Fuel excise debate

Labor will vote against the Government’s plans to increase fuel excises because of the cost of living impact on low and middle income earners. It's also a tax on regional and rural Australia. Today I spoke on the Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill, suggesting that if the National Party had any integrity it would stand up against the petrol tax too.



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

In this debate we have seen a notable lack of speakers from the Nationals. This is the Liberal tail wagging the Nationals dog.

Members of the National Party are happy to come in here and cast a vote that will raise fuel taxes on their electors. And they know full well—as the Leader of the Nationals and the Deputy Prime Minister has outlined—that this is a tax on distance.

This is a tax that will fall disproportionately on those in the largest electorates in Australia. But have we heard from the member for Pearce in this debate? I'm afraid not. The member for Durack? No—guillotined as well. Have we heard from the member for O'Connor? No, we have not heard from him. We have so many members across that side of the House, representing large rural electorates, who have not stood up in their party room, who have not stood up in this House and who have not stood up against the measure that will raise taxes every time Australians get into the car.

As I outlined in my second-reading speech, this is a broken promise, and there could be no clearer broken promise than the increase of fuel indexation. No less than a dozen times prior to the election, Tony Abbott said he would not raise taxes on the Australian people, and now we are seeing this 'big new tax'. In another part of this building, very shortly, we will have Al Gore standing next to Clive Palmer. It is apposite to remind the House—as Al Gore might have said and, indeed, as Tony Abbott said to Barack Obama—this is a measure which acts like a carbon tax. Having run around the country, berating a price on carbon, now we have Tony Abbott introducing a measure that has the effect of being a price on carbon.

This is a measure that was decried by Coalition member after Coalition member when they were on this side of the House. As soon as they moved to that side of the House they discovered a new-found love for carbon taxes. As long as it is their carbon tax, they are very happy to have it. So we have Greens members—in a 'Bizarro World'—more committed to standing up for rural Australians than the National Party is. The National Party will not stand up to the Liberal Party. That is why, at election after election, over the past generation, we have seen the National Party slowly being reduced to a rump in this place. It is unwilling to stand up for the interests of rural Australia.

We on this side of the House take a different view. We on this side of the House are standing to see the Prime Minister keep his word when he said—no less than a dozen times before the last election—that he would not put a new tax on the Australian people. He is not only putting a new tax on the Australian people but also he is taking away this House's right to debate it. Those on that side of the House should have all been given the opportunity. We would have been delighted to give them the freedom, because we believe in freedom of speech. We particularly believe in the freedom of National Party members to explain to their constituents why they support paying higher fuel taxes.

It would have been a great joy for us to hear 15-minute speech after 15-minute speech from members representing some of the largest electorates in Australia. They are electorates where a typical elector might jump in the car for a couple of hours to go off to a meeting, or find themselves taking an hour each way to drop the kids to sport on Saturday. It would have been a pleasure for those of us on this side of the House to sit and watch them explain to their electors why they thought higher fuel taxes was the right promise to break.

This is not the only promise the government has broken. There are broken promises on: no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to SBS and on bringing the deficit down. Of course, they have raised the deficit. It is a little smaller than it was after Joe Hockey doubled it, but it is still a whole lot bigger than it was when the government came to office. But this broken promise is one which will resonate in the rural and regional electorates of Australia. They will be asking themselves: 'Where was my member when the great debate happened in the House of Representatives?' The answer: missing in action. Rural and regional members were missing in action—except for those on this side of the House.



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