SENATOR BIRMINGHAM: (South Australia) (4:33 PM) -It is a pleasure to lead the debate on this outstanding submission of Senator Fifield’s in relation to the matter of public importance debate, which is to focus on and highlight the Gillard government’s continued failure to accept responsibility for its broken promise not to introduce a carbon tax. This is the most crucial of debates taking place in this parliament and in the nation at this present time. It is crucial because it will go to the very heart of livelihoods and impact on every Australian family and every Australian household not just next year or the year after but for many, many years to come. It will place a burden on every Australian family and every Australian household if this government gets its way in implementing this broken promise for many, many years to come.
If we are talking about broken promises, it is worth going back and looking at some of the words of the Prime Minister. I would like to start with the Prime Minister on the very topic of broken promises. The Prime Minister back in March of 2009, before she was Prime Minister, stated:
I think when you go to an election and you give a promise to the Australian people, you should do everything in your power to honour that promise.
I am not sure what happened to that willingness and desire to do everything in her power to honour that promise. The Prime Minister in this case appears to have done everything in her power and everything possible to break that promise.
Senator Feeney wants to talk about the election outcome. He knows that that is just a furphy. He knows full well, like everybody else, that the Australian Greens were always going to hold the balance of power in this chamber in this new parliament and that this government or the opposition, whoever won the election, was going to have to deal with that reality. The Prime Minister knew it, everybody knew it, it was clear for all to see and she should have realised that. If she thought she could not work with them on whatever it is that she claims to have wanted, which during the election campaign was little more than the great talkfest of the citizens’ assembly, then she should not have made the promise that she did make. Back when she was education minister she stated:
… if we want to debate promises made and promises delivered bring it on is what I say.
Well, she has that wish now in her life as Prime Minister. We will debate promises made and promises broken by this government, and we will debate them time and time and time again because of their impact on the Australian people. We debate them because the promises were so categorical and clear cut. There could be no more clear-cut statement made in the election campaign than that of the Prime Minister on the Channel 10 news, five days before the election, staring down the barrel of that television camera when she said:
There will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead.
She followed it up a couple of days later in the Australian, a day before the election, with a big headline and big statement, which was even more concise and with even fewer words:
I rule out a carbon tax.
We all know that politicians sometimes find ways to nuance their words and to put their words in terms that leave a little bit of wriggle room. The Prime Minister left no wriggle room. The Prime Minister gave no nuance. The Prime Minister made clear-cut categorical promises to the Australian people, promises she now proposes to break.
As if this misleading was not bad enough, as if this mistruth was not bad enough going into the election, in trying to sell this carbon tax now and its impact on every Australian family, the government is piling mistruth upon mistruth. It seems every government minister is now going out there into the community trying to run some type of con job to convince people that this carbon tax will not have the impact that anybody who gives it a moment’s thought realises that it will.
Let us take Mr Crean, the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government who said the other day that:
We will return all of the money raised to people through the tax mechanism.
He was suggesting very clearly in his statement that all the money raised by the carbon tax would go back to Australian families, Australian households and Australian people. We know that is not true because today in question time Senator Wong stood up and said, ‘Well, some of it will go to industry and some of it will go to climate change measures’-obviously things that Senator Milne has on her wish list. In fact, at best 50 per cent of the funds raised by this carbon tax will somehow, in a great wealth redistribution plan, be churned back around and given back to parts of the Australian community.
Potentially most households will end up worse off under this plan. We know that because much of the modelling was already done in the CPRS debate. We know that the type of prices that Professor Garnaut talked about in his paper released last week-the paper that is clearly providing the template for where the government will go, the paper that is all anybody has to work on because the government refuses to release any details themselves-will put up the price of electricity by $300 per year per household at the start of this process. We know there will potentially be an impact on petrol prices of 6c to 7c per litre every time you fill up the car. We know that this will flow through everything in the Australian economy, everything that every Australian does. Every time they go out of their home, every time they do virtually anything within their home, they will pay a price for this.
It is not just Mr Crean who is laying mistruths upon mistruths in this. It is also the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mr Combet, when he proclaimed that he ‘does not expect any significant impact on the overall cost of living out of our carbon price.’ That is quite clearly untrue. Firstly, if there was no impact on the cost of living, why do you need a compensation mechanism? Secondly, it is quite clear that the compensation mechanism will only go to some Australian households and that many millions of them will be left worse off, that there will be a significant impact. So it is mistruth after mistruth built, of course, upon the Prime Minister’s grandest mistruth of them all.
What are we going to see from this government as this debate progresses? We will see that they will dig deep into the pockets of taxpayers once again to fund some government advertising to try to get them out of this, just as they did with the mining tax. We are going to see it come around again on a climate change campaign or a carbon tax campaign. Do not shake your head, Senator Feeney. You, of course, will probably be the architect of this advertising campaign, given your background. You will be the one sitting there making sure that its political messages are crafted because every dollar you spend as a government on this carbon tax campaign will be politically motivated. It will be entirely politically motivated. We will see at least a $30 million campaign, if not more, coming to taxpayers.
But what did the Prime Minister once have to say about government funded advertising? She said:
Labor will end the abuse of taxpayer funded government advertising.
She put that clearly in 2007 running into the election campaign that year. They were her words then. She said:
I am always worried when the Government takes taxpayers’ money and uses it for its own politics, to try and save its political hide, rather than in the interests of the nation …
This is what this government is going to do. It will be yet another broken promise. It will be yet another mistruth told to the Australian people. They will spend millions of taxpayer dollars to construct a political message about climate change and this carbon tax. It will all be to the ends of, to use the Prime Minister’s own words, trying to save their political hide. That is what it will be about-saving their political hide.
In 2007 she also said that many people talked to her about how much they resented these taxpayer funded advertisements on their TV screen every time they tried to watch a program. I believe Australians are all well aware how much their money is being wasted through these advertisements. Mark my words, Acting Deputy President and Senator Feeney, when Australian people see these advertisements they will see through them. They will see it as a waste of taxpayer money. They will know you are trying to implement a con job and they will know that it is yet another mistruth from this government, one of so many in this debate. The government is so unwilling to provide any detail or any certainty as to what on earth they are proposing.