Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Govt fuming over lack of cooperation for emissions scheme

ABC News Online, Posted Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:29pm AEST

Treasurer Wayne Swan has labelled the lack of bipartisan support as a case of an Opposition scare campaign and cheap politics. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

The job of trying to head off dangerous climate change is getting tougher by the day for the Federal Government.

Professor Ross Garnaut hands down his emissions trading report to the Government next week.

The Government has promised to outline the design of its plan by the end of the year - ready to start in 2010. But some in the Opposition want that deadline extended.

"In my view yes. I don't believe that you can do a comprehensive analysis of all of the impacts of a emissions trading scheme in that time frame," Western Australian backbencher Dennis Jensen said.

"I suspect that the Government will have some sort of a delaying tactic themselves," Queensland front bencher Peter Dutton added.

The Coalition's pre-election promise of a 2011 introduction now appears to be up in the air but environment spokesman Greg Hunt will not specify a start-up date.

"We have a very clear and unified view. We believe in emissions trading. We believe in the importance, the fundamental importance of climate change, but we do say, we will look at the timing following Garnaut," he said.

The Opposition is also warning motorists the price of petrol will go up significantly if fuel is included in an emissions trading scheme. Mr Hunt says everything possible should be done to keep petrol prices as low as possible.

"Is government policy for petrol prices to go up or down? Our position is very clear. We want petrol prices to go down," he said.

"We think that is the right thing by the economy. That is the right thing to do by Australian families, by pensioners, by low income earners and that we can also... make real inroads into the efficiency of vehicles.

"We can do the right thing by an emissions trading scheme."

Treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has raised the prospect of a policy change, cutting the excise on petrol to offset the effect of a carbon tax.

Scare campaign

The Coalition's positions on these two matters have angered the Government.

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the lack of bipartisan support for the central plank of the Government strategy to cut greenhouse gases is another case of an Opposition scare campaign and cheap politics.

"Reducing carbon emissions over time is a significant economic challenge for the nation and for the globe," he said.

"We are determined to address this challenge. I think what we are seeing from the Liberals is that they are completely incapable of dealing with economic challenges and dealing with the environmental challenge of climate change."

Mr Swan says Opposition's support will be needed as the Government goes through the green paper process.

"We will need their support because this is a very significant economic reform which goes to the heart of our future economic prosperity," he said.

"Having one side of politics involved in such a negative scare campaign, is damaging to the long-term economic interests of this country."

The Treasurer has dismissed the Opposition's stance on petrol as outrageous.

"We are going to publish our green paper which will discuss the design of the scheme," he said.

"It will be comprehensive and when that is in the public domain, we can have an informed discussion about all of the issues in the emissions trading system.

"But for Mr Hunt to engage in such outrageous lies about the potential impact of a scheme, the design of which he hasn't seen, just shows how desperate the Liberal Party has become."

Unstable Senate

On climate change and everything else, the Government will have to negotiate to get its legislation through the Senate.

After Parliament rises tomorrow, the Coalition loses its Senate majority. The Government's so called 'alcopops' tax hike is a case in point.

The Opposition is against it. The Greens and others have big concerns. Labor will have to get the support of the Greens, and two other Senators, Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding.

Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has some simple advice for Labor.

"The Government is going to have to bargain and so are we and so is everybody else in the Senate," he said.

The Australian Democrats will have their last day in Federal Parliament tomorrow and Senator Natasha Stott Despoja has some parting advice too.

"Well, welcome to the Senate post-July 1. Of course the Government is going to have to bargain and negotiate and compromise and do deals with the cross-bench senators," she said.

"Steve Fielding has indicated what he is unsure about what he wants to do and certainly after July 1 any one senator can kill a bill or kill a government policy.

"The Government will not have the Democrats and all that consistent corporate history to work with, so welcome to a very unstable place."

- Adapted from a report by Alexandra Kirk for The World Today

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