Thursday, 28 June 2012
Prime Minister; Censure
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately—That this House censure the Prime Minister for breaching faith with the Australian people by introducing the world's biggest carbon tax starting on Sunday and in particular for stating:
(1) six days before the election, that "there will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead";
(2) one day before the election, that "I rule out a carbon tax"; and
(3) on the day she took over as Prime Minister after knifing Kevin Rudd, that "I also believe that if we are to have a price on carbon … we need a deep and lasting community consensus about that—
What a red-letter day! The Prime Minister is sitting in this chamber for once to face a suspension motion. Presumably, she is prepared to respond at last and to explain why it is that she is so thoroughly misled and lied to the Australian people before the last election.
I withdraw, Madam Deputy Speaker. Standing orders must be suspended because Sunday is carbon tax day and this House needs the opportunity to censure this Prime Minister for introducing a bad tax based on a lie. This was the tax that was never, ever going to happen. It was a tax that would never happen, because we had the Prime Minister's word for it. We had her solemnly pledged word that the carbon tax would never happen.
That is why the Australian people are so angry about this tax. They are angry because they have not just been injured by this tax; they have been insulted by this tax. They have been insulted by a Prime Minister who said before the election that there would be no carbon tax, to win votes, and then to her everlasting shame agreed to a carbon tax to stay in office. This is a Prime Minister who sacrificed the welfare of the Australian people, who shredded her own credibility, who broke her own word, to save her job. That is the political crime that gnaws at this Prime Minister every hour of every day. That is the political crime which haunts this parliament. This is the political crime that is destroying this government, a government that lacks legitimacy not because it lacks a majority but because it lacks integrity. And it all starts over there. The Prime Minister is scribbling away, but she cannot wash away the stain on the soul of this government. That is why standing orders should be suspended.
Six days before the last election—and it was not just something that was blurted out, something that just slipped out in the heat of the moment—she made a solemn promise to the Australian people. At least 15 times I had said in the course of the last election campaign that as sure as night follows day there will be a carbon tax if this government is re-elected. So the Prime Minister quite deliberately with malice aforethought went on television and said, 'Trust me, there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.'
Because that was not enough—because people knew this Prime Minister already—one day before the last election she said, 'I rule out a carbon tax.' And she was not on her own. Her henchman over there, the Treasurer, described talk of a carbon tax as a 'hysterical allegation'. She went further to completely and absolutely bury the idea of any emissions trading scheme and the idea of a carbon tax. She said repeatedly during the campaign, 'Don't you worry about that,' because there was going to be a citizens assembly to look after all of that and nothing would happen, not a single thing would happen. This was to try to reassure the Australian people that not a single thing would happen until, in her words, 'a deep and lasting consensus was achieved. We don't have it now,' she said back then. Well, we certainly did not have it then and we certainly do not have it now.
I'll tell you what, Madam Deputy Speaker—and this is why standing orders must be suspended—there is a deep and lasting consensus on two things: first, that this carbon tax is a bad tax based on a lie and, second, you cannot trust a single commitment that this Prime Minister gives. That is the deep and lasting consensus that this Prime Minister has achieved.
Just imagine for a second—and this is why standing orders must be suspended—that members opposite do not change leaders. I think they will, but just imagine that they decide to persist with the current Prime Minister. She will be going into the election campaign time and time again giving solemn pledges on this, solemn pledges on that. She might even give a solemn pledge that no price will go up under 'the government I lead' because of the carbon tax. That was the pledge we got from the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Not a single pledge that this Prime Minister makes will be taken seriously by anyone. Not a single pledge will be taken seriously by anyone because this country is haunted by the memory of the big lie—'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.'
This is why standing orders should be suspended and this is why the Australian public feel so betrayed. Circumstances did not change—oh, no. One hundred and forty nine members of this parliament got elected saying there would be no carbon tax. So the Prime Minister cannot say she was forced by the member for Melbourne. Good old Adam Bandt; God, he is powerful! She cannot say, 'He forced me. Just one man forced me. Just one man twisted my arm to bring in this carbon tax.'
It was an absolute act of betrayal by a Prime Minister who was never straight with the Australian people. But I have to say—and this is why standing orders should be suspended—betrayal is the stock in trade of this Prime Minister. I regret to say it. It is a heavy thing to say of the Prime Minister of this country that betrayal is her stock in trade. But the member for Griffith knows that. The member for Griffith knows that only too well. He knows the protestations that she made in public and in private that his job was safe. He was betrayed over the prime ministership—
Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The Leader of the Opposition's attempts to now and again show he is speaking to the motion are surely insufficient. You really should ask him to address the motion before the chair.
