Since I have been in this place there have been a lot of firsts for me, as you can imagine. But this morning a whole new precedent has been established. I have always thought that those on the other side were a bit lost, in many ways. But the level of duplicity, the level of dishonesty, we have seen today, not only to the Australian people but directly in this parliament, has left many of us on this side quite gobsmacked. There seems to be a constant theme in the government’s behaviour with regard to the carbon tax and how we have gone about instigating the carbon tax. The theme is that everything seems to be done in the interests of the Labor Party. If it has the opportunity to move in the interests of our nation on the one hand or in the interests of the Labor Party on the other, every single time the government has said: ‘We’re going to move in the interests of the Labor Party’. The events of this morning are a slap in the face for every Australian; the Leader of the Government in the Senate, via a media release, has basically taken away any credibility the government had in this argument. We have had this big debate, but we need to have a look at this carefully. We need to have a look at a number of pieces of legislation that are going to have the most fundamental impact on the future of Australia, probably since Federation. They kept contracting that, but in a moment of contrition they said, ‘No, we’ll extend the sitting days by a week to ensure that we can have a proper debate and a sufficient period in committee to drill down and find out about each and every person’s particular sectoral interests’—whether it is a spatial interest, particularly in the Territory, or some other sectoral interest. But that has now been denied to us, with them saying, ‘No, we’re going to truncate that until Tuesday.’ There is no real reason at all for that, only that it is in the interests of the Labor Party because it is all becoming too grim. The media, including newspapers, and Australians are becoming more and more offended and inflamed by the truncation of the debate and the issues that the debate is bringing out.
It is no surprise that I rise today to declare I will not be supporting the bills to create this toxic tax. This is consistent with the position I have taken for some time. I spoke at length to the people of the Northern Territory on a whole range of matters prior to the election—I was on talkback radio, TV and all the stuff that politicians generally do—and I was quizzed at length about my position and my party’s position on a whole range of matters. One of the fundamental matters people put to me was: ‘Where do you stand on a carbon tax, Senator? What are you going to do about a carbon tax?’ I said, ‘Look, we’re not interested in a carbon tax,’ quite clearly. It was a bit of an issue.
I recall that much of the debate was all about whether the government would introduce a carbon tax. We said, ‘It looks like they might.’ ‘Hysterical,’ they said. ‘Duplicitous,’ they said. Labor said, ‘These people aren’t to be believed, of course we won’t.’ And then we had the historical comment by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard: ‘There will not be a carbon tax under a government that I lead.’ It was a fundamental promise—absolutely unequivocal. The reason it was unequivocal is that she knew that the interests of her political party would not be served by losing an election. That election was there to be lost by them telling the Australian people that they were going to pursue a carbon tax. It was there to be lost. And when it came to the question of choosing between what is in Australia’s national interest and what is in the interest of the Labor Party, for that bunch on the other side there was no question at all. Their response has always been to say, ‘Let’s increase the interests of our own political movement over the interests of this nation and our people.’
It is a toxic tax. There is no doubt about that. It has been acknowledged by those opposite—for what little they can be believed, and by what little modelling they have released—that this is certainly going to have a significant impact on the cost of living—over $500 a year increase. As Australians we all know that, wherever we live, the cost of living is acute. Electricity prices have risen by 51 per cent since 2007, gas prices have risen by 30 per cent, water and sewage rates up by 46 per cent, health costs up by 20 per cent, education costs up 24 per cent and rent up 20 per cent. It affects individuals and communities. It is a tax that is going to put up prices. Just like the 10 per cent increase in electricity prices and the nine per cent increase in gas prices—all of these things are going to go up again. If you thought you were doing it hard today then after this tax it will certainly be an awful lot harder.
Those on the other side have pontificated on the adjustments. They say that it is going to be all right. In her contribution, Senator Crossin said that if you are a pensioner in the Northern Territory it is going to be okay because a couple would get an extra $255 a year each. I am not sure where they are going to splash their extra $5 a week but it is not going to go too far. In the same contribution, she said that items were only going to go up by 10c each. You do not get too many items in the bottom of your shopping trolley before $5 a week is exhausted. She also went on to say: ‘I don’t know what we’re worried about. If you get a truck that goes from Sydney to Melbourne, it’s only another 35 bucks or 7c a litre. It’s nothing.’ As a Territorian, I am not surprised she is quoting Sydney prices for fuel! Anybody who lives in Darwin or elsewhere in the Territory will say that it is going to be an inordinately worse issue if you are trying to purchase fuel in Darwin. By the way, Senator Crossin, it is a bit further from Adelaide to Darwin than it is from Sydney to Melbourne. These are all increases in prices and this is a toxic tax on remoteness. The further you are away from the capital cities the more you will pay, as if you are not paying enough already.
