Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wong turns up heat on Coalition

By Chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis for AM

ABC News Online, 27 July 2009

The Federal Opposition may have blinked in the stand-off over emissions trading but the Government is not yet ready to cut it any slack.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the Government is not prepared to delay a vote on the issue after the Coalition outlined its nine principles for negotiating over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has promised to bring his party with him if the Government is willing to make the changes to the legislation.

But details about the amendments have not been provided, and with the first vote on the scheme expected in mid-August, time is running out.

"The Government has always been prepared to negotiate with the Opposition to pass this legislation through the Senate," Senator Wong said.

"But for us to do that, Mr Turnbull has to get a position that is supported by his party room and he has to put forward what he says the Opposition would need in terms of changes to the bill to pass the legislation.

"He simply hasn't done that."

Senator Wong says the Opposition should not be given more time to clarify its position given the bill was scheduled to be debated and voted on last month.

"It was delayed as a result, primarily, of the Opposition's delaying tactics in the Senate," she said.

"This is legislation has been out and public since March. It is based on policy that was announced in detail by the Prime Minister in December.

"So if Mr Turnbull has failed to get his house in order in this timeframe, he really only has himself to blame."

The minister gave no indication the Government would relent despite the first signs of the Coalition willing to negotiate, giving it a real chance of passing the bill before climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

"We have seen a range of positions being put forward by Mr Turnbull and his frontbenchers," she said.

"We are willing to have a discussion with Mr Turnbull when he gets clarity around what his position actually is.

"He really needs to get the support of his party room, and then the Government is willing to have a discussion with him and consider amendments he is going to put forward.

"We have always said that is the case."

The Government's stance can be seen as taking the first step on the road to a double dissolution trigger over the bill, pressuring the Coalition to come to the table.

"The Government has been clear about its timetable from the start," Senator Wong said.

"[The Coalition] is now seeking yet another reason for delay.

"In 17 days, Mr Turnbull will have to decide whether he votes to take action on climate change or whether he allows the climate change sceptics in his own party room to again dominate the Liberal Party's position."

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