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Govt grapples with emissions trading policy -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is refusing to say whether it plans to fully compensate
Australians for the increases in the price of petrol and electricity that will flow from the
introduction of a carbon emissions trading scheme. But the Prime Minister says working families and
pensioners will be protected from the price hikes when the scheme begins in 2010.

While the Opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, is insisting that all Australians be fully protected,
the Coalition is also focusing its political firepower on the holiday plans of the Treasury head,
Ken Henry.

But the Government says Dr Henry is perfectly entitled to take five weeks annual leave now to look
after an endangered wombat colony in a remote part of central Queensland.

In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Kevin Rudd has been criticised up hill and down dale for the long working hours
he's demanded of the public service. And he hasn't apologised for the big demands his Government's
placed on the bureaucracy.

But news that the Treasury Secretary Ken Henry is taking five weeks' leave has drawn some criticism
from Opposition leader, Brendan Nelson. The secretary will spend his vacation looking after a
colony of endangered wombats, out of mobile phone range and a couple of hours' drive from the
nearest town.

Dr Nelson is querying the timing of Dr Henry's break.

BRENDAN NELSON: I think we all love the hairy-nosed wombat, but I'm very concerned about who's
actually looking after our muddle-headed Treasurer. This country is in the process of going through
one of the most challenging economic periods that we've seen in recent history. We know that the
most complex and significant economic policy in the form of climate change is in the process of
being considered by Government.

We're supposed to be having root and branch review of the taxation system. Pensioners have been
told they've got to wait for Mr Henry to finish his work.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister says everyone's entitled to annual leave. He told Fairfax Radio
Dr Henry hasn't had a chance to take any significant time off in the past seven months.

KEVIN RUDD: Any individual, to remain effective throughout the course of the year needs to take a
break. On the individual details concerning his leave arrangements, that's a matter for him to
resolve with the Treasurer. I'm not across that at all. Remember the government was attacked more
recently for working public servants to the bone.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Dr Henry's boss, Treasurer Wayne Swan, called a media doorstop on just this topic,
declaring he'd approved Dr Henry's leave.

WAYNE SWAN: It's a logical time for Dr Henry to take leave. He worked through Christmas, he worked
around the clock on the Budget. And now is the time, with the parliamentary session over, for him
to take some leave because there is a lot, lot more to do for the rest of the year and into next
year.

So therefore I do think it is regrettable that we have today this smear campaign from Dr Nelson. I
mean, Dr Nelson thinks it's okay for Alexander Downer to go and play golf, to go to lunch during
Question Time.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Mr Swan is not as forthcoming on the question of compensation for the extra
costs of petrol and energy caused by the Government's emissions trading scheme due to start in
2010.

WAYNE SWAN: We've made it very clear that compensation will be part and parcel with the
introduction of an emissions trading system. But the detail of that will be fully canvassed in the
Green Paper and the community can have a discussion about all of that while we move through the
process of finalising our plans for an emissions trading system.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition leader yesterday demanded the Government fully compensate consumers
for the expected price hikes. This morning the Prime Minister, like his Treasurer, sidestepped the
contentious matter, despite Fairfax Radio's Neil Mitchell's sustained questioning.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, if I was going to irresponsibly provide a series of numbers here now on this
question, it would not add to the debate. The responsible course of action is as I've described -
it may not meet the tabloid needs at the moment -

NEIL MITCHELL: Oh, come on. Tabloid needs?! This is reality Prime Minister. This isn't politics;
this is people paying for petrol.

KEVIN RUDD: No, politics, Neil is when you take at first blush a figure given to you by the Liberal
Party of 30 cents a litre and -

NEIL MITCHELL: Well, you give me an option if you want, and what I am asking is 30 cents, 20 cents,
10 cents, would you compensate us 100 per cent?

KEVIN RUDD: And then inject that into the reality as if it's a given, that's not proven. All we're
saying is the responsible course of action Neil, is to do that on the basis that I have just
outlined.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But the Government is definitive about changing its position on nuclear power
generation. Despite the urgings of former premier Bob Carr and the head of the Australian Workers'
Union Paul Howes, Wayne Swan has ruled it out.

WAYNE SWAN: A capital N-O.

JOURNALIST: Never, ever?

WAYNE SWAN: (laughs)

ELEANOR HALL: Alexandra Kirk with that report.