Senate debates

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Clean Energy Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Household Assistance Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Tax Laws Amendments) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Fuel Tax Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Customs Tariff Amendment) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Excise Tariff Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment Bill 2011, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Unit Shortfall Charge — General) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge — Auctions) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge — Fixed Charge) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (International Unit Surrender Charge) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Charges — Customs) Bill 2011, Clean Energy (Charges — Excise) Bill 2011, Clean Energy Regulator Bill 2011, Climate Change Authority Bill 2011; Third Reading

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

The committee has considered the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and 17 related bills. The time allocated for debate having expired, it has agreed to them without amendments or requests. The question now is that the remaining stages of these bills be agreed to and the bills be now passed.

Question put.

A division having been called and the bells being rung—

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

Mr President, could you please get the Clerk to read the bills?

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

I am required to read the question. The question has been put.

The Senate divided. [12:41]

(The President—Senator Hogg)

Question agreed to.

12:44 pm

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

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the votes of Labor members of the House of Representatives and senators who have blatantly and wilfully betrayed their constituents by voting for the carbon tax.

Leave not granted.

Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the senator moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of the Senate or to provide for the consideration of any matter.

This motion gives precedence to a motion relating to the Senate's condemnation of those Labor senators and House of Representatives members who have betrayed the solemn trust placed in them by the Australian people. That solemn promise was made by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during the last election. Every single ALP House of Representatives member, every single Labor senator is in this place by virtue of that promise that there will be no carbon tax—a carbon tax which will increase the cost of living; a carbon tax which will jeopardise jobs, disadvantaging our agriculture and manufacturing sectors whilst doing nothing for the environment; a carbon tax which other countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan, France and New Zealand have wisely rejected. We should condemn them.

Honourable senators interjecting

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

Order! I ask senators who are not participating in the debate to leave the chamber or resume their seats.

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

And what better photograph is there than that which I trust those in the press gallery will give to the coalition of that handshake between the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Australian Greens, which says it all about the betrayal and the sell-out of traditional Australian Labor Party values to the Australian Greens.

Who can forget that Senator Chris Evans himself led a Senate team in Western Australia promising no carbon tax? Who can forget that Labor Senator Singh, who betrayed the people of her electorate of Denison in the state parliament such that they threw her out at the last state election but were willing to give her a second go by electing her to the Senate at the last election on the promise of no carbon tax, has now betrayed those electors of Tasmania for a second time? And so it is with Senator Glenn Sterle, Senator Conroy—wisely absent—and all the other Labor Senators and House of Representatives members.

And if the Australian Labor Party think that this is a moment to have high fives, to congratulate each other and to celebrate their act of betrayal of the Australian people, so be it. But we as a coalition will retain the faith of the Australian people by giving them the opportunity to have a say in relation to this legislation—legislation which was clearly conceived in deceit. The Prime Minister and the Labor Party cannot get around the fact that they made a solemn promise not to introduce a carbon tax. The reason they made that solemn promise was that they knew it was bad policy. If it was such good policy they would have said in August 2010 that there would be a carbon tax under the leadership of Senator Chris Evans, there would be a carbon tax under the deputy leadership of Senator Conroy, there would be a carbon tax under Ms Gillard and there would be a carbon tax under Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan. But when we warned the Australian people about the deceit which was to be perpetrated we were accused by Mr Swan of being hysterical.

So the Labor Party has no moral commitment to this policy. They know it is bad policy. That is why they said no carbon tax time and time again—indeed, so often you would have thought all the roosters around the country would have started crowing. But on this occasion one of the roosters—Senator Conroy—was very quiet.

The Australian people are entitled to ask a fundamental question: how is it that when over 90 per cent of the parliamentarians in the two houses were elected on a promise of no carbon tax the carbon tax can somehow be legislated? The only way is because somebody has broken their solemn promise to the Australian people. Those who have done so are in fact, on this occasion—surprisingly not the Australian Greens—the Australian Labor Party, who will now go out celebrating with the Greens for their betrayal of the Australian people. We will give the Australian people an opportunity to cast a verdict in relation to this legislation at the next election.

We encourage Labor to bring forward that election to ensure that they do have a mandate for these bills before they start on 1 July next year. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate is to get up again to contribute to this debate, I encourage him to answer the question I posed last time: will you accept the verdict of the Australian people at the next election? (Time expired)

12:50 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Obviously we oppose the suspension moved by Senator Abetz. This is another attempt to delay the conclusion of these matters. I want to congratulate Senator Abetz, though: he has managed to empty the chamber more quickly than any other speaker in the history of the parliament.

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

Look at the galleries!

