Well, isn't this interesting—Senator Cameron on the other side of this chamber telling us we have no economic credibility! I am sorry. Isn't this the government that just a couple of weeks ago increased its borrowings from $200 billion to $250 billion? Mind you, colleagues, they did not give us a chance to actually scrutinise this. Oh, no—they slipped it in with the appropriations bill. Of course, we all know that parliament accedes to those things so the operation of government can happen. They tried to hide it away—$250 billion. Do you know how much we are going to be paying in interest every day over the next financial year, Senator Cash? Fifteen million dollars a day in interest. So, Senator Cameron, do not sit on that side of the chamber and lecture this side of this chamber, which left you with a surplus, about our economic credibility.
The Australian people now are in absolutely no doubt whatsoever about what the government thinks of them. What the Carbon Tax Plebiscite Bill 2011 does is give the Australian people a say. It gives the Australian people the opportunity to say whether or not they want a carbon tax. What did Senator Cameron just call that opportunity? A mindless political stunt. Senator Cameron and the Labor government think that giving the Australian people a say is a mindless political stunt. To anybody out there who might be watching this or who might at some point be reading this, that is what this Labor government under Julia Gillard thinks of you. It thinks that giving you a say is a mindless political stunt. I would say that any Australian, having been told that, would think: 'What is this government going on about? Why can't we have a say? Why can't we consider whether or not we as Australian families, workers and individuals want to actually have a carbon tax?' But, oh no: this government will not do that.
Why don't you stay, Senator Cameron? Why don't you stay? It might be nice if you actually stayed here for the debate. Let us just have a look at Senator Cameron. Isn't it interesting when he talks about mindless political stunts? Mindless? The only other thing he was talking about as being mindless was his colleagues when he called them all zombies. That was the last mindless thing that Senator Cameron was talking about. So it is quite interesting to see him stand here today and lecture us when all we are doing is attempting to give the Australian people a say on whether or not they want a carbon tax.
Of course, a plebiscite would have a cost, and Senator Cameron has just raised that—$80 million. The hypocrisy from Senator Cameron and this government saying there is a cost attached to this plebiscite! Let me tell you, Mr Deputy President: they spent $80.9 million on administering an emissions trading scheme that does not even exist. And Senator Cameron has the hypocrisy to sit on that side of the chamber and tell us we are potentially wasting money. It is just extraordinary.
The Australian people are waking up to this government, and thank goodness they are. How dare this government try to introduce a carbon tax, the biggest single issue that this country has had to deal with for decades, without letting the Australian people have a say—those mums and dads living in the suburbs in Sydney, those farmers out there in regional Australia, those workers, those truckies driving across the country, those people working in small businesses, those people in schools teaching, those nurses and those doctors? Everybody across the community has no chance to have a say and to tell this government whether or not they want a carbon tax. That is simply wrong, because we know that before the last election this Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having managed to get to the position of leader of the Australian Labor Party through means that were somewhat less than elegant, said to the Australian people, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' It is always good for prime ministers to be very clear about what they say and to be very clear in their intent. There can be nothing taken out of context when you know exactly what they say and that that is what they mean. Julia Gillard said, 'There will be no carbon tax under any government I lead.'
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Nash! I let it go the first time, but you must refer to the Prime Minister by her correct title—and all members of the House of Representatives.
Senator NASH: I must indeed. Which correct title, Mr Deputy President? There are probably several. But I shall use 'Prime Minister'. I do apologise, Mr Deputy President. The Prime Minister said to the Australian people in the election campaign—we can only assume it was a promise to the Australian people—'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' And what has she done? She has turned around and said to the Australian people: 'Oh, sorry about that—bit of a slip. There's actually going to be a carbon tax.' That is appalling. That is absolutely appalling.
Senator Ronaldson: How would you describe something like that?
Senator NASH: I shall take that interjection; thank you very much, Senator Ronaldson. How would you describe something like that? I think the question would probably best be directed to the Australian people about what they think about having been lied to by the Prime Minister.
Senator Cash: Yes, that's a novel idea!
