 2008 or 2009, in the wake of the Shergold inquiry, most of those opposite believed in an emissions trading scheme. I am not going to go into the comments of some of them, but I will go into the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, who said on 18 December 2008:

An emissions trading scheme probably is the best way to put a price on carbon …

I could not agree more. Then on 2 October 2009 Mr Abbott said:

We don't want to play games with the planet. So we are taking this issue seriously and we would like to see an ETS

Again, I could not agree more.

What has changed since then? Those opposite try to make us believe that some fundamental shift occurred in the wake of Copenhagen and the failure to get a binding international agreement in respect of this issue. That fails to comprehend the fact that the policy of the Howard government was quite clear: despite the failure to reach an international agreement, they should push ahead with an ETS because it is the right thing to do and it gives our economy an advantage in that we move into the future on a reasonable basis and we are promoting investment and jobs in the renewables sector. Ninety countries have pledged commitments in international conventions, through the Kyoto protocol and the international climate change commission convention, to reduce emissions compared to a baseline level over time.

In terms of emissions trading schemes, there are 30-odd nations in the European Union that actively participate in an emissions trading scheme. One of our largest trading partners, a smaller economy than Australia that faces much greater difficulty when it comes to the health of its economy, New Zealand, moved to an emissions trading scheme a couple of years ago and it is winning advantages from that scheme in terms of investment in renewables and jobs growth in those sectors. Certain provinces in Canada have moved to an emissions trading scheme. Certain states within the United States have also. And China is trialling an emissions trading scheme in four of its provinces and part of its five-year plan is to move to an economy wide emissions trading scheme by the end of the five-year plan.

What has changed is one thing and one thing alone: the Leader of the Opposition sees an opportunity to win an election—that is it; that is all that has changed. They have no belief, no principle and no consistency in this important policy area anymore. They simply say no and try to wreck the place because they see an opportunity to win an election.

I find it highly contradictory and unprincipled for them to adopt this policy stance in the light of Liberal Party philosophy. If you go to their website, you can see this written as one of their principles: they believe in the efficiency of markets in determining economic outcomes within a society and an economy. That might be the case, but not when it comes to this important policy issue, not when it comes to what is probably one of the most serious social and economic challenges of our generation. They put aside Liberal Party philosophy and principle and simply seek to develop a policy that they hope will win them an election. They do not show any leadership on this issue at all. They are the party who claim to be the party of the free market.

At the moment, the only party of the free market in this place is the Australian Labor Party. We have developed the policy of pricing carbon through an emissions trading scheme because all of the advice throughout the world from economists, scientists and the like is that the cheapest and most effective way to reduce emissions within an economy is to use a market based mechanism. The most effective way is to price carbon and to provide incentives for players within the economy to reduce their emissions over time.

The Liberal Party policy and philosophy are completely contrary to that; completely the opposite. They are going to provide subsidies for the biggest polluters within our economy in the hope that one day they might install emissions-friendly technology and reduce their emissions over time. This question needs to be asked: what about all those who are not receiving the subsidies? What about the rest of the economy? What about those small businesses that might not be at the top level in terms of emissions that will not receive a subsidy to reduce their emissions over time? What incentive will there be for those companies to reduce their emissions under such a scheme? Quite simply, there will be no incentive and emissions reductions will not occur within those companies economy wide. That is why the Liberal Party's scheme will not work.

Those opposite want us also to believe that their scheme will not cost the economy, businesses, taxpayers or households. But they again fail to understand that there is not a no-cost option when it comes to reducing emissions in an economy—particularly in a capitalist market based economy. All policies to reduce emissions have costs associated with them. The emissions trading scheme happens to be the cheapest option. A subsidy based scheme will cost taxpayers. And under their scheme there will not be the assistance that the Labor scheme offers to households, businesses, pensioners, students and job seekers. That assistance is important to ensure that the most vulnerable—those on middle to low incomes—can make that transition from a polluting, carbon based economy to the clean energy future. (Time expired)

4:18 pm

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

I rise today to comment on the matter brought forward by Senator Bernardi and spoken to by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Abetz. I note that neither of them are in the chamber—so much for the urgency of this particular proposal. I am not surprised that Senator Bernardi has brought forward a climate change denying, anti-climate-action proposal to the Senate. I note that he wants to discuss the wholesale adoption of the policy agenda of the Australian Greens. I think that it is much more interesting to look at the wholesale adoption by Senator Bernardi of the policy agenda of the extreme US radical Right and the policies that he brings to the coalition in Australia.

