Carbon Pricing

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Defence Materiel) (16:02): The best part of that speech is that it is over—15 minutes of just rancid negativity. The member for Indi, who has now left the chamber, has been going around Australia with the Leader of the Opposition pretending to be the worker’s friend, pretending to be the worker’s champion. What a fraud, what an absolute hoax.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper): Order! The minister should withdraw the term ‘fraud’.

Mr CLARE: I withdraw. I wonder whether the member for Indi tells those workers what she said in the Work Choices debate when she said that Work Choices was “big but fair”. The fact is that there is only one champion of Australian workers in this place and it is the Australian Labor Party. We are the ones with the runs on the board. We are the party that established workers’ compensation, that established the workers’ pension, that introduced universal superannuation and that got rid of Work Choices—and it is good to see the architect of Work Choices, the member for Mayo, in the chamber today. We are the party that has helped create 750,000 jobs in the last three years. At the same time in the United States there have been six million jobs lost. Before the global recession, unemployment in Australia and the United States was under five per cent. Unemployment in Australia now is 5.3 per cent and in the United States it is now 9.1 per cent. It tells us that we made the right decision and that the Liberal Party made the wrong decision in opposing the stimulus. If we had not acted, unemployment today would be more like it is in the United States—eight or nine per cent. The fact is that unemployment goes up quickly but takes a long, long time to come down. It would have taken five, maybe 10 years, before unemployment reached the level that it is again today. That would have meant a decade of unemployment for a generation of workers.

What does the Leader of the Opposition say about this? In his first major speech as the Leader of the Opposition on economic matters in March 2010, he said:

The economic stimulus wasn’t necessary to strengthen Australia’s economy at a time of global recession …

It was a speech called ‘Economic Fundamentals’—and he got it fundamentally wrong. It shows bad economic judgment. But his judgment is bad on other things as well, because, if those opposite really cared about jobs, really cared about Australian industry, they would vote for the minerals resource rent tax. Think about this: over the last two weeks BHP has announced its largest profit ever on record—over $23 billion, their highest ever. On the other side of the country you have got BlueScope Steel, another great Australian company, announcing a $1 billion loss. A high Australian dollar has helped to create a two-speed economy and this is one of the best examples of it. Miners are earning more, pushing up the value of the Australian dollar, and that is making it harder for Australian industries like manufacturing. It is only fair, then, and it only makes sense, that mining companies pay a little bit more to help other industries like BlueScope Steel, like the industries that the member for Indi pretends to care about, to pay a little bit less.

Mr Briggs interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Mayo will have the opportunity of participating in the debate if he seeks and gets the call.

Mr CLARE: The Leader of the Opposition is displaying the same bad judgment when it comes to climate change. Now, remember this: on both sides of the House both major parties agree that we should cut our emissions by five per cent by 2020. The debate is not about how much we should cut it by – the debate is about what is the best and cheapest way to do that.

The advice from Treasury is that the opposition’s plan will be twice as expensive as the government’s plan. The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald says the same thing. That is the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Coal Association—all major Australian industries under the banner of Australian Industry Greenhouse Network saying the same thing that the opposition’s plan to cut emissions by five per cent by 2020 is twice as expensive as the government’s.

Think about this: if you had to drive a car from Canberra to Sydney and you had a choice between two cars, one of which cost $50 in petrol and the other cost $100 in petrol, you would choose the cheaper one. Anyone with any nous would. It is as simple as that. That is what we are doing. We are selecting the cheapest and most efficient way to cut emissions by five per cent by 2020. The fact that the Leader of the Opposition has not chosen this path goes to his economic judgment. Paul Kelly made this point a couple of weeks ago in the Australian on 31 August. He said:

It was said correctly of Howard before the 96 election that the public knew him and trusted him on the economy. That claim cannot not be made of Abbott.

That was Paul Kelly in the Australian in August this year and he was spot on. Remember this is the Leader of the Opposition who slept through the vote in this chamber—five divisions in this chamber—on whether we should stimulate the economy to stop a recession. He cared so much about it then he did not even turn up for the vote. This is the Leader of the Opposition who appointed Barnaby Joyce as his chief financial advisor. This is the Leader of the Opposition who went to the last election with a $10 billion hole in his costings and now just a year later it has blown out to a $70 billion black hole. Just to put that $70 billion black hole into perspective, that is about the same amount of cuts that the Greek government has to make and it is about the same amount as the New Zealand government’s budget. His economic judgment is so bad that he has taken to attacking every economist that does not agree with him on this issue of how we tackle climate change. Members may remember his attack on economists just a couple of months ago, when he said:

So it may well be that Australian economists think that a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme is the way to go. Maybe that is a comment on the quality of our economists, rather than on the merits of the argument.

