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Government insists emissions trading timetabl -

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Reporter: Hayden Cooper

ELEANOR HALL: To the confusion in the Federal Government this morning over when it will introduce
its emissions trading scheme.

It was sparked by the Labor chairman of the parliamentary committee investigating the scheme who
contradicted his ministerial colleagues by saying that his inquiry would report back before the
legislation reaches Parliament.

The Opposition and minor parties leapt on the admission as a clear sign that the Government is now
moving to delay the introduction of carbon trading. But the Climate Change Minister says that's not
the case.

In Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: When the Government referred its emissions trading plan to the house economics
committee last week, it was adamant the move was simply procedural and that the legislation would
go through Parliament even before the inquiry was complete. So when the committee chairman Labor
backbencher Craig Thomson appeared on Sky News this morning, what he said was a surprise.

CRAIG THOMSON: We'll be looking at this issue and we'll be reporting back before the issue comes
before Parliament in terms of the legislation.

HAYDEN COOPER: The committee isn't due to report until the second half of the year, possibly as
late as December, but the Government has always maintained the legislation would go through
Parliament by June.

BOB BROWN: They don't know what they're doing.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Greens leader Bob Brown says it's a sign that the Government is stalling.

BOB BROWN: There is no excuse. Mr Thomson has been charged with this committee set up in the House
of Representatives at the behest of Cabinet no doubt. He sits at the same table as Penny Wong.

They're in a state of disarray and it's over an issue which simply can't afford that disarray, that
uncertainty, simply because the big polluters in Australia are trying to skittle even the totally
unsatisfactory program that the Prime Minister announced for entering a carbon trading scheme at
the end of last year.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Opposition hasn't yet decided how it will vote when the bill does reach
Parliament. The leader Malcolm Turnbull is also accusing the Government of delaying.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The question arises, is the Government serious about this at all? What exactly is
their policy? If they were committed to it, which is what we all assumed they were, why would you
refer it to an economics committee of the House of Representatives to ask the fundamental question
as to whether the central element in your, you know, emissions reduction scheme should be an
emissions trading scheme?

They're clearly thinking of changing their mind at the very least. And in any event, we haven't
seen the final legislation or any legislation to constitute the scheme. So there's a very high
degree of uncertainty about what the Labor Government actually wants to do on this front.

HAYDEN COOPER: But the source of this morning's confusion is moving quickly to clarify. It's
understood Craig Thomson now says he was referring to an interim report being ready before the
legislation reaches Parliament.

Bob Brown doesn't believe it.

BOB BROWN: Now they're talking about an interim report coming from this committee before June. Do
you have an interim report, then pass the bill, then have the full report? The right hand doesn't
know what the left hand is doing in the Government on this issue.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the Government stands by its original
timetable.

PENNY WONG: The reality is that climate change is not going to go away and we have to start the
hard task of turning this economy around from a very high polluting economy and building the low
polluting economy of tomorrow.

That is a task that we do need to start and this is a scheme that enables that transformation to
start occurring.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Opposition too is accused of backing away from emissions trading while it waits
for its own inquiry into the scheme. Now the party spokesman Andrew Robb wants a carbon tax to be
considered.

ANDREW ROBB: What we do know is that the scheme designed by the Rudd Government, after 18 months of
endless inquiries and millions of dollars, is a deeply flawed scheme. It will cost jobs, it will
kill investment and it won't do anything about CO2 reductions.

So we need now, and I think the Government is already starting itself, to look at alternatives.

HAYDEN COOPER: Both sides are accusing each other of equivocating.

Penny Wong:

PENNY WONG: What we are seeing is the Federal Opposition who previously under John Howard signed up
to an emissions trading scheme, who reiterated under Malcolm Turnbull last year that this was the
best way, the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions; we are now seeing the sceptics
in that party undermine their own leader's policy.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Climate Change Minister Penny Wong ending that report from Hayden Cooper
in Canberra.