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Abbott mocks Labor over ties to climate ‘extremists’

Phillip Coorey

March 18, 2011THE Greens have questioned why the government is pursuing their policy on climate change if it considers the minor party to be extreme.

And the Opposition said yesterday that if Julia Gillard really meant what she said about the Greens, she should call another election rather than continue to govern with the support of ”extremists”.

”It’s like walking down the street holding your lover’s hand and yelling out ‘this relationship is a farce’,” said the Nationals’ Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce.

The Prime Minister used the Don Dunstan address in Adelaide on Wednesday to position Labor between the Coalition and the Greens which, she said, represented the opposing extremes of the climate change debate.

”Neither of the extremes in Australian politics can deliver this reform,” she said. ”The Coalition has surrendered itself to fear-mongering and denying the power of the markets. The Greens are not a party of government and have no tradition of striking the balance required to deliver major reform.”

Ms Gillard argued that Labor would protect jobs with transitional assistance for industries affected by a price on carbon. Simultaneously, Labor would create jobs in the clean energy sector by pricing carbon. She said the Coalition was capable only of the former and the Greens, only the latter.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said Ms Gillard’s barb was an attempt at product differentiation, sparked by sensitivity to criticisms that Labor was too close to the Greens. In reality, the government was embracing Greens policy, he said. “It brings a little smile to one’s face to see product differentiation while carrying through with a long-held Green political philosophy – that is, to have a carbon price en route to modernising Australia’s economy.

“The Greens are going to ultimately enhance Labor’s position in the polls. If Labor keeps taking our policies I think they’ll keep doing all right.”

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said if Ms Gillard regarded the Greens as extremists, ”Why has she formed government with them?”

”Why would any rational politician form a government with people whom she now thinks are extreme?”

The government and the Greens plan to strike a deal on a carbon price this year, have Parliament pass the legislation before Christmas and have the scheme begin on July 1 next year.

Ms Gillard said if there were no deal on a carbon price this year, there most likely never would be a price on carbon.

With the party haemorrhaging voter support over the issue, one minister confided that such a scenario would not be the end of the world. ”It could be a lot worse,” he said.

Climate change policy has dogged Labor for three years. After three unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation, it cost Kevin Rudd the prime ministership and nearly cost Labor government.

Ms Gillard defended the government promoting the scheme before the detail was worked out. ”Even if the government had gone out and announced every detail of this carbon pricing … Tony Abbott would be running a scare campaign,” she said.

Record Labor low on carbon fury: Newspoll

  • UPDATED Dennis Shanahan, Political editor
  • From: The Australian
  • March 08, 2011 2:57AM

JULIA Gillard’s carbon tax plan has reversed public support for action on global warming, damaged her leadership and delivered Labor its lowest primary support on record.

Tony Abbott is now the closest he has been to Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister.

And, as satisfaction with the Prime Minister slumps just nine months after she agreed to challenge Kevin Rudd, she remains behind the Foreign Minister as the preferred Labor leader.

In just two weeks, Ms Gillard’s personal support has gone from its best since she became Prime Minister in June last year to her worst. It is now the same as Mr Rudd’s failing personal support when he began campaigning for the mining tax in May last year.

Since Ms Gillard announced her intention to introduce a carbon tax from July next year, overall positive public support for action on global warming, even if it meant rising prices for electricity and petrol, has turned negative. A majority of people, or 53 per cent, are now against Labor’s plan, with 42 per cent in favour.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, Labor’s primary vote crashed six percentage points to just 30 per cent, the lowest primary vote in Newspoll survey history. Previously, the lowest primary vote was 31 per cent, in 1993, when Paul Keating was prime minister and Australia was in recession.

The Coalition’s primary vote, after falling sharply two weeks ago because of internal divisions, bounced back to 45 per cent. This is the Coalition’s highest primary vote since March 2006, when John Howard was prime minister and nine months before Kim Beazley was replaced by Mr Rudd as opposition leader.

Primary support for the Australian Greens rose slightly to a near-record high of 15 per cent – exactly half of Labor’s primary vote – during a period when Bob Brown and his deputy, Christine Milne, claimed authorship of the carbon price plan and called for petrol to be included in the tax.

Ms Gillard, speaking from Washington this morning ahead of her meeting with US President Barack Obama, said she would not comment on the Newspoll but had always expected that putting a price on carbon would be “a tough fight”.

“I will continue to press to price carbon and we will get the done from the 1st of July, 2012,” Ms Gillard told reporters.

“It is fairly easy to stoke fears and Tony Abbott is a master at it.

“And he will continue to stoke fears.”

