JOURNALIST: Simon, this Wednesday we’ll see the final vote on the carbon tax in the Lower House [unclear]. Will it be passed?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, it looks like this legislation will be passed. That would be a tragedy for the Australian economy and it would be a curse for many years to come, unless it is wound back, but most significantly what we’ll see this week is that 72 Labor MPs will betray their electorates – Labor MPs who went to the last election saying they wouldn’t support a carbon tax will this week vote for it and each of those MPs needs to explain why they’re betraying their electorate, why they’re failing to give the Australian people a real choice on the carbon tax.
JOURNALIST: A think a car just went past at the start there so I might just get you to… I might start that again just quickly. Obviously it looks set to get passed but real dangers [unclear].
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This week we may well see the carbon tax passed but if it does that will be a tragedy for the Australian electorate, a tragedy for the Australian economy and it will have repercussions felt for many, many years to come, but worst of all we’ll see 72 Labor MPs betray their electorates – betray their electorates by doing the exact opposite of what they said they’d do at the last election by going into the Parliament and voting for a carbon tax. Labor MPs from around Australia need to explain why they’re voting for a tax they said they wouldn’t introduce, why they’re voting a tax they won’t give the Australian people a choice about.
JOURNALIST: The Minister, Greg Combet, was in the media this morning saying that there’s going to be some changes made. One of them is allowing, I think, larger airlines, fuel users to opt into the scheme, also making it easier in concessions for local government. What’s your views on those two issues?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, this whole legislation is being rushed through the Parliament with undue haste. We’re seeing last minute changes enacted to legislation that is more than 1100 pages in depth and yet the Parliament’s been given just a few weeks to consider it. That’s a terrible state of affairs. If this thing is to be passed it deserves decent consideration, not the ramming through we have at present. We will see ‘guillotines’ applied in the House of Reps and the Senate just to see debate gagged because Labor won’t listen to people.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This week we’ll see debate gagged in the House of Reps, debate will no doubt be gagged in the Senate. Labor don’t want to listen to the Australian people. They don’t want to let the Parliament have a decent debate on this. They need to answer as to why they won’t heed the calls for this to be put to an election.
JOURNALIST: So the fact that they’re making these changes at the last minute to do with airlines and to do with local government… it shows that it’s policy on the run?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’re seeing an absolute situation of policy on the run, a Government doing what it said it wouldn’t do and now making hasty changes to fix up for many, many mistakes that we’ll no doubt see in this terrible legislation that will ultimately have devastating effects.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: What we’ll see this week is each of the 72 Labor MPs engage in an act of betrayal against their electorate. All Labor MPs went to the last election claiming they would vote against the carbon tax and this week all 72 of them will vote for the carbon tax in a massive act of betrayal against voters right around Australia.
JOURNALIST: [unclear]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, there’s nothing novel about Governments getting legislation through the House of Representatives. That, in theory, is meant to happen with every Government all of the time. What’s novel about this is a Prime Minister betraying the Australian electorate and 72 Labor MPs betraying each of their constituencies. They need to answer to their voters why they haven’t given the Australian people a real choice on the carbon tax.
JOURNALIST: [unclear]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Our expectation is that a vote of this significance demands all Members of the House of Representatives present. Our expectation is that 72 Labor MPs will turn up and vote against the wishes of the electorate – vote against what they said they would do at the last election.
JOURNALIST: [unclear]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This is a bad tax and it will have terrible effects for the Australian economy, not just in the short term but especially in the medium term. We’ll campaign every single day between now and whenever the next election is and we’ll campaign on the clear basis that we will oppose it, as we are, in opposition and repeal it in government.
JOURNALIST: [unclear]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This is a terribly rushed process for legislation of this nature. We’ve seen a farcical Parliamentary inquiry put into it; we will see the ‘guillotine’ applied in the House of Reps; we will no doubt see debate ‘guillotined’ in the Senate but we won’t see proper Parliamentary debate for a legislative reform that is just so substantial for the Australian economy. That is something that the Government should stand condemned for. So many Labor people attacked previous times when Governments pushed things through in a hurry, yet now we have the hypocrisy of them of course doing the exact opposite this time around and actually rushing through the carbon tax legislation against the wishes of the Australian electorate.
JOURNALIST: [unclear]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Government Ministers like Penny Wong were the first to criticise the rushed approach to legislation like WorkChoices. They were right then and their comments are right today. In the end, the carbon tax is a bad policy that’s being rushed through and this Government should stand condemned for not giving the Australian people a real say on this. More than 4½ thousand people managed to make submissions to the Parliamentary inquiry in just six days. That is a phenomenal response over such a short period of time. Those people should have been heard yet they were silenced.