The Government is bracing for a fight over its emissions trading scheme, with a two-month Senate inquiry set up by the Coalition and the Greens almost certain to delay the introduction of the scheme beyond the 30 June deadline.
The Greens are angry the Rudd Government’s target of a 5% cut in emissions by 2020 is inadequate, while the Opposition is concerned the scheme will have a devastating effect on the struggling economy and does not offer enough compensation for affected industries.
But Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has defended the scheme.
“We are building a vehicle that will take us to a low-pollution future. Some people want it to be a Ferrari, but if you can’t have the Ferrari would you really have no vehicle at all?”
The answer from the Greens and the Opposition is yes.
“Far from being a Ferrari, we’ve got a lemon that wouldn’t pass a roadworthy,” Oppostion climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said. Greens Senator Christine Milne agreed.
“There are occasions when something is actually not better than nothing.”
Wong says the Senate inquiry may cause the debate to take longer than the two months allotted, and that the legislation must pass before UN climate change talks in December in Copenhagen.
“Whether our legislation gets passed will be a matter for the Senate. Our preference was to have it in place one year before the scheme starts, that is by June, but the start date isn’t until the middle of next year.
“Obviously we want it bedded down as soon as possible, to deliver certainty to business and so we can take a clear position in the lead-up to Copenhagen.”
But the Coalition is unlikely to support the legislation. Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has attacked the scheme, saying it will create more job losses.
“If the legislation is the same as the Government’s white paper, it will not have any luck with the National Party in the Senate, because it is a recipe to put people out of work in a recession,” Senator Joyce said yesterday.
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has put forward a proposal for an alternative emissions scheme that would offer compensation for industries hurt by the Government’s plan.
But Turnbull has said his proposal would start in either 2011 or 2012, in favour of waiting for the economy to improve. Former treasurer Peter Costello has also signalled the need for the scheme to be put on hold.
Wong has said the Government is willing to remain open to changes.
- Government calls for 5% to 15% cut in carbon emissions, promises $2 billion in compensation for business