Do you know who this reminds me of? It reminds me of the former member for Oxley, Pauline Hanson in her famous 60 Minutes interview in 1996. I remember when she was confronted by the facts from the department of immigration about Asian immigration which showed that in fact we were not in fact being swamped by Asians. What did Pauline Hanson say then? ‘They’re just book figures. I don’t believe them.’ This is what the Leader of the Opposition doing now: to him they are just book figures. He is acting more like Hanson than Menzies, more like Hanson than Howard.

Everything that he says now on climate change or putting a price on carbon is proving to be wrong. Whether it is for the cement industry or steel or aluminium or Qantas, it has all turned out to be nonsense, just hysterical nonsense, all made up. There is no better example of this than the coal industry. Remember what the Leader of the Opposition said about coal? He said it would be the “death of the coal industry.” What happened the day after we made the announcement? Peabody Coal announced the biggest takeover offer for a coal company in Australia’s history—$4.7 billion for Macarthur Coal. That is a lot of money; that is not the sort of money you would invest if you thought that this was going to be the death of the coal industry. The fact is that the coal industry has a great future. The member opposite knows that. You do not need to be Bob Woodward to work that out. Remember Watergate? Remember Bob Woodward’s old mate Deep Throat? What did he used to say? He used to say, ‘Just follow the money’.

To work out if this Leader of the Opposition’s scare campaign is genuine, just follow the money. That is what I have done. I have looked at the share registry of all of those members opposite to see if they are investing in energy or coal companies since we made the announcement of the carbon price. Last month the member for Wentworth declared shares in Winmar Resources. Senator Adams declared shares in the Woodside Petroleum group, BHP, Duet and Ski Construction. Senator Cash took shares in Asciano group, BHP, Amoco, OneSteel, Woodside Petroleum. Senator Fisher declared shares in Reclaim Industries, Terranim, Westfarmers. Senator Humphries declared that he bought shares in AGL Energy, APA, Bow Energy, OZ Minerals, Woodside Petroleum, Newcrest Mining. The member for Stirling bought shares in Newland Resources, GR Engineering. The member for Brisbane bought 88,333 shares in Australian Pacific Coal. It is not the sort of thing you would do if you thought the coal industry was going to die. The member for Kooyong acquired Woodside Petroleum shares. The member for Flynn bought 10,000 shares in the East Energy Resources group. Senator Ronaldson bought Galaxy Resources shares. My old mate, the member for Fadden, has bought shares in Conquest Mining. Senator Johnson Mt Magnet Mining, Redback Mining.

Follow the money if you want to find the truth and I will tell you this: you will find it out. Since we made the announcement on the carbon price one in six members of the opposition have bought shares in resource companies and these are the people who are going around their electorate saying it is going to destroy the coal industry, it is going to destroy the economy. They come in here and say, ‘It is going to frighten off investment.’ It certainly has not frightened of investment on the other side has it?

Instead of listening to what they are saying in here look at what they are buying and you will find out as Deep Throat said, ‘Follow the money.’ They are either pretty stupid or they do not believe what the Leader of the Opposition is saying. What takes the cake is the Leader of the Opposition’s claim that this is all “socialism dressed up as environmentalism”. Who would have thought that John Howard was the red under the bed all along. If John Howard had won the 2007 election we would have an emissions trading system right now and those members opposite who were elected in the 2007 election would all have voted for it. They would have voted for the type of scheme they are opposing now, including the Leader of the Opposition. What is he saying now? Suddenly this thing that he would have voted for if John Howard was elected is socialism dressed up as environmentalism. What is he doing to try to stop socialism dressed up as environmentalism? He is organising a workers’ revolt so he can replace it with a centrally planned system. It just shows how ridiculous and how desperate this scare campaign has become.

Mr Sidebottom interjecting—

Mr CLARE: Let me tell you this party, this parliament and this country is still capable of important reform and we will prove that in the days and weeks ahead.