Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wong defiant as Senate rejects carbon trade laws

By Online parliamentary correspondent Emma Rodgers

ABC News Online, 13 August 2009

The Government's contentious emissions trading laws have been voted down as expected in the Senate.

Amid loud interjections, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong lashed out at Coalition senators for opposing the laws, accusing them of resorting to fear and cheap shots during debate.

"When I say we have been debating climate change that might be somewhat generous," she said.

All non-Government senators voted against the bill.

The vote provides the Government with a potential double dissolution trigger, depending on when it decides to make a second attempt at passing the laws.

Senator Wong vowed to press on with getting the scheme passed and said it would be brought back into the Parliament before the end of the year, although she did not specify when.

"It's not smart to pretend this won't leave us isolated from the rest of the world, and it's not smart to undermine our transition to a low-carbon economy," she said.

"This bill may be going down today, but this is not the end."

The defeat of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) comes as no surprise, with the Opposition and Greens vowing in the months leading up to the vote that they would block it.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz accused the Government of painting everyone who is against the scheme as a climate change sceptic.

"Labor's response to those that question some of the scientific paradigms has been shrill, extreme and doctrinaire," he said.

If the Government waits three months to re-introduce the legislation and it is again defeated, it will provide a trigger for a double dissolution election.

It had wanted the bill to pass before international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

But the Opposition says the scheme should not be finalised until after the Copenhagen talks, and will be proposing amendments in the coming months.

The Greens have refused to back the scheme because they say the emissions cut target is far too low at 5 per cent.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding also voted against the scheme, but has left the door open to supporting it further down the track.

"Despite my concerns about the science, Australia may be forced to adopt an emissions trading scheme," he said.

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