Senator NASH: That is a novel idea; thank you, Senator Cash! That is a very novel idea! Ask the Australian people—there's an idea. That is exactly what we are putting forward today. We are putting forward the opportunity for them to have a say. We are putting forward the opportunity for them to be able to say to the Prime Minister and this Labor government whether or not they want a carbon tax. How dare the Prime Minister say: 'I know what's best for you; you can have a carbon tax, and I'm not going to listen to you. Not only am I not going to listen to you, but I'm not even going to give you an opportunity to tell me what you think. Somewhere in between these elections, I will actually bring in this carbon tax and I will not give you a say on whether or not you want it.' That is about the lowest point this country has got to for a long, long period of time. Mr Acting Deputy President, I draw your attention to—and I am sure my good colleague Senator Scullion remembers this from the campaign—the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, on 15 August 2010, saying when discussing the issue of whether or not there would be a carbon tax, 'Certainly, what we rejected was this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax.' That is very interesting. Apparently my coalition colleagues and I, having said during the last election campaign that this government would be bringing in a carbon tax, were making a hysterical allegation.
Senator Cash: Oh?
Senator Furner: You mean a scare campaign!
Senator NASH: Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Apparently, Senator Cash, we were not hysterical after all. Apparently we were just spot on the money. We were dead right, and we were absolutely correct when before the last election we tried to warn the Australian people that there would be a carbon tax.
Senator Furner: I know a scare campaign when I see one.
Senator NASH: 'A scare campaign,' Senator Furner says. Since when did putting the facts in front of the Australian people become as scare campaign? It is not and you and all of your colleagues on the other side of the chamber know it very well, Senator Furner. This is not a scare campaign. This is about telling the Australian people like it is—and they are listening. They are listening because they know what the ramifications of this are going to be. They know what the impact of this carbon tax is going to be. It is going to be disastrous.
But let me return to the 'hysterical allegation' that the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said we were making by saying that this government was going to bring in a carbon tax. As I said, apparently it was not hysterical. Apparently if you are hysterical you are correct. Interestingly the Labor member for Wakefield, Nick Champion, said in June:
It's important that people get it right and we have a measured and patient debate about it—
the carbon tax—
and not a hysterical debate that (Opposition Leader) Tony Abbott wants.
Apparently we were hysterical when before the last election we said there was going to be a carbon tax, so one can only assume that if we are being hysterical now, warning about the ramifications of this, we are right again.
I fear for the future of this country with a carbon tax in place, I truly do. I might be a parliamentarian, but first and foremost I am a wife and a mother of two teenage boys. Those boys are going to have to deal with this carbon tax in the years to come. There is nothing—no benefit—to come from this whatsoever. I worry for them and all of the other young people around this country who are going to have this carbon tax foisted on them having had no opportunity ever to have say about whether or not they want it. That is appalling. It is absolutely right and proper and appropriate for this side of the chamber to try and fix it so that the Australian people can have a say, because the impacts of this are going to be disastrous.
Why have we got it? Let us have a look at why we are going to have this carbon tax. It comes right back to the government, which can now only be described—and I am sure Senator Bob Brown actually likes this description—as the Labor-Greens government. I am sure he must like that description because he has already indicated that one day a Green will be in the Lodge and that the Greens will move to take over the Labor Party—oh, sorry, take over the Labor Party's space. I wonder what the Labor Party thought about that when on Monday Senator Brown so very humbly said that they may well move to take over and be even more important than the Labor Party. I do apologise, Senator Brown, that I am not quoting you directly, but I hope I am giving the essence in the correct context.
Senator Bob Brown: No, you're getting it completely wrong.
Senator NASH: Senator Brown says I am getting it completely wrong. I am sure he will clarify that for us later. What does not need any clarification is the fact that we have this Labor-Greens government running the country. Let me point out to my colleagues that there are 226 members of parliament, of which you are all very well aware. How many members of parliament do the Greens have? Ten—two hands—10 out of 226.
Senator Cash: That's it?
Senator NASH: That is it. Thank you, Senator Cash. I was surprised too, when I had a close look. There are 10 out of 226, and the way things are going at the moment the Greens are running the country. I know they are probably very happy every time we say that, but let me tell you that the Australian people out there are not. I am happy to place on record that Senator Bob Brown got 1½ million votes; 1½ million voted for him—11 million did not. It is quite extraordinary that we have this situation with a carbon tax coming in as a result of the Labor-Greens government when the Greens have 10 out of 226 members of parliament and 1.5 million votes out of 12½ million. It does not sound like a really good case for democracy to me. It does not really sound like the majority of the Australian people having their say. It does not really sound like what the Australian people want is actually happening. I do not think it really sounds like that at all.