This is not a fixed tax. For the pensioners who will be ‘delighted’ with their 70c a day—thanks a lot for that!—the tax is going to go up. Whilst their adjustment is apparently locked in—their last lock in—we know that the carbon tax is going to go up. We are told by the government modelling that it is going to creep up and by 2016 it is going to be $29 a tonne and by 2020 it is going to be $37 a tonne. There are other economic modellers who say it is going to be $49 a tonne by 2016. The Greens believe that if it is not $50 a tonne it is not going to make any difference. So you can guarantee the compensation will be fixed and the pain will be flexible and only going one way. This could not really happen at a worse time. If you asked anyone around the world, ‘If you could pick a year when you would impose an economy-wide tax, what would it be?’ I do not think there would be any surprises to any clear thinking Australians that the answer would not be 2011, right now. Globally we are looking down the barrel after the sham in Europe. A week later it is already falling apart. We know that there is massive uncertainty in the global economy. And this is the time we have chosen to put an economy-wide tax on Australians.
If you go back to why we are doing it, it just seems crazy; it is nuts. It is not because we are worried about Australia; it is because we are worried about the Labor Party. The only way the Labor Party could have been in power is with the handshake of the Greens. The Greens said, ‘We are not going to sit with you and give you government unless you promise us a carbon tax.’ I do not believe anyone on the other side. They have been so duplicitous. They have a history of disinformation and duplicitous behaviour. But that is not why I do not believe them. In their eyes I can see they do not believe in a carbon tax. They did not believe in a carbon tax before the election and they do not believe in a carbon tax now, but it is in the interests of the Labor Party to be in power and so they have sold Australia out. The only issue is about timing. That is the only thing that they have been thinking about.
I remember one quotation from a senator opposite. She said, ‘I am very pleased to be standing supporting the package of clean energy bills because the rest of the world is acting and our economy and our environment will be badly damaged unless Australia acts too.’ It is a special quotation out of the Labor dirge. But I am not so sure whereabouts on the planet it is that Senator Crossin says they are acting. Perhaps, as we all suspect, it is a different planet, because there is no country in the world that is imposing an economy-wide carbon price. This is a fact. The United States, one would think, is a comparable economy, with pretty big numbers. It has an impact and is a major trading partner. Are they moving to a carbon price? They have abandoned their cap and trade and could not be standing further away from it. We are always making comparisons with Europe. They actually have a price on carbon, but it is not economy wide. Many industries in fact get free permits, so there is not a lot of comparison there. Instead of the size we are looking at, theirs is $500 million a year, against a $9 billion-a-year imposition, a $9 billion tax. It just beggars belief. We have heard: ‘China is acting. China is out there, a big economy. They are only going to increase their emissions by 500 per cent by 2020.’ We breathe a sigh of relief.
What were you thinking? Sorry, that’s right: you were thinking about yourselves. You certainly could not have been thinking about Australians, our communities, our families, our individuals. You once again took the easy line and just thought about your own interests.
As part of the debate, this side of the chamber has had direct action. That side of the chamber has said, ‘We want a price on carbon.’ They have lied about it to the Australian people. But both sides agree that by 2020 we would have a five per cent reduction. Our five per cent reduction is ordered and we know we can get it; there is no question about that. But those on the other side have decided to weld themselves to a process whereby there is going to be a carbon market from 2016. There is going to be a carbon market under which we can buy credits. In fact, we are not actually going to reduce emissions in Australia; we are going to increase the amount of our emissions by 43 million tonnes. That is what this government is going to do. They said, ‘We are going to increase by 43 million tonnes, and we have been a bit lazy about that, but it’s okay, because we’re going to buy carbon credits.’ I have to say that carbon credits are probably not the most universally credible piece of currency around the place. Europe is awash with fraud and convictions; that is well known. But we are going to buy these from someone. Not only are we going to buy them from someone but we are going to buy them in a market that does not exist. It is all a little strange.
