GRANT GOLDMAN: Now, Australians concerned about Julia Gillard’s carbon tax must speak now or forever hold their peace [almost]. That’s what Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham has said today. We have him on the line. Morning, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Grant. Good morning to your listeners.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Yes, and I think you’ve picked up on something, that there are quite a few members of the Labor Party really believing that they’re going down the wrong path and of course they get shouted down at Caucus level and they have to toe the company line, so to speak.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we’re seeing that again and again, it seems, in the Labor Party, that, whether it’s on the carbon tax, whether it’s on how to handle asylum seekers and offshore processing, whether it’s on many, many issues, the Labor Party Caucus speaks with one voice sometimes, or at least individual members do, but overall their judgment is flawed and Julia Gillard keeps leading them down the wrong path just as Kevin Rudd did before, so… but this carbon tax is obviously really the big one in terms of the direct impact on Australians’ cost of living, on the competitiveness of Australia and on jobs and Australia’s future place in terms of how we compete with the rest of the world.
GRANT GOLDMAN: No doubt about that. Look, there’s a report in The [Daily] Telegraph today – electricity bills will jump by 53 per cent over the next four decades due to the carbon tax and subsequent emissions trading scheme, and this is from Treasury models, so the Prime Minister would not want to be hearing that.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No, indeed, and that’s just it. This is… of course, Treasury modelling has shown that there will be a significant impact on the cost of living, that people’s gas, electricity and water bills in particular will rise sharply. The housing industry’s said the cost of building a new home will rise by around $5000, yet we have the ridiculous situation where the Parliament is having these bills rushed through, that the alliance the Labor Party has built with the Greens, the Independents, they’ve all colluded to ensure the bills can be rushed through the Parliament…
GRANT GOLDMAN: Rushed? Six days?! Six days to make submissions on 19 bills totalling more than 1100 pages? You’d hardly get a word in edgeways.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, that’s right and in fact this is the real problem we have here, that normal and proper parliamentary process has been thrown out the window on this. They’ve torn up the rulebook and have instead created a special committee that will last for just three weeks, that has given the public just six days to comment on these 19 bills related to the carbon tax that will give Australia more than 1100 pages of new laws. The idea that anybody can really give a thorough and strategic consideration to it in the timeframe allowed is, of course, just ridiculous, but even in terms of the Treasury modelling to which you referred earlier, we had the ridiculous and amazing situation yesterday where the Government only released this modelling six minutes – and I genuinely mean minutes – before Treasury officials fronted this inquiry to answer some questions. I and all of the other members, including the Labor members, were totally unable to actually read the modelling before we had to ask questions on it. That’s just patently ridiculous, and shows the contempt that the Government has, not just for Australians to give their views on the carbon tax but also for proper parliamentary process.
GRANT GOLDMAN: You’ve been around a long time and you know the old line ‘by the people, for the people’ when it comes to politics, and isn’t it interesting how Julia Gillard absolutely understands that Australians don’t want this tax, yet the sheer arrogance of it all, pushing it through? Why do you think she’s not listening to the Australian people?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: She clearly wants to push this through and is desperately hoping that people will somehow forget about it once it’s implemented but people, of course, won’t forget about it when their electricity prices go up and when their gas prices go up and their water prices go up and the cost of new homes goes up. They will see well and truly the impact of the carbon tax and over time, of course, we’ll see the impact in terms of the competitiveness of the Australian industry and what that means for jobs in the manufacturing sector and elsewhere but I would urge Australians both in the very short term – as in today – to not be stifled by this rushed parliamentary inquiry, the once chance for Australian people to have their say on the parliamentary record. A submission doesn’t have to be anything too detailed. Just flick an email through to the parliamentary committee into the carbon tax and at least it will have your say on the record. Now, over the long term I’d urge Australians not to let Julia Gillard get away with thinking that if she rushes it through now, we will somehow forget about it later on. This has to be an issue right through and up until the next election.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, how can you forget about it later on when it obviously becomes a huge financial impost on the Australian people? You can’t!
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think that’s just it. She is kidding herself if she believes that Australians will forget about this issue. People are angry that she lied to them at the last election, they are angry about what the impact will be for cost of living, they’re angry about what the impact will be on jobs and competitiveness and that they will unfortunately see the consequences of this legislation, assuming it does pass the Parliament as it looks set to do so, over the years to come.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Good to talk to you. Thank you for your time this morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Always a pleasure, mate.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Senator Simon Birmingham. He’s a Liberal Senator for South Australia.