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Not only did he empty the chamber; he emptied the galleries. To those 20 people left: I don't know why you stayed for that, but congratulations for your perseverance! All of the rest of them fled because, quite frankly, they have heard this nonsense time and time again. Anyone who tuned in for the last two weeks would have heard the same tired old speech, the same abuse and the Liberal Party again hiding behind process. They have nothing to say about the policy and nothing to contribute to the debate. Abuse and process are their two contributions.

We will see the steady retreat of the Liberal Party from this position over the next year or two. We have already seen it from Senator Cormann on the question of the mining tax superannuation. When put under any pressure at all they run away. I do not know why Mr Robb was not invited to the meeting, but that is a matter for them. But we will see the steady movement away from this politics.

We have seen the most puerile of student politics in the last hour. We have seen senators scurrying out of the chamber so that the opposition could demand a four-minute division rather than a one-minute division. Grow up. Accept the verdict of the Senate. It is absolutely pathetic. You are an embarrassment to yourselves.

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

Mr President, on a point of order: this embarrassment of a government leader in the Senate is casting aspersions on and raising imputations against the motives of individual senators. That is contrary to the standing orders—

Senator Bob Brown interjecting

as Senator Brown should know, if he—

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

I do not believe there is a point of order, Senator Macdonald.

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

So here we have one more, puerile, student-politician act from the opposition, but we all know that the Senate has voted on the climate change legislation and that all we are doing now is preventing the Clerk from reading the titles of the bills. That must be huge victory for the opposition—they must be very proud of themselves for delaying the Clerk's reading of the titles of the bills! I think they ought to grow up, accept the decision of the Senate and move on.

I look forward to them supporting the Steel Transformation Plan Bill now rather than stacking the speakers list with people to make the same puerile contributions, full of abuse and arguments about process. Quite frankly, you have had nothing to contribute to this debate. We will not be supporting the suspension. Let the Liberal Party knock themselves out, because they are irrelevant to any proper debate in this chamber.

12:53 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Evans asked the opposition to accept the decision of the Senate; but the opposition says that the Senate should accept the decision of the people. This is an infamous day in the history of parliamentary democracy in Australia because there has never been, I dare say, an occasion in all of our 110-year history when this parliament has so flagrantly violated a commitment made to the people at the election which preceded it.

Senator Evans takes Senator Abetz to task for repeating what Senator Evans chooses to call 'the same old, tired arguments'. But, Senator Evans, as you scurry out of the chamber, let me remind you of this: the truth does not change from one day to the next and the truth, as everyone in this chamber and everyone in this country knows, is that the Australian Labor Party went to the last election promising that there would be no carbon tax under any government led by Julia Gillard, that the Labor Party made that promise because they knew they were staring defeat in the face and that, had they not made that promise, they would not have won the 2010 election. But no sooner did they cobble together their alliance of infamy with the Australian Greens party than they reversed that commitment. Every Labor senator who voted for these bills knows that, in voting for these bills, they voted to betray the Australian people.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate takes the opposition to task for what he chooses to call 'procedural stunts'. We are determined to fight these bills tooth and nail with every parliamentary process at our disposal because we know the Australian people expect no less of us. The 60 per cent and more—that is, a margin of some two to one—of the Australian people who do not want this carbon tax would expect nothing less of us.

There was an occasion within the memory of most people in this chamber when a major structural change to the Australian economy was proposed—it was called the GST. But the difference there was that the Howard government, which proposed the GST, one of the great true reforms of recent Australian history, took it to an election. Mr Howard won that election at considerable political cost but he won that election. What the Australian Labor Party have done is introduce what they call 'a great reform' in defiance of the result of an election. But I say through you, Mr Deputy President, to Labor senators: you will not escape your electoral reckoning. You might have run away from the issue of the carbon tax at the 2010 election, but at the next Australian election—whenever it is; whether it be next year or the year after—this will come back to haunt you. You will wear your betrayal of the Australian people—your flagrant breach of promise to the Australian people—like a crown of thorns, and you will not escape their judgment.

Some years ago, the former Premier of Queensland, Mr Wayne Goss, said of the Keating government in the context of the imminent 1996 election that people were 'waiting on their verandas with baseball bats' to give the government the message—they were waiting quietly but they were not going to miss them. I do not know how quietly the Australian people are waiting for their opportunity to pass judgment on this government and its cynical betrayal of its solemn commitment to them last time, but waiting they surely are and when the Australian people have the opportunity to have a say on whether they, the great sweep of Australian working families, want a carbon tax, not whether Senator Bob Brown and the Greens want a carbon tax or whether a ragtag bunch of people in the gallery want a carbon tax, the voice of the forgotten people—

Senator Cormann interjecting

the forgotten working families, Senator Cormann—will be heard. They will be given the opportunity then which this government has cynically contrived to deny them today—and, Senator Ludwig, they will not miss you.

