Tony Abbott launches stinging attack on Prime Minister Julia Gillard over carbon tax
THE parliamentary battle over the Government's carbon price scheme has begun with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott launching a ferocious attack on the Prime Minister.
Mr Abbott opened his 30-minute speech by declaring the package of clean energy bills amounted to a bad tax, based on a lie, that should be rejected.
He finished by declaring it "the longest suicide note in Australian history".
Julia Gillard sat stony-faced opposite him throughout the speech, which was delivered to a nearly full chamber.
But the chamber emptied when parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus started the Government's counterattack in a debate that will dominate today's proceedings. Mr Dreyfus accused the opposition of "being in hysterics" over a policy that was essential to save the world from catastrophic climate change.
Mr Abbott began with a sustained attack on Ms Gillard, calling her claim to be on the side of history "arrogant presumption". In fact, she was on "the wrong side of truth".
He said she'd sabotaged Kevin Rudd on the issue, had a variety of positions herself and finally said there'd be no carbon tax, a promise that haunts the Government and makes the debate "fundamentally illegitimate".
The Opposition Leader moved on to say the scheme would make the essentials of modern life, like power and fuel, more expensive. Now, when the world economy was so fragile, was not the time to add to the burdens of business and families.
Mr Abbott jeered at the Government's claim the policy would create jobs, calling it "nonsense on stilts".
However at the heart of his objections was that the scheme wouldn't reduce emissions. All the bold claims about emissions cuts were disproved by the government's own figures, he said.
Mr Abbott finally turned to a "much better way" - the Opposition's direct action plan which encourages Australians to do intelligent, sensible things like plant trees. Businesses were reducing their power and fuel bills.
Mr Abbott said part of the Government's motivation was to satisfy the Greens.
"Also, deep in the DNA of every Labor member there is an instinct for higher taxes and more regulation and that's exactly what we're getting," he said.
Mr Dreyfus said the scheme would curb pollution and increase investment in clean energy. It would mean a better, cleaner place for our children's children. Mr Dreyfus said carbon pollution could no longer be free and the Government had to act to correct "the greatest market failure the world has seen". A carbon price would "break the link between pollution and economic growth".
"If we don't reduce emissions, the world risks catastrophic climate change," he said.
Mr Dreyfus said the Opposition was pandering to climate change deniers while attacking scientists and economists.