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Carbon Tax Was Socialism Masquerading As Environmentalism, Abbott Tells Tasmanian Liberals

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has addressed the Tasmanian Liberal Party State Council, his first major speech to the party since winning the September 7 election.

Abbott congratulated the State Council on the 11.3% swing to the Liberals in the election. The party won three seats (Bass, Braddon and Lyons) from the ALP. Abbott said: “So 50 days on, it’s clear that Australia is under new management, it’s clear that Australia is open for business and it’s clear that the only people who are still the same is the Australian Labor Party.”

Abbott called on the ALP to pass the carbon tax repeal legislation in the Senate, saying it was the “best Christmas present that Bill Shorten could give the people of Australia”.

Abbott said: “So let’s be under no illusions, the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism. That’s what the carbon tax was. That’s why the carbon tax has been rejected by the Australian people. We are implementing what the Australian people voted for and the only people who are still in denial about what the Australian people voted for are the members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.”

  • Listen to Abbott’s speech (20m)
  • Watch Abbott’s speech (20m)

Transcript of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Address to the Tasmanian Liberal Party State Council.

Eric, members and delegates, ladies and gentlemen, my friends, thank you so much for that warm introduction. Thank you so much for that extraordinary welcome and I will know whether this speech has been successful by whether I get the same enthusiastic response at the end that I have at the beginning.

It is great to be here in Hobart. It’s great to be amongst my Tasmanian colleagues. It is so good to be here to savour success and I want all of you to be so proud of the fact that while our Party, our Coalition did extremely well right around Australia at the recent election, nowhere did it do better than here in Tasmania. It was an 11.3 per cent swing to the Liberal Party here in Tasmania and I want to say congratulations and thank you.

I also want to note that my colleagues, in significant numbers are here to bask in your success. We are coming from all over Australia today to revel in the success of the Tasmanian Liberal Party. Mathias Cormann, the Minister for Finance. Bruce Billson, the Minister for Small Business. Arthur Sinodinos, the Assistant Treasurer. Paul Fletcher, the Parliamentary Secretary for Communications. We are all here to pay tribute to the Tasmanian Liberal Party and to say thank you for what you have done to ensure that this country of ours has the best possible government.

I want to say how well the Tasmanian division has done. It’s been well led at every level. My distinguished friend and colleague and now Leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz. Our Senate team, Richard Colbeck, Stephen Parry, David Bushby and now our House of Representatives team, Andrew Nikolic, Eric Hutchinson and Brett Whiteley.

But I also want to pay tribute today to those who didn’t get elected because every election, even a successful election, is a bitter-sweet experience. It’s sweet for the victors, but inevitably it’s a disappointment for those who worked just as hard, who carry our flag just as high and just as proudly, but for whatever reason don’t succeed. So I do pay tribute today to Bernadette Black and to Tanya Denison, our House of Representatives candidates and I also pay tribute to Sally Chandler and Sarah Courtney, our Senate candidates. Please give them a round of applause.

One of the errors which members of Parliament sometimes fall into and the further up the greasy pole you get, the more prone you are to falling into the error, is to neglect the rank-and-file membership of our Party. We are only members of Parliament. We are only ministers in a government because we have decent Australians working night and day to put us there. I say thank you to the rank-and-file members of our Party here in Tasmania. I say thank you to your President, Geoff Page for the work that he’s done, Richard Chugg, the former President, for the work that he did, but in particular I want to say thank you to the person who, in every division, tends to be the forgotten man, that is your State Director, Sam McQuestin.

State directors, they’re the first people to be criticised, they’re the last people to be praised and yet we cannot run successful election campaigns without highly competent, highly professional, incredibly hard-working state directors so, Sam, well done. I hope you are feeling very proud of what the Tasmanian division has achieved.

Well, my friends, tomorrow marks fifty days since the election. We inherited a mess but we have made a very strong start. Never forget the trough into which our country had fallen under the former government. Of course we were always a great people, of course we always had fundamental strengths, but those strengths were being mismanaged and misdirected by the former government. Never let us forget the legacy of the government that we have replaced. Unemployment, 200,000 higher than it was. Debt sky-rocketing beyond $400 billion because of their policies, because of the spending spree that the former government embarked upon and perhaps worst of all, a legacy of more than 50,000 illegal arrivals by boat because this was a government that had completely lost control of our borders.

Well, almost 50 days that on, the Australian public know that this country is under new management and this country is now, once again, as it should always be, open for business.

On day one – on day one – we freed the motor industry from the threat of Labor’s fringe benefits tax hit and our motor showrooms were open for business. We said there would be an Indigenous advisory council and there is. We said there would be a business advisory council and there is. We said we would take control of the National Broadband Network and ensure that faster broadband was delivered more affordably and much more quickly than would ever have happened under Labor and we have. I said that the first overseas visit that I would make would be to Jakarta and it was. We said that we would revitalise the free trade agreement negotiations which had languished in some cases for 7 or 8 years and we’ve done precisely that. We said we would stop the boats and they are stopping. I don’t want to underestimate the difficulty of that challenge but they are stopping. Over the last month, illegal arrivals by boat have been scarcely ten per cent of the peak under Labor in July. There is a hard road ahead. And thank you for acknowledging the good work that has been done not just by the Minister, Scott Morrison, but by everyone associated with Operation Sovereign Borders – our military, our Customs, our Immigration officials. These are people who had been set the wrong task by the former government. They were essentially managing a problem. Our determination is to end the problem. Our determination is not to guide the boats, our determination is to stop the boats and thanks to strong leadership from the top and extraordinary professionalism at every level, that is now happening.

