I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to the motion to take note of answers on the specific issue of Dr Finkel’s report to government. I also share and feel the hope that Senator Moore referred to, as well as Senator Paterson and others who have and will contribute to this debate. It is an opportunity for us to deal with an issue that has been hanging around for some time and has been a difficult one for both sides of politics to deal with.
The Attorney, in his answers today to questions from the opposition, talked about the complex nature of this issue and the trilemma—a term I had not heard before listening to the media coverage and answers today—in relation to this issue: the three issues of affordability, reliability and meeting our international obligations. I think they are important things to take account of. That being the case, I am acknowledging that this is a complex issue. Senator Moore, in her contribution, acknowledged that there are many different views right across the spectrum on this issue even on her own side of politics. She pointed out that there were some elements within her party that found it difficult to accept or were not quite comfortable with some of the issues raised and proposals put forward in the Finkel report.
That is why I am curious as to why the questions today were highlighting this unease with the fact that there are members of the party room I am a part of that have not just not asked questions; they want to know that certain things will be dealt with and that certain issues will be dealt with in a certain way. The party room I am a part of is a group of adults. We all have our own views, we all have our own experiences and we all come to this debate with different priorities. As Senator Brandis mentioned in his answers, we can have that debate—our party room debate—in a mature and sensible way. We are not a homogenous blob of mindless individuals who just all think the same way. I think it gives us strength to canvass all of the different views and all of the different concerns that are brought forward in relation to this specific issue and how best government can deal with it.
I honestly believe that is what we should be focusing on; rather than the questions being asked, looking at the answers and how we can work together to resolve them. That is, I understood, the call that is being put out there by the opposition leader and certainly something that has been welcomed by government. I did indeed read the letter of 7 June from the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, to the Prime Minister, which talks about the decade of toxic politics surrounding energy and climate policy and says that Australians are looking to both major parties to cooperate on a way forward.
I would have thought, on the back of that, that the internal workings of either party and the concerns that will be fleshed out in the debate in each of the party rooms are not relevant to the end agreement. Every party has to go through its processes. Everyone has to reach an agreement, and then we can do what has been called on by the opposition leader and welcomed by the government and find a way forward.
Again, that is why I was so surprised at the tone of the questions today. The focus was all about, ‘Oh, a certain senator may have said something, or a member of the other place said something else.’ Well, that is great. That is excellent, but if we are really going to look at a solution then let’s be mature about it and accept that people do have different points of view.
But on that: I think that the most telling part for me was that as I was sitting in the airport lounge yesterday I saw a Facebook post from my Tasmanian colleague Senator Helen Polley. It belled the cat on the priorities of the opposition in coming up here this week. Everyone talks about trying to reach an agreement and trying to ensure that the best is done for the Australian people, but Senator Polley said in her Facebook post over the weekend:
Canberra here I come for another exciting week in the Senate. I love the front row for Libs infighting. I hope everyone’s week will be as exciting as mine.
I thought that if Senator Polley were genuinely interested in good outcomes for the people of Tasmania then her tweet would be: ‘Canberra, here I come. I look forward to working with all senators on an outcome that might actually resolve this issue.’
Instead, she tells us exactly what she is thinking and, I expect, what the Labor caucus was thinking too: ‘Let’s see if we can play politics here. Drive a wedge; try to highlight the instability,’ that they think exists. That is what it is about for them, not about solutions and outcomes.