Nothing is more important at this time than debating the integrity of the Prime Minister. That is why standing orders must be suspended. I was surprised that the Chief Government Whip took that point of order because he has been let down too. He was promised—
Standing orders must be suspended because the Australian people deserve to hear from the Prime Minister how on earth she justifies this travesty of a policy, the worst piece of economic policy that the former head of the Commonwealth Bank, David Murray, has seen in his lifetime. That is why standing orders should be suspended. There is a better way. There is a better way than following a government that has sold its soul to the Greens to damage the very workers who voted for it.
We heard from the Prime Minister that people could have their say. Give them a say; give them a vote. (Time expired)
I second the motion. The reason standing orders should be suspended is that the most important item that should be before the chamber today is the integrity of the Prime Minister. On Sunday, when the carbon tax is introduced, exhibit A in the case against the Prime Minister's integrity will be the broken promise that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. Standing orders should be suspended because this is a Prime Minister without integrity, without solutions and without a future. She promised she would stop the boats. She promised she would build a lasting consensus before she introduced any change on climate change, and she failed. She promised that she would fix the mining tax, and she failed. She promised she would lead a more transparent and accountable government, and she failed. And she promised that she would restore respect in the parliament and, my, how she has failed.
But the great conceit of this Prime Minister is that when she first announced the reversal of her position on the carbon tax and introduced a carbon tax she said she was just doing what John Howard had done on the goods and services tax. That was the great conceit—that she compared herself to John Howard. Prime Minister, I know John Howard, I served with John Howard, John Howard is a friend of mine and you are no John Howard.
Standing orders must be suspended because there is no more important matter that should be before the chamber today than the integrity of the Prime Minister. The caucus knows she has lost her integrity. The media know it. The public knows it. Finally, the Labor Party should put the Prime Minister and this government out of their misery.
Standing orders should not just be suspended because this Prime Minister has lost her integrity when it comes to introducing the biggest carbon tax in the world; they should be suspended because she showed the same lack of integrity to the member for Griffith, the former Attorney-General, former minister Kim Carr, the former Speaker—the current Speaker still maintains the position—and the member for Dobell. In fact, many of her staff have fallen on the funeral pyre of her pride and vanity. Why should any member of the caucus support a Prime Minister who expects them to go to the funeral pyre at the next election simply to protect the pride and vanity of an unworthy prime minister?
Standing orders should be suspended because the Prime Minister reminds me of a rabbit at a greyhound race meet. She is out the front, she is being pursued by the greyhounds behind her—the member for Griffith, the minister for local government, the Minister for Defence and, of course, the littlest minister of all, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Even if the Prime Minister had succeeded in any of the matters that she promised two years ago, standing orders should be suspended and this Prime Minister should be censured even for just one matter alone, and that was her most solemn promise, her absolute pledge, that there would be 'no carbon tax under a government I lead', which she followed up in order to ensure the Australian public could trust her. And could they trust her? I think all the evidence is to the contrary. You only have to look at the faces of the frontbench and the backbench this week in question time, to watch those frowns on the backbench, except for 'Rumpole' over there, who has got no feelings and does not know what is going on in his electorate because he does not live there—he lives in Toorak instead.
Madam Deputy Speaker, standing orders should be suspended and the Prime Minister should be censured because she lied to the Australian people before the election. She lied to the Australian people about a carbon tax.
I withdraw. Certainly what is true is that this is a bad tax built on a lie—without attributing it to the Prime Minister, but I think we all know who was responsible for it. The Prime Minister's time is up. The foreign minister's time is—
Opposition members interjecting—
exactly the kind of negative contributions you would expect from an opposition that has got no policies or plans for the nation's future. The Leader of the Opposition day after day believes that insults are substitutes for ideas. You cannot say that you want to be Prime Minister of this country and not offer one idea about the nation's future. Here we are in this parliament meeting a few days before two significant national reforms start: carbon pricing to transform us to a clean energy future and the minerals resource rent tax to share the benefits of the boom around the country. These are two transforming national reforms, just like the major national reforms of the past, like floating the dollar, like reducing tariff walls, like universal superannuation—transforming reforms—and all the Leader of the Opposition can offer in his case as to why the standing orders should suspended is a series of insults.
