Friday, 20 November 2009

Turnbull's troops find their voice on emissions

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 19/11/2009 Page: 7

SUPPORTERS of the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, have broken a long public silence to begin advocating a deal with Labor on an emissions trading scheme, taking on their colleagues who have dominated the debate for months. As they did so, Liberals on both sides of the argument began speculating a deal would be reached with the Government, pushed through the party room and passed by the Senate next week. As negotiations over amendments resumed yesterday, debate began in the Senate.

Those who had kept quiet so far spoke out in what one source said was a co-ordinated tactic designed to send a message to the rebels. The Queensland Liberal senator Sue Boyce stated defiantly that she was convinced by the "overwhelming scientific evidence" underpinning climate change that "Labor's clunky scheme is better than no scheme at all". I would like to see the package of bills passed and there is no reason why they cannot be passed ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference next month if the Government accepts fair, reasonable and timely amendments," Senator Boyce said.

To suggest that there should not be an emissions trading scheme because it will increase costs, is to my mind, an immoral proposition." The South Australian senator Simon Birmingham said he would support the bill if the Government offered concessions. "I hope ultimately to be voting for action on climate change," Senator Birmingham said. He conceded the party would split on a final vote but said lie respected the right of his colleagues to cross the floor. The Tasmanian senator Guy Barnett said he also would support an amended scheme.

Before the Senate rose last night one of the chief rebels, Cory Bernardi, exposed the gulf in the Liberal Party. He said man-made climate change was nonsense and alarmism and described those who subscribed to the concept as "anthropogenic global warming rent seekers". A fellow rebel. Mitch Fifield said the impending failure at Copenhagen to bind the world to greenhouse gas reduction targets meant the argument to pass the scheme before the conference had "been shot".

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said yesterday he was confident the Government would reach agreement with the Liberals "but I am still concerned about what is actually happening in [Coalition] ranks". Senior Liberal sources said the desire by Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull to reach agreement meant it was likely a deal would be struck.

The biggest hurdle for Mr Turnbull will be to then receive party room approval of the deal. One Liberal hostile to a deal said there would be no ballot in the party room. Mr Turnbull would make a decision based on the mood and, so even was the split, he would be able to decide the party had approved.