It was the battle of the taxes – a sort of your tax is more horrible than my tax – in question time on Wednesday.
In the government’s corner was that familiar fiscal monster, Labor’s carbon tax. The government has expended enough breath to launch a squadron of zeppelins without yet managing to kill it off.
In the other was the government’s fuel tax, which the lower house is halfway through debating. Its fate in the Senate is highly problematic.
Labor’s early questions were on the fuel tax.
Bill Shorten used one to say the $2.2 billion tax was being rammed through parliament and Australians were being asked to pay more at the petrol station because of Tony Abbott’s “rotten” budget.
Joel Fitzgibbon targeted Warren Truss, reminding the Nationals leader he’d once described such a measure as a “tax on distance”, which of course made it bad news for the bush.
The government happily accepted questions on the fuel tax as an excuse to talk about the carbon tax.
Most of it covered very familiar territory – all the costs it was imposing and how financially liberating its axing would be.
Abbott also pointed out that while his fuel tax raised $2.2 billion, their carbon tax was a $9 billion “King Kong of taxes”.
And if King Kong doesn’t scare you, try this image from Abbott: “Every time you turn on your heater this weekend, there’s the leader of the opposition standing beside you.”
Barnaby Joyce provoked, as he does regularly, much Labor caterwauling as he talked of the carbon tax costing “every person in the dairy shed” more than $1300.
When, in the middle of this, parliamentary secretary Michael McCormack loudly challenged: “Take one of us on, you take all of us on.” He became only the second government MP to be kicked out for an hour.
Insults whirled in the skittish session.
Joyce offered “Tanya (presumably Plibersek) the Terminator.” Abbott came up with “Irrita-bill Syndrome.
The PM apologised. “We shouldn’t engage in levity in this chamber,” he said with little obvious sincerity.
In the middle of the session there appeared the lonely and pathetic figure of Greg Hunt.
There’d been, he said, “more than 400 opposition questions and not one about the environment.
“I’d be delighted to have one on turtles, dugongs, the green army …” Hunt pleaded.
No-one made his day.