Disgraced Liam Fox was a former minister in the UK who was forced to resign because of his association with a Mr Werritty. Mr Werritty was one member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is fascinating to see that the Australian representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council is none other than Senator Bernardi. The American Legislative Exchange Council is backed by big oil, big tobacco, the National Rifle Association, the climate change deniers and the defence hawks in the US.

I note with interest than on 2 June this year the American Legislative Exchange Council wrote to the Department of Health and Ageing opposing plain packaging and making a strong case, on behalf of big tobacco, against plain packaging. Among the people they copied it to was none other Senator Bernardi, their Australian representative. You have to wonder about the extent to which Senator Bernardi has adopted their agenda and, indeed, the agenda of another US right-wing radical organisation, none other than the Heartland Institute. We recall that Senator Fielding went across to the US at the expense of the Heartland Institute and came back and told us that global warming was not real and was to do with solar flares et cetera.

Let us have a look at what Senator Bernardi has been up to that might give me cause for concern. It was reported in the Age recently that what appears to be a proliferation of community based anti-government activism sites is not necessarily what it seems. Several sites are part of an orchestrated political campaign by Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and conservative organisations that he is linked with. Using American Tea Party style tactics, Senator Bernardi has built a network of grassroots political websites that promote limited government, lower taxes, free enterprise and traditional values, as well as campaigns against the government and its policies, most potently against the carbon tax. What we found from this article was that this disgraceful set of websites was linked to the Conservative Leadership Foundation, of which Senator Bernardi is the chair. But it was not until you actually got to donate money that you worked through and found out who the backer was. And where do you find where this domain is registered? Of course, it is in the US. So what we find is this very close link with Senator Bernardi, who is the representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council. They are a council that develop model laws, model legislation, on behalf of major corporates in the US, and they are laws which are undermining wages and legal rights—it is a way that corporations get what they want, and corporations are on every single task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Interestingly, Donald Rumsfeld was a chair of one of their business boards in the past.

So, looking at this issue of the policy agenda and adoption of policy agendas, one has to ask the question about the links between the coalition in Australia and the Tea Party in the United States, the US radical Right, through the connection of the now acting Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. This goes to the heart of Tories in the UK and it now apparently goes to the heart of the coalition in Australia. So let's look at this link between fake websites, very real corporate astroturfing organisations and the connection that Senator Cory Bernardi has with both.

4:23 pm

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to actually speak to the matter that is before the Senate, which clearly Senator Milne has not been tuning in to, other than to note that it was moved by Senator Bernardi, and that is—and I will repeat it so that Senator Milne, who clearly walked into the chamber well and truly after the debate first started:

The Gillard Government’s broken pre-election promise not to introduce a carbon tax and their wholesale adoption of the policy agenda of their alliance partners, the Australian Greens.

What we have seen since the August 2011 election is an absolute breach of faith by the government with the people of Australia. What we have witnessed is a total lack of regard and honour in the way in which the government has backflipped on its pledge to the Australian people. Why did Prime Minister Gillard go to that election and pledge, with her hand on her heart, six days before the election, that there 'will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'? We know why she did that: she knew that it was an unelectable position to take, that Australians did not want a carbon tax.

I have to say, when Senator Faulkner gets up and talks about the critical need for the imposition of a carbon tax now, and talks about us on this side of the chamber being oppositionist, I have to sit back and think: who was the person I was watching who, following the night of knives, when they knifed and ousted the then Prime Minister Rudd for the Prime-Minister-to-be, Julia Gillard, entered into the equation the need 'to maintain stability and continuity at a leadership level of the Labor Party'? It was Senator Faulkner. So what does Senator Faulkner do? He was by her side, literally joined at the hip to Prime Minister Gillard, as she campaigned during that last election. It was Senator Faulkner who was the campaign adviser. It was Senator Faulkner who was the Labor government strategist for the last election. And yet it is Senator Faulkner who was in here today saying that we were the ones who were oppositionist. All I can ask of Senator Faulkner is: if he was the strategist, and he believed in a carbon tax before the election, why did he not advise Prime Minister Gillard to pledge for a carbon tax? Why was the advice to the contrary? You really have to wonder where people's head space is in this.

But the bottom line is that we all know that they knew that they could not be elected with a carbon tax policy, and now they have backed off from that. It is very straightforward. We know why that is the case: it is because the Greens have run the national agenda since they signed a formal alliance with Prime Minister Gillard. It is they who signed the formal alliance and determined that there would be a carbon tax. Why have we had debate after debate on this over the last few weeks? Because it is the Leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, who has said that he wishes to go to Durban with a carbon tax wrapped very neatly under his arm, with Prime Minister Gillard in tow. That is the only reason, I would suggest, we are debating this in the chamber now. It is not for any other reason than the pure ego of the Leader of the Greens, Senator Brown, that he wants to go to Durban with a carbon tax package.