We’ve released exposure drafts of the legislation to repeal the mining tax and above all else to repeal the carbon tax. Never forget what Labor did to Australia with its carbon tax. Not only was this a fundamental breach of promise, not only was this a basic betrayal of trust, because this was the tax, remember, that before the 2010 election was never going to happen. It was fundamentally wrong-headed because it was damaging our economy without helping our environment. Never forget that even under the former government’s own figures, the carbon tax was going to raise power prices by 10 per cent. It was going to raise gas prices by 9 per cent. It was going to shrink the aluminium industry by 60 per cent, the steel industry by 20 per cent. Even under the government’s own figures, it wasn’t actually going to reduce our emissions which the projections from the former government showed were going to rise from 578 million tonnes, now to 621 million tonnes in 2020, despite a carbon tax of $37 a tonne.

So let’s be under no illusions, the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism. That’s what the carbon tax was. That’s why the carbon tax has been rejected by the Australian people. We are implementing what the Australian people voted for and the only people who are still in denial about what the Australian people voted for are the members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.

The best Christmas present that Bill Shorten could give the people of Australia would be to stand aside and let the carbon tax repeal legislation pass through the Senate. It can be done. There are four weeks of parliamentary sittings coming up, more than long enough to take this burden off the backs of Australian workers, to take this burden off the backs of Australian families. The only person in this country right now who is in favour of higher power prices is good old electricity Bill Shorten, good old electricity Bill. That’s what people will be thinking every time their power bill comes in until the carbon tax goes, “That’s Electricity Bill who’s responsible for the fact that this bill is up to $200 more than it should be.” They call it bill shock. Bill ‘shock’ Shorten. That’s what people will be suffering, good old Bill ‘shock’ Shorten and you know we know that he’s capable of changing his mind. We remember what he said about Kevin Rudd back in 2010. He changed his mind about Kevin. We remember what he said about Julia Gillard until quite recently. He changed his mind about her. Well, Bill, if you can change your mind on your colleagues, you can change your mind on something of far more weight for the people of Australia. And every day that Bill Shorten refuses to change his mind is another day when the people of Australia and the people of Tasmania will conclude that he is more interested in pandering to Greens than he is in listening to the clear unambiguous verdict of the Australian people. Well, shame, Bill, shame. Put the people first and vote down this tax.

So 50 days on, it’s clear that Australia is under new management, it’s clear that Australia is open for business and it’s clear that the only people who are still the same is the Australian Labor Party. But we do have a big job in front of us. This a great country blessed with a creative people, with a God-given environment that’s second to none. In a part of the world which is growing strongly and yet it’s an uncertain world. We’ve seen consistent long-term economic mismanagement in so many of the countries that we are accustomed to look to for leadership. It’s more important than ever that we get the economic management of our country and of our states right and that’s why it’s so important that the new government in Canberra focus on the great state of Tasmania and ensure that Tasmania can once again be one of the economic leaders of our federation rather than one of the economic laggards.

Some of you would have picked up the local paper this morning and you would have seen the headline. The dispiriting headline that Tasmania had fewer people and more jobs 35 years ago than it does today. Over 35 years, Tasmania has lost jobs and gained people. This is a sad indictment on the political and economic management of our country and our state. Tasmania, I regret to say, it has the highest unemployment, it has the lowest wages, it has the lowest GDP per head, it has the lowest life expectancy of any state in our Commonwealth. That must change and the fact that people here in Tasmania were so ready to vote overwhelmingly for change in the recent federal election shows that the Tasmanian people are eager to embrace a better future and that’s what we have to give them.

Now, I have abundant confidence in the capacity of the people of Tasmania. I have been a very regular visitor to this state throughout my parliamentary career, but in particular since leading our Coalition, leading our Liberal Party in Canberra. I have been to Tasmania again and again and again and I know what the Tasmanian people can do. I know the creativity that the Tasmanian people are capable of. Yesterday, Will Hodgman and Ian Macfarlane and I were in Burnie, in the company of Tasmania’s most successful businessman, Dale Elphinstone.

How many Australians are aware of the fact that Tasmania, from some factories in Burnie, produces something like 30 per cent of the word’s underground mining equipment? Heavy engineering, sophisticated engineering. I was looking at a truck at Haulmax yesterday that in just a few weeks’ time will be on its way to Canada to haul minerals above the Arctic Circle. When I went for my run in Hobart I thought, yes, Tasmania is the right place to produce that kind of equipment.

We should set no limits on what we can achieve. We should set no limits on our future. Yet, all too often, particularly here in Tasmania, we have programmed ourselves to fail. We have burdened ourselves with unnecessary taxes and regulations. We have set standards of perfection which no-one can achieve. Instead of getting on with a reasonable job, with a reasonable prospect of success and all that simply has to change. It simply has to change. Well, it will change. The incoming government in Canberra will commit $400 million to upgrading the Midland Highway. We’ll commit $38 million to upgrading Hobart Airport. We’ll commit $24 million to ensuring that we have an absolutely world-leading Antarctic research centre here in Hobart. We’ll have a major projects approval agency based in Launceston to ensure that when people want to invest $50 million or more in Tasmania, the doors are opened, not shut.

We will do all these things but in the end, what we need here in Tasmania is new will and new leadership and that’s what is sitting right here beside me today. New leadership and new will to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield for a better future for Tasmania and a better future for Australia. That’s what we want. That’s what we will deliver.

My friends, it is such an honour to be amongst you. I am confident that things are changing for the better. I know that our best days are ahead of us and I look forward so much to walking with the people of Tasmania into that better brighter future.

Thank you so much.

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