THE government has stepped up its assault on critics of the carbon tax by accusing many Coalition MPs of privately expanding their mining shareholdings while publicly predicting doom for the industry because of the tax.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet claimed 34 Coalition MHRs, senators or their families about a third of the opposition parliamentary ranks had made fresh mining investments during the past two years.
Amid uproar in question time in the House of Representatives, Mr Combet named six MPs, including communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull, as having declared fresh mining share transactions under the parliamentary register of members' interests.
"Publicly, their leader talks mining stocks down, privately, they snap up the investments," Mr Combet said. "There might be a little insider trading strategy going on, but it demonstrates hypocrisy. If there were a TV reality show, Australia's Greatest Hypocrites, they would be the winners."
Documents circulated by Mr Combet's office listed share transactions declared by Mr Turnbull as including Sundance Resources, Griffin Coal Mining and a solar and thermal power generator, EnviroMission.
Mr Turnbull said last night he was puzzled by Mr Combet's remarks. "After all, if the opposition has been buying mining shares and I don't know if it has or not it probably says more about a collective confidence in the outcome of the next election," he said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday claimed the coal industry would die under the $23-a-tonne carbon price, which starts on July 1, and compared government promotion of cash payments to a "Nigerian lottery scam".
But Mr Combet said that despite Mr Abbott's warnings of seriously damaging the economy, there had been a surge in mining industry investment since plans for the carbon price were announced.
"The fact of the matter is that we have seen multibillion-dollar takeovers, massive investment and new mine approvals," he said. "It is not just big companies that are investing, it is also many small investors, including many members of Parliament who have a lot of confidence in the future of the industry."
Singling out Mr Turnbull, he said: "He knows the campaign run by the Opposition Leader is complete and utter rubbish, nonsense, false, a fraud and a fabrication."
He also named Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg, New South Wales MP John Alexander, Queensland's Stuart Robert, Ken O'Dowd and Teresa Gambaro and Western Australian MP Michael Keenan as having bought mining shares.
Mr Combet said the economy would continue to grow strongly despite the tax, with 1.6 million extra jobs over the next eight years and per capita income increasing by $9000.
He accused Mr Abbott of "running around the country with his own special horror story", predicting doom and gloom.
"He has predicted the death of Gladstone, the death of the Latrobe Valley, the death of Portland, the death of the Hunter region Illawarra, Kwinana, Whyalla, and the story goes on.
"It reminds you a bit of the old Lucky Starr song from the 1960s, I've Been Everywhere."