I say to Senator Thistlethwaite: it is not something that every country is rapidly heading towards. Every nation, as we know, is walking away from a carbon tax. We are the only nation that will be going to the United Nations climate change conference with a carbon tax. That they are saying this is something that is critical for this nation now, when we know it will hurt all Australians, is absolutely gob-smackingly arrogant; it is just extraordinary.

In the last couple of weeks what we have witnessed here is a total abuse of the democratic process not only by the government and the Greens but also of this place. We first of all had a long debate over the variation to the business hours of this place. The coalition voted against it, because we did not believe that this carbon tax could be effectively ventilated. The variation of business hours was supported by the Greens, with the government, so that they could tick off on this before Durban. This week we were meant just to be debating the carbon tax. So, not only are we not debating the carbon tax later in the week, but we are seeing a gag on a gag, a gag on a guillotine motion. So the carbon tax, which we were to have 20 hours of debate on, has now been gagged yet again from midday tomorrow. Why is that? Because the government and the Greens just want to get on the plane to Durban with it under their arms.

The Greens are a real concern for this nation because of the way in which they are running this agenda. I note my colleague Senator Adams' comments on the article about the way in which they conducted their conference on the weekend. The Greens do not like scrutiny. The party holds its national conferences behind locked doors. This is a party that reminds me of a medieval cloister in the way in which it conducts its activities. All Australians— (Time expired)

4:31 pm

Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too would like to contribute to the debate this afternoon in the short time left to me, although I do query why we are debating this matter as a matter of public importance today when a similar matter is before the chamber in the form of bills. To hear Senator Kroger talking about the amount of time available for the committee stages of the bill is interesting because, of course, on this MPI we are just chewing up one hour of time that could possibly be used in the committee stage. That is indicative of the fact that the opposition are not really serious about debating the content of the bills. We saw that last week, when we spent a considerable period of time debating whether or not the Liberals should retain the chairmanship of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. A good couple of hours went on that debate.

Having said that, I am pleased to say that the government is proud of its record of implementing policies that have been and will be good for the Australian public and for Australia into the future. Our government's commitment to tackling climate change by reducing emissions is longstanding and is supported by the science. Indeed, the commitment to reducing harmful carbon emissions is also supported by the opposition, although you would not know it from hearing some of the contributions from those opposite, who apparently think they know more than the scientists.

The preferred method of the Labor government to reduce harmful emissions is to put a price on carbon, making the biggest polluters pay, and to encourage investment in cleaner renewable energy sources. That method of reducing harmful carbon emissions is supported not just by scientists but also by all credible economists. Even former prime ministers support this method of reducing harmful carbon emissions that contribute to damaging climate change. And I note that it was part of the coalition's 2007 election policy, when, under former Prime Minister John Howard, their policy stated:

A re-elected Coalition government will establish the world's most comprehensive emissions trading scheme in Australia, commencing no later than 2012. The scheme will be the primary mechanism for reducing Australia's emissions at least cost to families and to Australia's economy."

My, how the worm has turned.

I note that there is no credible economic support for the opposition's so-called Direct Action plan, which we know will be ineffective and more expensive for Australian working families. It would in fact cost Australian working families some $1,300 more in taxes if it were to be implemented.

As a Labor government, when we moved to tackle climate change we did it in the usual Labor way, and that is a way that is fair and ensures we deliver opportunities for all Australians. We will compensate businesses and households through various compensatory and other mechanisms that will apply to individuals and businesses that may be affected by the price on carbon. For example, nine in 10 households will get tax cuts or pension or payment rises to help with living costs when the carbon price comes in. I note on this point, and it is a point never made by the opposition but often made by us, that average household costs will rise by the modest amount of $9.90 per week and the compensation that will be offered as part of the government's plan will be $10.10 per week. So, indeed, nine out of 10 Australian households will get tax cuts or pension payment rises to help cost of living increases and will not be out of pocket. But, of course, the opposition leave those facts out of the hysterical tirades that they continue to entertain us with in this chamber. It is part of their fear campaign—the cheap populist politics meant to mislead and deceive Australians. It is far easier for the opposition to be loose with the truth than to actually address the facts of the matters before the chamber with regard to climate change.

They all over there know that their Direct Action plan is a joke. It will not work and it will be more expensive. Labor has a plan to address climate change— (Time expired)

4:36 pm

Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time for the discussion is concluded.