Labor crashes through on carbon
Going through legislation is part of the job of a Member of Parliament. After a piece of legislation is introduced into the Parliament, it is then carefully considered by the appropriate Shadow Minister, who consults widely with stakeholders and other experts to examine how the Government’s changes will impact upon everyday Australians.
Sometimes the Parliament may choose to send the proposals to a Parliamentary committee for further inquiry. Naturally all of this takes time.
The Gillard Government introduced the carbon tax legislation in the Parliament yesterday and it is over one thousand pages and eighteen separate Bills. Today they plan to push the legislation up the list and debate it immediately.
Members from both sides will be expected to make a 15-minute speech having seen the thousand pages of legislation for less than 24 hours.
As the Coalition has pointed out, the Government has scheduled less than one minute of debate, per Member of Parliament, per Bill.
Normally, once a Bill is introduced into the Parliament it is held for at least one week until it is debated. This gives Members time to prepare a considered response.
This plan of introducing the legislation and then pushing forward debate the following day will mean the legislation will also avoid the additional scrutiny of a House of Representatives committee inquiry, because its shot gun introduction means it will avoid the referral process.
It has been reported that the Greens will use their numbers in alliance with the Government to guillotine debate and ensure the Bills are passed. So not only do the Government want to push forward debate, but they also want to stop it being a full and frank debate.
There are a number of reasons the Government should reconsider its plan to try and force through the carbon tax legislation and avoid the full scrutiny of Parliament and an inquiry.
The most pertinent reason is that only one Member of the 150 sitting in the House of Representatives took a carbon tax policy to the election and was elected on that platform.
All Members representing the Liberal, National and Labor parties were elected promising no carbon tax.
Several people on the Labor side went as far as specifically ruling out a carbon tax, including the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan and the former Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong.
It would seem entirely appropriate that Members on the Labor side of the Parliament might prepare an apology to their constituents who they clearly deceived during the election campaign.
Another good reason is to look at how previous complex legislation was treated in the Parliament. A fair comparison between the introduction of the carbon tax would be the introduction of the Coalition’s Goods and Services Tax Bill in 1998.
When John Howard introduced the Goods and Services Tax, not only did he take the policy to an election, but the Government introduced the tax in the usual manner allowing a week to pass after the introduction of the Bills before beginning the debate.
The GST Bills were also subject to a five month inquiry before eventually being passed.
Now the Government isn’t afraid of committee inquiries for Opposition Bills. They recently sent the Leader of the Opposition’s Wild Rivers Bill to a six month inquiry
The decision to have a shot-gun debate and avoid the scrutiny of an inquiry is a strange move from a Government already fighting perception problems of being dishonest and tricky.
The honest thing to do would be to allow the carbon tax legislation to be considered fully by both the Parliament and any subsequent inquiries so the cost impact on everyday Australians can be fully understood.
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