Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (3.06 pm)-I move:
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by Senators Cormann and Bushby today, relating to carbon pricing.
Senator Wong’s contribution today was a terrific demonstration as to why the Australian public have stopped listening to this government.
Legitimate debate on the subject of a carbon tax is characterised by this government as an activity of denying.
Whenever the coalition poses legitimate questions, the word ‘denier’ is hurled. It is hurled across the chamber like a clove of garlic to ward off the evil ones who dare question any element of this government’s policy, who dare question a carbon tax.
Labor have a positively medieval approach to debates and inquiry. They use the words of belief when it comes to public policy. Labor members and senators often say, ‘I believe in an ETS,’ or ‘I believe in a carbon tax,’ not, ‘I think the best policy response to the challenge of climate change is an ETS or a carbon tax.’
They say, ‘I believe.’ It is a perverse and bizarre way to express concepts and policy positions in public debate.
But when Senator Wong and her colleagues hurl the word ‘denier’ at the opposition when we question the value, efficacy and cost-of-living impacts of a carbon tax they also smear millions of Australians who think that action is required but who doubt the government’s plan.
They smear millions of Australians who are worried about cost-of-living pressures. They smear millions of Australians who think the government already tax the community and business enough, and they smear millions of Australians who are only too aware of the government’s chronic maladministration.
When the government are not talking about deniers and accusing people of being deniers, they talk about scaremongers. It is really not the fault of the opposition that Prime Minister Gillard took the public and the opposition by surprise by coming out and saying she was going to introduce a carbon tax, exactly what she said before the election she would not do. That is not our fault.
And it is not the fault of the opposition that the government released a completely half-baked climate action plan. We know that it would have been the case that that day in the courtyard there was a gap for a media opportunity and so the government thought, ‘Let’s come out with a half-baked climate action plan.’
That is not our fault; that is theirs. They have left a vacuum and the opposition is duty-bound to fill that vacuum by asking legitimate questions and by talking about the parameters of the price effects on Australian households.
The government can pretend all they like that their carbon tax plan is in some way analogous to the GST and the new tax system, that it is some great economic reform. Just calling something an economic reform does not make it so.
The contrast between the way the coalition government went about the new tax system and the GST and the way that this government is going about this carbon tax plan could not be more different.
When the coalition decided to introduce a GST and a new tax system, we took it to the Australian people. We took it to an election and got a mandate.
But, before doing that, we produced a complete plan. We produced 500 fact sheets going into every possible effect on every sort of business and every sort of household. We released cameos about the net impact on families.
But this government have not done that work. We saw the evidence of that on Q&A when Bill Shorten was asked what the effect would be on a birthday cake if the carbon tax were introduced. Bill Shorten blathered and blathered until Gretel Killeen could take no more and, for many of us, said, ‘This is just blah, blah, blah.’
This government do not have a plan for climate change, unlike the coalition. The government have noone to blame but themselves. They should stop blaming the opposition and start explaining their plan to the Australian people.