THE federal government has jumped on comments by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the impact of the carbon tax has not been catastrophic, declaring his “scare campaign was a fraud”.
After a week in parliament dominated by BHP Billiton’s decision to shelve its Olympic Dam expansion and Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s explanation of her days as a lawyer for the Australian Workers Union (AWU), the federal government will be hoping for some clear air.
On Sunday, Treasurer Wayne Swan spearheaded an attack on Mr Abbott, who admitted at the Tasmanian state council of the Liberal Party on Saturday the immediate effect of the carbon tax had been less than that of a “wrecking ball”.
“‘Yes, the initial impact of the carbon tax may not be absolutely catastrophic,’ Mr Abbott told the council conference in Launceston.
The treasurer said Mr Abbott had torpedoed his own scare campaign.
“He admitted in Tasmania that that scare campaign was a fraud,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“What we’re seeing here is Mr Abbott being mugged by the truth.”
The treasurer urged Mr Abbott to apologise for the campaign.
“He should apologise to all the businesses, he should apologise to all the pensioners, he should apologise to all of the working families that the campaign has been directed at,” Mr Swan said.
“Today his credibility is in tatters.”
Liberal MP Bruce Billson described his leader as a “very gifted and intelligent person” and probably the most academically qualified economic mind in federal parliament.
“He’s also a journalist and you would know the discipline in your profession of taking complex ideas, analysing them, understanding them and then being able to communicate them to people that might not be as involved in the policy debate as we are,” Mr Billson told Sky News.
“That’s a great gift.”
Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten was also praising Ms Gillard for her performance addressing the issue of her involvement in setting up a “slush fund” for the AWU.
“The issues which happened 20 years ago were difficult then, but I think that the caucus this week thought the prime minister, in face of quite a tough attack, more than held her own with that hour-plus long press conference on Thursday,” he told Network Ten.
“So I think we’ve ended the week on a better note than perhaps we even started it.”
Trade Minister Craig Emerson also weighed in on the attack on Mr Abbott, saying the lived experience of the carbon price was vastly different to his “terrible prophecies”.
“This is the guy who said that it was going to be a wrecking ball through the economy,” Dr Emerson told ABC television.
“Then a handbrake … he backed down yesterday.
“The next thing you know it’ll be like saying it’s a Chinese burn from a boy scout.”
Mr Abbott had been exposed for scaremongering and couldn’t get out of the groove of destructive negativity, Dr Emerson said.