There is something really interesting, and perhaps one of the Labor senators can indicate about it in one of the times that they get to make remarks—and I am sure before Sunday there will be masses of briefings on the carbon tax to all the backbencher. Tell me, Senator Furner, do you think the Greens are going to get their briefing before the Labor backbench does? I would be very interested to know that before the end of this debate. Wouldn't it be interesting, Senator Adams, if in fact the Prime Minister were planning on briefing the Greens before she briefed her own backbench?
Senator Cash: Maybe she has briefed them. Maybe they have been briefed.
Senator NASH: There may well already have been a briefing. I am not privy to any of this information. But I think it is important that the question is asked. If, all of a sudden, the Greens have become more important to the Prime Minister than her own backbench, then I am sure that her very own backbench would be rather upset. They would be rather upset to think that Bob Brown and his nine—10 all up, out of 226 members of parliament—would get a briefing from the Prime Minister on something this important before the Labor backbench did. But who knows? Maybe somebody can clarify that for us throughout the course of the debate.
This carbon tax is something the Australian people are going to have to deal with as one of the biggest issues this country has seen in a very, very long time. I am so concerned about the impact of this. I do not think I have ever been more concerned about the potential impact of a piece of legislation. And, Senator Furner, it is not scaremongering. This is not scaremongering. We are not hysterical. We are out there every day trying to explain to the Australian people what the impacts and the ramifications of having a carbon tax in this country are going to be. They are going to be devastating on the cost of living, of food and of some aspects of fuel—goodness knows what we are going to hear on Sunday.
I put the government on notice: if you even try to touch the diesel fuel rebate—if you even try to touch the arrangements for off-road vehicles—a storm will come down on your head, the likes of which you have never seen. That excise is not paid because vehicles are off-road vehicles; that excise goes to road users because they use the roads. There is a very good reason that those off-road vehicles do not pay that excise. I say to the Prime Minister right now: do not even think about changing those arrangements, or the wrath of regional Australia will land on your doorstep.
It is not just that. There are so many areas where there will be an impact, and the impact on farmers and regional communities is going to be the greatest. Even Ross Garnaut said in his report that farmers, more than most other Australians, will face higher fuel and transport costs under the proposed tax. Certainly fuel might have been removed from the scheme for some users—who would know? We will find out on Monday. But I bet you pounds to peanuts it will still be on transport, which is a key component for regional communities. That is why this carbon tax will be so much worse for regional Australia—because of transport, because of the tyranny of distance. It costs more to get everything to the regions than it does to deliver it into a city area. That puts costs on everything, right across the board.
The extraordinary thing is that at the end of the day, in spite of all the bleating from the government on the other side of the chamber, it does not matter whether you believe man is contributing to global warming or not. This carbon tax is not going to make the slightest bit of difference to the climate. That is something that we on this side of the chamber understand and that those out there in the community are starting to understand. They realise that we are going to put thousands of jobs at risk. We know that industry is going to move offshore. We know that the anticompetitive nature of bringing this carbon tax in is going to be huge. We know the impact it is going to have on our businesses.
I am particularly concerned as a regional, Nationals senator about the effect this is going to have on our farmers and our regional communities, because the effect it will have on farmers will flow right through those communities. Everybody out there knows that when the agricultural sector is not doing well it flows right through, down our main streets, to the newsagents, the clothes shops, the service stations on the corner, the teachers, the schools, policing, the numbers in schools—everything. It flows right through.
We have the NFF saying that if fuel used in agricultural production is included then the tax will slug beef producers with an extra $7,000 in costs every year and that cotton-farming families are going to face a five per cent cut to their farm income. It goes on and on and on. And for what? We are going to have a seismic shift in our economy that is going to hit families, carers, individuals, hip pockets right across the country. This government will stand up and say, 'No, it's not going to do that, because we are going to compensate.' What a load of rubbish.
Those emitters are going to pass those costs on, and when we move to an emissions trading scheme—which this government says we will—the price will fluctuate. Is the Prime Minister going to compensate people when that price is fluctuating day by day? Who knows where it is going to end up? It will be pushed by traders. It might get to the $100 a tonne that Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young would like to see, and that is not good enough. The Australian people deserve better. They deserve to have a say on this carbon tax. They deserve the opportunity to have their voice heard on this very important issue.
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