Has the Leader of the Opposition ever walked into this place and up to that dispatch box and said, 'Let's suspend standing orders because I've got an idea about how to make sure our nation has a better and more prosperous future'? Have you ever heard the Leader of the Opposition do that: walk in here and offer an idea? An idea about jobs? An idea about growing the national economy? An idea about improving our healthcare system? An idea about improving our schools? No, because he believes that in his relentless negativity he can hoodwink the Australian people. He has never offered one idea.
Standing orders should not be suspended to enable the Leader of the Opposition to further expose himself for his desperate and destructive negativity. The Leader of the Opposition is as worked up as he is today, as full of insults, because he can see 1 July looming. He can see Sunday looming. And he knows that from 1 July on he will be held to account for every negative reckless campaign claim he has made. He will be exposed to the Australian people when the coal industry continues to function and his backbench continue to buy shares in coalmining companies. He will be exposed when price rises—
Here we have it: the Leader of the Opposition in his weakness, in his inability to sustain a genuine debate. When we talk about ideas he goes for the cheap insults and the points of order because he knows that he will never be able to sustain a debate in this parliament on the facts. The facts at every stage are his enemy. He has claimed the end of the coal industry. It will function from 1 July. He has claimed astronomical price rises. That will not happen. He has claimed our economy will be in a permanent depression. That will not happen either. And the list of falsehoods just goes on and on and on.
To assist those who want to have an index at their fingers as the opposition leader's ridiculous claims get punctured after 1 July, we are providing members with this, Abbott's Little Book of Deceit, a ready reckoner—
The Leader of the Opposition is very fond of giving people lectures about honesty and is seeking a suspension of standing orders so he can continue his lectures. What the Leader of the Opposition does not want the Australian people to know is that he stood in the 2007 election alongside John Howard promising a price on carbon. He in his book Battlelines reflected on that price on carbon as a good thing. He is on the record as saying that action must be taken on climate change and it needs to be with a price on carbon.
Mr Tony Smith interjecting—
The opposition leader in his heart of hearts is a believer in a price on carbon. He stood on an election ticket to do it. He has talked of it approvingly on more than one occasion. But, of course, what the Leader of the Opposition has done is embark on a political campaign firstly to depose the member for Wentworth as Leader of the Opposition and then, in the absence of any ideas during the period that he has been Leader of the Opposition, to try and create a campaign for political profit. But the Leader of the Opposition's campaign is going to come to a shuddering halt, because the days of just going out there and making it up are coming to an end. Australians are a common-sense people. Even in days when they have been worried about big reforms in the past—whether it was floating the dollar, universal superannuation or Mabo and native title—Australians ultimately ended up judging from their own experiences. They ended up living it. They ended up forming their own judgments based on how they lived the experience. And, from 1 July, Australians will be able to live that experience. They will be able to go to the shops like Coles and Woolworths, and the prices will not have increased on 1 July. They will get their pay packet and they will see a tax cut. For some, they will move from paying tax to no tax. Think about the power of that: money that you worked hard for used to go to the tax man and now none of it goes to the tax man. You get to keep it all and to spend it on your family. Pensioners are seeing increases. There are increases in family payments.
And then, importantly, our nation will see a transformation to a clean energy future. Australians who have often looked up into our beautiful sky and seen the power of our sunshine and have asked themselves the question, 'Why don't we use that great solar resource?' will be able to see the development of a clean energy future. Australians who want to bequeath a planet to future generations with less carbon pollution will be able to know that their nation is taking the appropriate steps to achieve that. Our nation will be able to stand in the councils of the world alongside other nations who have priced carbon pollution, as our world works towards addressing this global challenge of climate change.
Whilst all of that happens the Leader of the Opposition will be out there with his tortured analogies—with his 'python' and his 'cobra' and his 'wrecking ball'—trying to explain to the Australian people why, month after month, day after day, he has misled them while, month after month, day after day, he has made false claims. I am looking forward to the return of this parliament after the start of carbon pricing, when the Leader of the Opposition's claims will have been proven to be hollow. What will the Leader of the Opposition say then? Well, I hope that he is man enough to apologise for the kind of reckless, destructive, aggressive, negative campaign he has run in the months in between, but I will not be holding my breath on that.
In the meantime, apart from delivering these nation-changing reforms, we will keep the economy strong, we will manage it in the interests of working people, we will continue to improve our hospitals, we will continue to improve our schools, we will treat our older generation with respect, and we will look after Australia's children with new policies to support them and their education. The Leader of the Opposition will be mired in his negativity, in his aggression and in his bitterness. In the meantime, we will keep leading the nation, leading it to a stronger and fairer future, because we are a Labor government and that is the Labor way.