Again, I am not surprised that they come to this place to say, ‘We were going to give it full scrutiny for another week’, because there has been a bit of argy-bargy. We are talking about the carbon tax and people are starting to focus on it a bit. I am not quite sure exactly how the conversation went but I am sure it went something like this: ‘Well, guys, do you think we really need a committee stage? It might ventilate the issue a bit and we are not doing very well. Why don’t we just cut the process of transparency out? What if those nasty buggers on the other side start asking us questions about the impact on our national interest? What if they start asking some questions about the basis of the assumption that there is actually going to be a market to sell carbon in?’
There was an excellent article by Greg Sheridan in the Australian. He interviewed the Canadian foreign minister, John Baird and asked Baird whether Canada would join an international carbon trade. He said, ‘There is nothing to join. Where is it going on today?’ I know that those on the other side have got the earmuffs on and have locked themselves down in Dalek mode, but the rest of the world knows what is going on and is not acting. There is not going to be a market for carbon. You will not be able to throw away Australia’s $3.5 billion—and that rolls off the tongue so casually—in all sorts of weird places to buy weird pieces of paper. That is not even going to be able to happen. Do they have a plan B? I am not surprised that they do not really want to open themselves to that sort of level of scrutiny in terms of the committee stage. There is no doubt at all in my mind that the Greens are fundamentalist lemmings that are racing towards the cliff of reality. There is no doubt about that. But at least they have been consistent. The glint I see in their eyes is the glint of passion about what they believe in. But the glint I see in the eyes of those opposite is a glint of self-interest and of duplicity. I frankly cannot understand why they do not get that the Australian people are in the sports stores not to buy funny hats; they are there to buy baseball bats and they are waiting for the election—they cannot wait. I am constantly harassed by people saying, ‘Why do we have to wait?’ People say: ‘Can’t we just get a tank, Nige? They’re doing it in the rest of the world.’ They are all so frustrated. And this level of frustration comes because Australians themselves know that they are going to be the ones to pay for this duplicitous behaviour. Those on the other side I notice are shaking their heads. Senator, did you tell your electorate before the election that you were going to support a carbon tax? I am sure Hansard and every record in your electorate would say that you stood up, with Gillard, and said ‘No, no, they’re making it up.’
Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. The good senator is well aware of the protocol of referring to people in the other place and he should at least show respect to the Prime Minister. I ask him to use her proper title.
I was in fact referring to you, Senator—no-one else.
THE ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT:
Please sit down, Senator Scullion. Senator Polley.
He referred to ‘Gillard’, and it is totally inappropriate.
THE ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT:
I did not hear that reference.
I believe I did say that. I withdraw it and I refer to the Prime Minister. Senator Polley, I was referring to—
THE ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT:
Senator Scullion, the other point is, of course, to direct your remarks through the chair.
Through the chair, I was directing my remarks at Senator Polley—and all those on the other side. I did not hear one of you say before the election: ‘By the way, I am going to be standing in the Senate saying: I absolutely support a carbon tax. I couldn’t get a carbon tax in quick enough.’ In fact, we have to get it in so quickly, we have to truncate the processes of the Senate, so we cannot actually question you properly.
Senator Polley interjecting—
Senator Polley, any time you want to stand up in here and tell me what you told your electorate before the election, you can do so. In fact, there is an opportunity for you to give a speech in this place to clarify for your electorate exactly how you are going to vote on this matter.
It is with great sadness that I stand in this place somewhat confused. We have reached an all-time low not only in how the government treat parliament but, through that process, how they treat their nation. It is with the utmost arrogance that they believe they will somehow get away with this. They will somehow go through this process and all will be forgiven. It will be all right. They think that they will get to the election and Australians will forget what they have done to them and will forget that they put their personal interests and the interests of their party before this nation. Let me tell you: they will not.
This is a toxic tax that does nothing for our national interest. It is a toxic tax that does absolutely nothing for the global environment. It is a toxic tax that does absolutely nothing for individuals, for families and for communities that are currently doing it very, very hard. They care, and they care sufficiently, and they understand all those things. They were very concerned about that before the election. As I said, I commend the Greens for their consistent approach: lemmings but consistent. But those on the other side, who have said to Australians, ‘We are not going to have a carbon tax if you vote for us’ lied to the Australian people, and the Australian people cannot wait to get to an election. I cannot support this toxic tax. (Time expired)
Download media release:
111103 Second Reading – Carbon tax package.pdf