12:58 pm

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

'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. They are the words that the Leader of the Australian Labor Party took to the last election. It was that commitment that every Labor Party candidate ran on in the election. I think it is instructive to look at why Ms Gillard made that commitment. She made that commitment because she knew that, if she told the truth at that last election, her party would have been annihilated. She also knew that the introduction of a carbon tax would not make one iota of difference to the changing climate of the world. She understood that the only thing a carbon tax would do would be to send Australian jobs offshore, send Australian workers into a state where unemployment would become rife. She knew that this carbon tax was bad policy and, because of that, she lied to the Australian people. She promised the Australian people she would not have this tax and then, as soon as it depended upon the keys to the Lodge, she changed her mind.

No Australian will ever forget that commitment, which Ms Gillard deliberately broke, and no Australian will forget the dishonesty of every single Labor member of parliament who campaigned in the last election against a carbon tax. A mere 12 months later, those Australians who believed the Labor Party and accepted that they would not introduce a carbon tax now find themselves with a job-destroying tax that will change the face of Australia. Australians will not forget. The way the Australian public was lied to is something which, regardless of political affiliations and regardless of your belief or otherwise in climate change and man's contribution to it, people will never forget. Australians will never forget that this is a policy based on a lie.

It has been raised before and we continue to ask Labor Party politicians: if you have changed your mind and now think that this tax is so good and that Australians actually want it, then why would you not do the honest thing, as John Howard did, and take this particular policy initiative to the people of Australia? If you are so confident it is good, if you are so confident it is what Australians want, then why would you not take it to an election? Why would you not give the Australian people a say in this new policy, which you promised not to introduce? Again, the answer is clear. Mr Acting Deputy President Furner, I ask you, Senator Ludwig and anyone else from the Labor Party who is in this chamber—and I see that none of them are terribly interested in this debate—if it is so good, why would you not go to an election? The answer again is obvious.

The motion of Senator Abetz should be supported. I think the Senate should be debating the duplicity of Australian Labor Party members who before the last election promised their constituents one thing and immediately they got in did another. The important part about this is that for all the promises we are getting about compensation from Ms Gillard, promises of help to every family, no Australian believes her. And why would they? Everything Ms Gillard says henceforth will not be believed by the Australian public because they have had one experience of her. She promised never to bring in a carbon tax and she has done it. Anything else she promises the Australian people will be treated with disdain by them, and rightly so.

1:03 pm

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to make a short contribution to this debate. In doing so I would like to draw your attention, Mr Acting Deputy President, to two key things that happened here today. One was out of the mouths of babes: Senator Milne and Senator Bob Brown talking about power sharing. This is what the Australian Labor Party has got itself into—a situation where they are now power sharing with the Australian Greens. And the other aspect of this was the galleries today. They were full. They were full of Labor staffers. Where were the Australians who were due down here to vent their anger about the carbon tax? There is a group of lefties sitting at the other end there and there were trendy lefties, and the rest of them, quite frankly, were Labor Party staffers. People did not come here today, because they do not believe this government and they most certainly do not believe in this package of bills.

I want to mention five people in particular. I send out a very clear message to these five people and to others behind them. They are the most marginal Labor members in the other place and I will go through their seats: they are the members for Corangamite, Deakin, Greenway, Robertson and Lindsay. Can I tell every one of them: we are coming for you. I want to talk about two in particular, two gutless wonders who do not have the intestinal fortitude to speak on these bills—and they just happen to be the two most marginal seats in the other place; what a remarkable coincidence—the member for Corangamite and the member for Deakin. The two most marginal Labor members in this country did not speak on this debate. Why would they not speak on this debate? Because they know, we know and those sitting opposite know that they were elected on the back of a lie. As a patron senator for Corangamite, I well remember the Prime Minister coming down and repeating the promise that there would be no carbon tax under a government that she led, with the member for Corangamite standing beside her and nodding in agreement.

There has been a lot of talk about what the Prime Minister has said, but I want to repeat the words of the Treasurer of this country, the second most important person politically in this country. On 15 August on Meet the Press the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said:

... what we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax ...

and again, on The 7.30 Report, he said:

We have made our position very clear. We have ruled it out.

This is a government elected on the back of a lie. Every Labor member of parliament was elected on the back of a lie.

