SUBJECT/S: Gag on Coalition backbenchers; adverse impact on rural and regional Australia; Carbon Farming.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE: Morning all. Well we have learned that today the Government will bring the fuel tax increase Bill on for debate and gag it within two hours. So my challenge to the Government is don’t gag such an important Bill for rural and regional Australia. We know that rural and regional Australians will pay more as a result of this broken promise than those living in the capital cities, they will pay more excise and they will pay more GST. So my challenge to all those Coalition members who represent rural and regional seats: the Member for Page; the Member for Eden-Monaro; the Member for Capricorn; the Members for Braddon and Lyons in Tasmania to insist they be given an opportunity to defend and stick up for their local constituents. Two hours of debate will not give Coalition backbenchers representing country seats an opportunity to defend their constituents. Their job today is to insist that they be given that opportunity on this very severe broken promise which will fall most heavily on rural and regional Australia.

JOURNALIST: There will still be a $2.2 Billion hole in the Budget as a result of the fuel excise changes being blocked in Parliament. How would Labor suggest getting that money back?

FITZGIBBON: Very simply – push back the PPL or come back to Labor’s PPL which is affordable and makes much more sense rather than spending billions of dollars, paying big money to families who need it least.

JOURNALIST: So that means simply keeping the levy on big business does it? To [inaudible]?

FITZGIBBON: They are the Government. It is their job to manage the economy and to manage the Budget. The fuel tax increase is clearly a broken promise - one that falls disproportionately adversely on rural and regional Australia. The big challenge for Coalition backbenchers now, today, to get in there and defend their constituents and insist on being given that opportunity.

JOURNALIST: Was Labor hoping that the Greens would block the fuel levy?

FITZGIBBON: Labor will never hope for Governments to be breaking promises, and we will certainly never hope for policies that adversely impact on rural and regional Australia particularly given we know that National Party MPs in particular were duped into accepting this change. Today is their opportunity to fight back and they should insist on being given that opportunity.

JOURNALIST: Just in regards to Carbon Farming, reports today that the [inaudible] Carbon Farming has fallen over were you disappointed that has happened or is it a sign that the Carbon [inaudible] restoration is still reasonable?

FITZGIBBON: Retaining the Orwellian entitlement in this case, Carbon Farming Initiative is a stunt. This Bill is not about farming in any way, farmers will not be able to compete in this so called Reverse Auction. Our Carbon Farming Initiative was of course centred on agriculture and bio-mass and waste fuel etc, this is a much broader concept, it will be a competitive arrangement and farmers will not be able to compete and therefore farmers will not have opportunity as they did previously to participate in Carbon Farming. Thank you.


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