“But Australians, I believe, will come to see that pricing carbon is the right way to deal with climate change and the challenge of transforming our economy.”

The Opposition Leader has accused Ms Gillard of lying about the carbon tax and being too close to the Greens. He has pledged to repeal the tax if the Coalition is elected at the next election.

Ms Gillard said that every day Mr Abbott sought to stoke fears she would respond with facts and reason.

“I know that ultimately Australians will be confident enough to take this step of pricing carbon.”

“The Labor caucus believes in pricing carbon and when we embarked on this debate we knew it was going to be tough.”

Based on a distribution of preferences at last year’s election, the Coalition has surged in front of Labor, with a four-point rise to 54 per cent compared with the government’s 46 per cent.

It is the Coalition’s highest two-party-preferred vote since March 2005 and compares with the August election result of Labor on 50.1 per cent to the Coalition’s 49.9 per cent.

In the two weeks since Ms Gillard announced her intention to introduce a carbon tax, voter satisfaction with her has dropped 11 percentage points to 39 per cent – her lowest satisfaction rating since becoming prime minister and only three points above Mr Rudd’s rating the weekend before he was removed. Asked last weekend who was the preferred Labor leader between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd, the Foreign Minister secured 44 per cent support to Ms Gillard’s 37 per cent. This is similar to the result last May – before the leadership change – of 45 per cent for Mr Rudd and 40 per cent for Ms Gillard.

Dissatisfaction with Ms Gillard also spiked 12 points, taking her dissatisfaction level to 51 per cent, the first time she has been above 50 per cent.

After a complete reversal of her personal standing, Ms Gillard now has a negative satisfaction rating – the difference between positive support and dissatisfaction – of 12 percentage points compared with Mr Rudd’s negative 19 points when he was sacked by the Labor caucus.

Ms Gillard also dramatically lost ground as preferred prime minister to Mr Abbott, more than halving her 22-point lead two weeks ago to just nine points. She now leads Mr Abbott 45 per cent to 36 per cent, but two weeks ago held a 53 per cent to 31 per cent lead.

The personal standing of the Opposition Leader was little changed, with satisfaction on 39 per cent and dissatisfaction rising from 49 per cent to 51 per cent.

The previous overall support for action on climate change has shifted into majority opposition to the government’s plan for the first time.

According to the Newspoll survey last weekend, 53 per cent of voters say they are against the government’s plan to combat global warming with a carbon price that puts up the cost of gas, electricity and petrol.

Last December, voters were evenly split – 49 per cent against and 47 per cent in favour – over whether they were prepared to pay more for climate change action to slow global warming.

It appears the government’s announcement has crystallised opposition to the introduction of a carbon price that would push up the cost of living.

With Ms Gillard in Washington, Mr Abbott yesterday continued to campaign against the carbon scheme.

“This tax, whether it’s a straight tax or an emissions trading scheme, will hit people’s cost of living. It won’t clean up the environment but it will clean out your wallet.

“That’s the problem with Labor’s carbon tax,” he said.

Additional reporting: Matthew Franklin

Dial up death threats do not deter as shock jocks maintain the Coalition’s rage

March 3, 2011
When independent federal MP Tony Windsor checked the messages on his mobile phone yesterday, one opened with a quiet, emphatic male voice: “You die. You die you f—ing c–t”. It only got worse after that.

Windsor was not shocked. The 60-year-old former farmer has served in state and federal parliaments for 20 years.

“I’ve had death threats before, but not as many. So I’m on a popularity curve,” he quips. He had three more on Tuesday, for instance. Are there more nutters abroad these days? Windsor doesn’t think that’s it.

He says it’s part of a broader campaign targeting him and the other three crossbench MPs who helped Labor form a minority government after the election last year. “It’s not a constituent who’s got angry and snapped over a custody case or some other matter. There’s a degree of orchestration in the emails and common language in the phone calls – the police have picked up on that. It’s more of a political exercise.

“It’s not so much about carbon tax or national broadband – that’s just the hitching point. It’s aimed at destabilising the government, destroying the hung parliament.”

Who is doing the orchestrating? Talkback radio: “That’s the link point,” Windsor says. Shock jocks have been broadcasting his phone numbers and email address and urging listeners to besiege him with complaints.

Windsor has no beef with people who disagree with him, he says, only with people who try to intimidate him.

The shock jocks are the volunteer sergeant-majors in the “people’s revolt” summoned by the commanding general, Tony Abbott.

The Opposition Leader has said he anticipates “tens of thousands of people” will “bombard” Labor and the independents to stop the proposed carbon tax.