As Senator Abetz, Senator Brandis and all my colleagues said in the last week before these bills were gagged, you are not here on the back of a proper election; you do not deserve to be in this place; you can only deserve to be here if you go back to the polls and let the Australian people make the decision, as they should have in the first place. Mr Acting Deputy President, you saw the looks on the faces of those opposite today—because they knew that the poisoned chalice had been delivered to the Australian Labor Party.

As I said here last week, you are a party that have abrogated your philosophical lives to the Australian Greens. In the space of 18 bills you have given up the right to call yourselves the Australian Labor Party. You are now in a power-sharing arrangement with a group of people who are philosophically opposed to the great majority of those who sit opposite. But you sit there like lemmings and follow a Prime Minister who lied her way into office. What is going to happen is the Australian people will make sure that the person who lied her way into office is removed from office.

Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Ronaldson, I seek your withdrawal of that comment towards the Prime Minister. I find that unparliamentary.

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President, I do not wish to debate this matter with you, but I will just say that it must have been said in this chamber a thousand times that the Prime Minister and this government were elected on the back of a lie. If you are now telling me that that is unparliamentary, that is fine. But I draw to your attention that it has been used, as it should have been, on many, many, many occasions during this debate.

Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am still seeking your withdrawal on that matter, Senator Ronaldson. This has been debated in this chamber on many occasions and reflecting on one person's conduct or character has been considered unparliamentary in the past.

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President, in due—

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

Withdraw. Do as you are told!

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

deference to your position, I will withdraw. But I do not need to be advised by a couple of parliamentary lightweights like the senator opposite—nor indeed the man who will be responsible single-handedly for bringing down the Australian Labor Party and driving this economy and this country into a state of economic decline that I do not think we have ever seen, and we will see it again.

I see the smug look from Senator Bob Brown, and I think to myself, 'Surely those opposite are not prepared to let this man power-share any longer.' Let's go back to the polls. Let the Australian people— (Time expired)

1:10 pm

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

This is a sad day for some on this side of the parliament but it is a joyous day for others—and it will be a diabolical day for the Labor Party. You have to congratulate Senator Bob Brown. He has performed magnificently and he had led the Labor Party into oblivion. I have never seen anything like it. I have never seen a person who has totally different views from the blue-collar workers of Australia being able to swing a whole party, like a bunch of lemmings going over the cliff. You have to congratulate Senator Brown. He has captured the Labor Party. All that clapping in the gallery when Senator Brown got up to speak reminded me very much of the Labor Party vote slipping and slipping and just ebbing out. While the Greens were rising, the Labor Party was falling.

This legislation is going to start to take effect on 1 July 2013 and the first volley will be when people get their electricity bills. And it will not be going up 10 per cent. It might go up 10 per cent in the homes and you will probably stand that. It will hurt people. It will hurt the pensioners. It will hurt the unemployed. Maybe people can afford it, but where it is going to hit hard is when, on top of all the state charges, it goes up 30 per cent in industry. Every industry is going to have to pay an increase of 30 per cent. As Senator Joyce referred to today, the only way we have a manufacturing sector is by embracing cheap energy, which we have an abundance of. But the Labor Party and the Greens want to even it up a bit and take our advantage away from us.

I cannot see how you get out of this one. I cannot see how the Labor Party get out of this. I cannot see how they got into it. Why would you sell out your soul and your blue-collar workers—the people who have supported you and paid their union fees and religiously turned up to hand out your how-to-vote cards? How could you sell them out? How could you be conned by a bunch of Greens, who are really the socialist alliance and the hard, hard left of the parliament?

You got a warning shot today when Coogee factory said, 'We are going to close down a whole factory and put a huge number of people out of work and we will go overseas.' Rio Tinto are selling their refineries—and the carbon tax has not even come in yet. The carbon tax has 18 months to go. It has not come in yet and already we are seeing casualties—people are already leaving. Rio Tinto have got their refineries on the market. Someone rang me the other day and said, 'I cannot survive a carbon tax.' It was the last tanner in Australia and represented the kangaroo industry. There is a flow-on effect of that to rural Australia. In every little town there is a little kangaroo box out and the shooters shoot into that. It goes to the tannery and they make very high-quality leather. That is to go. You are going to see a domino effect sweeping across Australia. It has already started. I do not know how you ever got into this situation. How could you fall for a bunch of people like the Greens? You know what they are like. They are the hard, hard left, the anti-Semites. They are the socialist left and you are traipsing along behind them. You are going to pay a very heavy price. It has been a great victory for Bob Brown and his nine supporters over there, but it is going to be the most terrible loss for the Labor Party. We will never forget this and the people will never forget the betrayal that you have inflicted on them. (Time expired)

Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time for this debate has expired. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Abetz be agreed to.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bills read a third time.