Emisssions trading stand-off presses election trigger

Climate chaos0


Mr Turnbull said that Labor’s scheme should meanwhile be subject to another inquiry, this time by the Productivity Commission. But the Government flatly rejected the call and said it would put its scheme to a vote in June as scheduled.

A double dissolution can only take place if a bill is rejected twice by the Senate, three months apart.

If the bill is defeated or deferred next month, it will count as the first rejection. Labor could put the bill up again in October, and if it were again defeated or deferred, the Government would have a trigger for an election.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, accused Mr Turnbull of a failure of leadership by constantly putting off a decision on whether to placate right-wing Liberals and the National Party .

“What we have here is a series of excuses to underpin the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has not had the courage to take on the climate change sceptics in his party,” Mr Rudd said. The same attitude had cost Brendan Nelson the leadership of the Liberal Party, he said.

Mr Turnbull said Labor’s scheme was flawed and would cost jobs. Given its start date had been delayed a year until 2011, there was no urgent need to pass the legislation before the Copenhagen conference in December, when other nations would state their intentions and the US model would be highly influential, he said.

“For the sake of six months let’s get this right. Let’s not sacrifice jobs on the altar of Kevin Rudd’s vanity.”

Labor’s scheme aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to between 5 and 25 per cent below their 2000 levels.

As compromises for delay, Mr Turnbull offered the Coalition’s support for those targets to give the Government some bargaining power at Copenhagen. He also proposed a voluntary carbon trading scheme to start in January, in which companies and individuals could start trading permits. Any offsets could be banked against a future emissions trading scheme.

Mr Turnbull said the Coalition would vote against Labor’s scheme in June if its push for a deferral was defeated.

That was the most likely scenario yesterday after the independent senator Nick Xenophon, whose vote is crucial, refused to back the Coalition’s deferral.

Senator Xenophon also opposes the scheme but said he supported a delay only until August, when Parliament returns from the winter break. That was enough time for parties to negotiate changes, he said.

Senator Xenophon said he would vote down Labor’s scheme in June if his deferral option was defeated. “I don’t think we can justify a delay until after Copenhagen,” he said. Nor did he support the Coalition push for Australia to adopt the US model because the two nations had different economies.

The Family First senator, Steve Fielding, backed the Coalition, but the Greens opposed a delay – they want to vote against the scheme as soon as possible because they believe it does not cut emissions hard enough. “[It] is dead in the water and it will not pass this year,” a Greens senator, Christine Milne, said.

The prospect of an early election was discussed in the Coalition party room yesterday but it was decided to call the Government’s bluff.

A report by the Productivity Commission has found spending on government programs tackling climate change will amount to $23.6 billion over the next five years.