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.