Labor was indignant yesterday that two Liberal frontbenchers had likened Julia Gillard to the Libyan butcher, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The National Party’s Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce, never short of a colourful phrase, nonetheless showed restraint: “Obviously I don’t think Ms Gillard is a person to be compared to Colonel Gaddafi, a tyrant and a murderer,” he told Sky News.

But Abbott declined all opportunities to distance himself from the comparison.

He said he wouldn’t use the Gaddafi comparison himself, but “what I can’t stop is the anger so many people feel about what they think is a betrayal by this government”.

His strategy of angry oppositionism, after all, depends on anger. He was careful, nonetheless, to insist on civility in the debate.

But Windsor worries: “There’s been an elevation of incitement in the political messages out there. It’s pretty fragile. It only takes one unhinged person and it will change everything.”

Will the anger have its desired political effect? Will it persuade Windsor and the other independents to switch support from Labor to Liberal? “It has the opposite effect,” says Windsor.

Dennis Shanahan, Political editor | March 20, 2009
Article from: The Australian

THE essence of the continuing dispute in the Senate over the Rudd Government’s promise to rip up John Howard’s Work Choices legislation is politics pure and simple, and politics will solve the impasse one way or another.

Liberal divisions and delays of leadership have allowed the Rudd Government to build a completely misleading, and completely devastating, portrayal of the Coalition’s policy on industrial relations in an economic atmosphere that should have allowed a politically viable and credible Opposition position.

Instead, the industrial relations debate is now firmly stamped as Senate obstruction and Coalition negativity coupled with the Liberal resurrection of Work Choices.

Dithering and inconsistency on the Liberals’ behalf means the opportunity to galvanise growing industry dissension over the industrial relations laws, after notable silence, has been missed. So, too, has the opportunity to portray the Coalition as taking an unpopular decision to defend jobs, just as Howard did with the Tasmanian logging decision in the 2004 election.

Julia Gillard has won the politics and policy of the industrial relations laws and doesn’t require a double-dissolution trigger or the threat of an early election for that victory.

The Deputy Prime Minister wants to get the industrial relations laws in place and working according to schedule by piling up political pressure on the Coalition and on Family First senator Steve Fielding.

She’s playing it hard, will have an overwhelming policy victory even if she gives more ground and has exploited Malcolm Turnbull’s indecision and discomfort on industrial relations to the hilt.

After months of promises, consultation, draft legislation, public debate, shifting allegiances and positions and Coalition rifts, the final days of negotiation came down to one provision involving the unfair dismissal laws. This is not the resurrection of Work Choices, which Howard himself gutted and diluted when the realisation struck that the laws had gone further than necessary, and far beyond what the Australian people were prepared to accept. Howard genuinely believed his laws would continue to create jobs into the future, but only began to backtrack on contentious issues when it was so late it didn’t matter what he did, he couldn’t get the public to listen.

Nor is the argument tenable that the Government’s mandate on one provision in a raft of legislation is being undemocratically undermined by the Senate.

Labor fought and lost an election on the GST but opposed it tooth and nail in its entirety, and then ran another election promising to roll back the GST. What’s more, the Government has accepted amendments by the barrow load without screaming about its loss of mandate, as is the case with most lengthy, complex bills.

The sticking point in this mandate argument is a provision that at most will affect 46,000 small businesses and 735,00 employees of small business out of a sector where there are 2.4 million small businesses and more than six million employees.

But for Gillard and the Rudd Government the provision defining a small business as one with fewer than 15 employees, for the implementation of unfair dismissal rules, has become a totemic issue and a political vehicle to distort the politics in its favour.

Gillard, as the prosecutor of the Government’s industrial relations proposals, has been able to take advantage of Liberal divisions and the party leader’s vacillation on unfair dismissals to spook Coalition MPs and extend her mandate on union rights of entry. The spectre that has scared the Opposition is the thought of running another election on Work Choices after it was so discredited at the last election. Yet, talk of the Government straining at the leash for an early double-dissolution election to be fought on industrial relations doesn’t bear close scrutiny.

At every opportunity to create a double-dissolution trigger through Senate rejection twice of the same bill, separated by three months, the Rudd Government has baulked. The bills have either been dropped entirely – as was the case with the doomed Fuel Watch scheme – or amendments have been accepted.

As Labor in Queensland faces a huge backlash, as unemployment races towards an annual forecast in just months and as business begins to stir on the job-limiting nature of some of the industrial relations laws, it stretches credulity that the highly political Prime Minister would willingly put his Government at risk.

Yet there are Coalition MPs who still quail at the thought of running on long-held Liberal principles and policy, and facing an election as a result.

