Winners and losers reflect

Leader of the government Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, speaks during the debate on the carbon tax repeal bill, in the Senate this week. Picture: FAIRFAX MEDIA
Leader of the government Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, speaks during the debate on the carbon tax repeal bill, in the Senate this week. Picture: FAIRFAX MEDIA

AFTER a tumultuous start to the new-look Senate, the Coalition government this week claimed its first victory. DANIEL McCULLOCH speaks to three Tasmanian senators in the thick of the action.

LIBERAL Senator Eric Abetz said he had staked his career on opposing a price on carbon after resigning from the opposition front bench in 2009 over his party's support for an emissions trading scheme at the time. 

Senator Abetz said in the moments after the tax was repealed, it became immediately clear the Liberal Party's signature reform had been ``a very long time coming''.

``Removing the tax consumed more than 50 hours of debate in the Senate across three separate attempts to remove the bill since last year's election,'' Senator Abetz said.

``To finally see the end of the tax was a very welcome relief.''

But the senator said he stopped short of high-fiving or cuddling colleagues in the chamber after the fate of the price on carbon became obvious.

``My view in politics is that if you win, you don't gloat, and if you lose, you don't moan,'' he said.

Senator Abetz conceded while scrapping the carbon tax dominated headlines and consumed column inches, the past week in the Senate was not all rosy for the Coalition government.

A push to ditch the mining tax was quashed when opposition and crossbench senators refused to let initiatives funded through the levy, including the School Kids Bonus, fall by the wayside.

The government's Asset Recycling Bill also stalled, and is expected to be reintroduced when the Senate next sits in five weeks' time.

Senator Abetz said it was frustrating to watch on as some senators argued to scrap the mining tax but retain the raft of measures it funded.

``It is political opportunism and economic unreality at its absolute worst,'' he said.

But the senator offered a philosophical view on the deadlock during a brief break in yesterday's sitting day.

``Politics is swings and roundabouts, advances and setbacks, and I don't think anything can overshadow the repeal of the carbon tax,'' he said.

LABOR Senator Helen Polley said it was a fascinating but deeply disappointing week in the federal upper house.

Senator Polley said the implications of the new-look Senate were quickly beginning to become apparent.

``People have always thought the Senate is dull and boring and it doesn't garner a huge amount of media attention,'' Senator Polley said.

``It's safe to say predictability in the Senate is now well and truly a thing of the past.''

Senator Polley said the country had taken a retrograde step in dismantling the carbon tax.

``It's extremely disappointing through a national and international lens that Australia has unwound our carbon price mechanism,'' she said.

``But democracy has ruled and we've lost that debate.''

With the carbon tax six feet under, Senator Polley said Labor's attentions would now return to scrutinising the government's economic blueprint.

``As an opposition and as members of the community we need to focus back on this federal budget,'' she said.

``The government has been made quite vulnerable through their attacks on the vulnerable in our society.''

GREENS Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the long, intense sitting week had given him a fresh perspective on politics.

``To me, politics now seems like it's all about winning,'' Senator Whish-Wilson said.

``It's not about people winning, or communities winning, or even good policies winning. It's all about political parties winning,'' he said.

The senator said the government had created a budget quandary in an obsessive rush to axe the carbon and mining taxes.

``When you run this manic, ruthless and cynical campaign to get yourself elected and deliver your promises at all costs you can dig yourself into a very deep hole,'' he said.

Senator Whish-Wilson said the government had adopted a strategy of bypassing Labor and the Greens to implement divisive policies.

``They've adopted a strategy of trying to ram stuff through Parliament and hoping to iron it out with the Palmer United Party if there is any resistance,'' he said.

``We don't know if that will prove a solid, ongoing strategy because we really don't know what (Clive Palmer) is going to say and do from one day to the next.''

Senator Whish-Wilson said at the end of the sitting week, the government could claim one significant win in repealing the carbon tax, but was dealt a major blow when the mining tax remained in place.


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