Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (4:18 PM) —Let me just clarify a couple of things. Senator Cameron suggested that the Labor Party won the election. It is on the record that the Labor Party is sitting in government, but if the people had their will, if the people had their say, things might be different. The people of Lyne and the people of New England make up the two most conservative seats in Australia, with a Labor Party vote of eight per cent in New England and 13 per cent in Lyne. New England has had one Labor member, in 1913. If those members had voted the way their electors wanted and the way those electors will in the next election, we would be sitting over there and you would be sitting over here.
That is not going to happen. We live by a system; I recognise the system. They made the decision against the will of the people. I accept that and all you can do is suck it in and take it. But let us put it on the record that an electorate with an eight per cent Labor vote voted for the Labor government: Mr Windsor put a Labor government in with a vote for the Labor Party in his electorate of eight per cent. Mr Oakeshott with a vote of 13 per cent for Labor in his electorate voted for a Labor-Green government. Let us put that on the record first.
I opened this debate many years ago. Some things have changed and some things remain the same. I remember when I asked a question, Senator Wong lectured me that we were in the middle of a drought and she had to do this for farmers. The farmers would respond and thank them. Things have changed. Dams were then at 17 per cent; they are now at 97 per cent full. The Murray is flowing. It has rained. Australia is harvesting its biggest wheat crop ever.
The thing that has changed is that the Greens have formed an alliance with the government. Whether it is an alliance, a coalition or an agreement, in this nation the de facto deputy prime minister is now Bob Brown. Bob Brown is the deputy prime minister of this country.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Crossin)—Senator Boswell, I need to remind you that you need to refer to senators in this place by their proper title.
Senator BOSWELL —I will do that, Madam Acting Deputy President. The government went to the election with a commitment: ‘There will be no ETS and no carbon tax.’ It went to the election with that commitment. On a billboard very close to my home, there was a picture depicting the Green candidate saying, ‘We will not backflip on a carbon tax.’ I knew then and there that we were going to get a carbon tax if the government were elected. Why did I know that? Because I knew the government would not have the guts to stand up to the Greens. It has never had the guts to stand up to the Greens, and the problem is this: the Greens have got stronger and stronger and stronger and the government has got weaker and weaker and weaker till it is at the point where it cannot win an election without the Greens, so it has to bow its knee to the Greens every time. Every time there is a toss-up or argument between the Greens and the government, you can put your money on the Greens: they will always win.
That is why I knew there was going to be a carbon tax. The carbon tax is back on. We are going to have a committee to examine it. Everyone on that committee has to be a signed-up ETS supporter. That committee will burn the clock down till the Senate changes, and then when the Greens get the balance of power in this house we will come down with a carbon tax. There is no doubt about it in my mind, because the Greens once again will win. It is the blue-collar workers that will lose, and their jobs will be on the line, but the Labor Party considers them just voting fodder. Let me issue a warning to the Labor Party. Let me illustrate what happened in Queensland when the Labor Party decided to thumb its nose at the blue-collar workers and close their fishing grounds, something the blue-collar workers could understand. What happened? Every seat down the coast bar one fell to the Liberal National Party. You are riding into another storm like that.
This is the problem I have with Senator Cameron’s proposition if we go down this track and listen to what he says and what the report says. I can come up with as many reports as he can that will defy exactly what was in that report. The reports are out there. The icecaps are melting; the icecaps are building up. The sea is rising; the sea is falling. Temperatures are going up; temperatures are going down. You can get just about any report you want. But let us assume for the sake of argument that Senator Cameron is right. I do not accept it, but let us say that he is right. I have an open mind on it. Let us say that he is right. We could reduce our emissions to nothing tomorrow and it would not make the slightest bit of difference to the temperature of the world or the climate changes in the world. That is where I have this basic argument. What are we going to do? Penalise our own industries, sack our own workers, destroy our industries and destroy our way of life for nothing?
I want to refer to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald after the Copenhagen conference. The article says:
On his return from Copenhagen, the Indian Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, told Parliament his mandate had been to protect India’s right to fast economic growth, and listed killing off binding targets to reducing emissions as a key victory for his country.
Does that sound as if we are going to head for universal climate controls right across the world? He then said:
… Brazil, South Africa, India and China—had worked to protect the rights of the developing world.
How can we, as sensible Australians that are responsible for the economic wellbeing of this country, say there is going to be a world commitment on climate change when Indian members of parliament are proudly saying that they stopped this in Copenhagen?
But let us not even worry about India. Let us put India aside for a moment. In the last couple of weeks in America, the biggest economy in the world and a country that is aligned to us in many ways, during the election campaign they had a vote in the Senate. There is an article in Green Energy Reporter headed ‘Senate Democrats kill cap-and-trade bill’. It says:
Cap-and-trade is officially dead. This afternoon Senate Democrats—
not the Republicans but the Democrats—
in a caucus meeting, decided not to pursue legislation that would seek to cap carbon and other green house gases by pricing them, a market-friendly scheme known as cap-and-trade.
So America has walked out on it. These are the Democrats, the people that pursued climate change policy. They cannot get their votes. While it is true that a filibuster presented a high barrier for any climate energy action, the reality is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might have struggled to get 51 per cent support for the stronger bill, because Democrats from various areas, such as John D. Rockefeller, Evan Bayh from Indiana and many other Democrats, have seen that it would penalise jobs for their workers.