Certainly, Brendan Nelson did his best to bury Work Choices during his ill-fated and short-lived leadership after the 2007 election defeat. It was something Nelson had to do, to kill off unpalatable policies and reshape Liberal strategy.

Unfortunately for Nelson, the killing and burying of Work Choices was not followed by the creation of a job-supporting Liberal policy that tapped into the Howard-Costello tradition of looking after blue-collar workers and their families as never before.

Turnbull, as the new leader, was determined to fight the Rudd Government on the issue of economic management and avoid what he saw as the dead weight of Work Choices and the climate-change scepticism of the Howard years.

Last December he publicly ceded the ground on unfair dismissal laws to the Government and handed Gillard her mandate argument on a platter, saying the Opposition would respect the Government’s election promise of restricting the unfair dismissal breaks to small businesses of 15 or fewer employees. Before Work Choices it had been 20 employees and after Work Choices it was 100 employees. Turnbull simply backed Gillard’s plan.

It is that explicit commitment on the 15 employees and unfair dismissals that Gillard has been able to turn into a pressure point for the Senate and a question of character for Turnbull.

The number of employees for a small business has also become totemic within the Liberal Party because of Peter Costello’s advocacy for a return to 20 and the shadow cabinet’s counter-bid of 25.

In the end Labor will get a substantial victory on policy and politics by virtue of business’s silence and the Liberals’ inconsistency.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25212483-17301,00.html

Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent | March 20, 2009
Article from: The Australian

THE Coalition last night adopted Peter Costello’s position on unfair dismissal, shifting closer to Labor – but the Rudd Government’s bill to destroy Work Choices was still destined to fail unless Julia Gillard agreed to a last-minute compromise today.

The federal Liberal and National parties decided at an emergency meeting last night to join independent senators Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon to fight for an amendment to the bill to increase the definition of a small business from Labor’s position of 15 full-time employees to 20 workers.

While the Coalition’s own amendment was for small business to be classed as 25 workers, the special partyroom meeting decided to ultimately support Senator Xenophon’s changes.

The Coalition backdown on the last sticking point of the proposed laws comes after Mr Costello suggested the definition of 20 at last week’s heated partyroom meeting. The former treasurer argued that the figure should be 20 in line with the definition used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Last night, after its amendment was voted down in the Senate, the Coalition voted for Senator Xenophon’s amendment.

The Coalition’s compromise is a victory for Mr Costello, who had put the definition forward but was told shadow cabinet had decided on the more ambitious target of 25.

Ms Gillard, the Workplace Relations Minister, is now under pressure to compromise on her definition of a small business or risk seeing her entire bill fail.

The Government will today test the resolve of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull to stand firm on his new position on the bill.

The Government will change the definition back to 15 when the Fair Work bill returns to the lower house.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Michael Keenan said last night the Coalition would fight for its amendment and would not accept Labor’s push to change it back to 15.

“The Coalition parties will not change our minds,” Mr Keenan told The Australian.

If the Coalition votes against the bill after the Government uses its numbers to change it to 15, Ms Gillard will paint Mr Turnbull as being pro-Work Choices and failing to keep his word to kill the workplace laws championed by John Howard.

Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding, of Family First, were also expected to vote to increase the small business employee threshold definition to 20, making it impossible for the Government to get its laws passed intact.

The last-minute turnaround from the Coalition meant the bill was on track to pass the Senate with the new definition of a small business. But the Government vowed to change the definition back to what it proposed in the federal election, 15 employees, in the lower house, where it has the numbers. The bill will then be returned to the Senate for a second vote.

The Government has extended the parliamentary session to allow it to reintroduce the bill today, and is vowing to have it in place by July 1. The decision not to wait three months to reintroduce the bill means it will not form a trigger for a double dissolution.

Mr Keenan confirmed the Coalition would “insist” on the Senate amendment when the bill returns to the upper house for a second time.

He accused the Government of putting their pride ahead of the successful passage of the bill.

“The idea that the Government will throw away its whole new system over the definition of a small business would be putting the minister’s pride over any sensible outcome,” he said.

The Coalition has essentially also decided not to insist on its other amendments on union right of entry, conceding the proposals did not have a chance at success without the support of the independent senators. The Rudd Government has repeatedly ruled out changes to the provision.

Ms Gillard revealed figures that showed that if the definition of small business was changed from 15 to 20, an extra 485,720 workers would not be offered unfair dismissal protection.

If the Coalition was successful in getting its figure of 25 up, 735,000 workers would lose the protection.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25213651-601,00.html