This is the Green tail wagging the government dog. The Greens are wagging the dog. There is no chance at all that India, China or Brazil can do this. They cannot do it. America has a 10 per cent unemployment problem—9.6, to be accurate—and it will not move. The government has tried many ways to shift it, but it is locked in at 9.6 per cent. Do you think that the American Congress and Senate are going to be so stupid to drive that 9.6 per cent unemployment upwards? There are going to be huge changes in the mid-term elections, and no-one is going to be that stupid and increase the unemployment rate.
Senator Sherry, you know this, I know it and so does every other person who is sensible in this parliament. How can India, with its poverty and its people living in squalor—living in cardboard boxes or near open sewers—penalise its own industry and increase its already probably 20 per cent unemployment? Its mission must be to get its people reasonably well fed, accommodated and clothed. That must be its priority.
But, no, the Labor Party thinks that magic is going to happen in the world and that every country in the world is going to sign up. If you could guarantee it, or if you could accommodate it—if you could make it work—then you may get some support on emissions trading. But the unfortunate thing is that it is not going to happen. All we are going to do is penalise our own workers, penalise our own industries and penalise the primary industries. And to what avail? So we can say, ‘Australia led the way. We led the way in this brand new world that Senator Brown wants to take us to’—as deputy prime minister of this new government. It is a world of higher taxes, taxes on mining, taxes on carbon, increased costs for transport, no new coal mines and no refurbishment of the existing coal mines.
But you can say this for Senator Brown: he is totally wrong. He has no concern for anyone else. He will always be able to get a quid; he is a doctor—he can hang his shingle out and get his couple of hundred thousand a year—but he has no consideration for the rest of the people. But at least he sticks to his guns. You guys cannot stick to your guns. You do not know whether you want to back this. You do not want to back it. You backed out of it because you could see a catastrophe coming in the election and then you got cold feet. Now you want to back it again. You are on a hiding to nothing. If you could confirm that the rest of the world will do it then I think you would have some chance of doing it. But there is as much chance of that as an ice cream existing in hell. It just will not happen.
If Australia wants to go ahead, we are going to fly solo. Not many people in the rest of the world will follow us. You will put a carbon tax on mining, have no new coal mines, increase transport costs and introduce gay marriages. This is the world where no other nation wants to go. The Labor Party does not want to go there, but they are being dragged along by the junior member of the coalition. It is being dragged along to where the tail is wagging the dog.
If we go down this path, we are going to go virtually on our own. We are going to penalise every industry in Australia. We are going to penalise our high standard of living. We are going to penalise our four per cent unemployment level. We should all be overjoyed that we have got that. The government claims that the stimulus package got us out of trouble. We claim that we paid all the debt off and left a float in the till. Maybe there is bit of truth in both. But what keeps Australia strong? What is our forte—our strength? Why do we have this low unemployment? I suggest it is because we have industries. We have export industries getting our minerals out to the world at the lowest possible cost and in the most efficient way that we can meet the market, and they employ hundreds and thousands of people right across this great nation.
We can process bauxite into aluminium. But we have got to do it with low power costs. Already, with the threat of this new tax one of the aluminium companies has said, ‘We’ve got to stop and think a bit before we put another project into Western Australia.’ We have got to allow BlueScope and OneSteel to be able to meet competition coming in from cheap Chinese steel mills. They make a better product, but we have got to allow them to exist. We cannot handicap them by putting a tax on and making a higher cost of electricity. The town of Whyalla depends on it.
We have got to be able to let our industries compete. The dairy industry, the cattle industry and the processing industry for both of them employ hundreds and thousands of people right across regional Australia, and the last ETS was going to penalise them severely. These industries are already struggling under a high dollar. It is due to great mining prospects, but it is penalising these industries that we need to employ people.
I reiterate: unless we have a reasonable degree of knowing that the rest of the world is going to come with us we are going to achieve absolutely nothing. We are not going to reduce the CO2 emissions. If we close down the new coal generators tomorrow then in six month’s time the new coal generation in China would take out every bit of gain that Australia has made and sacrificed for. What is the point of this? Why are we going to do this? What will our achievement be if the rest of the world does not follow? Why do we have to penalise our workers? Why do we have to penalise regional Australian manufacturers of cheese, milk powder operators and Goulburn Valley dairy companies? Why do we have to do this? It is because the Greens want it, and the government is not strong enough to stand up to them.
There is an old axiom: ‘He who feeds the tiger gets eaten last.’ And you, the Labor Party, have come within one seat of being eaten. If there had been a true indication of what the people wanted, and the member for Lyne and the member for New England had voted the way their people had elected them to vote, you would have been eaten. You have had a near-death experience. I would advise you not to ever touch this. You have seen what happens when you ignore the blue-collar worker. You saw it in Queensland. You saw the blue-collar workers say, ‘Hey, I don’t mind the Labor Party, but when the Labor Party joins the Greens it’s time for us to get out and vote for the coalition.’ And that is exactly what happened—every seat fell, bar three or four. You put one hand in the fan and lost all its fingers, and now you are going to put your other hand in the fan and you will lose all those fingers too. You are on a hiding to nothing. Unless you can get a world commitment on this, drop it like a hot cake.