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Govt may have to clear the air with Turnbull -

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Govt may have to clear the air with Turnbull on ETS

Lyndal Curtis reported this story on Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: To Canberra now where the Senate this morning voted down the Federal Government's
emissions trading scheme.

The Government failed to convince any non-Government senators to back the legislation but the
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told the Senate that the Government will press ahead with the
reform for as long as it has to.

PENNY WONG: We will bring this bill back before the end of the year because it is the right thing
to do. We will bring this bill back before the end of the year because it is the responsible thing
to do. We will bring this bill back before the end of the year because we on this side understand
we have to start the economic transformation we need.

And we will bring this bill back before the end of the year because if we don't this nation goes to
Copenhagen with no means to deliver our targets. And if we don't the message to Copenhagen would be
that Australia is once again going backwards on climate change.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.

And if the Government is to get its legislation through before the end of the year, it will have to
sit down and negotiate.

It's most likely that the Government will seek to strike a deal with the Liberal Party because the
Senate Nationals and Family First Senator Steve Fielding don't support an emissions trading scheme
at all and the Greens want a much tougher bill.

The Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull joins us now in Canberra to speak to our chief political
correspondent Lyndal Curtis.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Mr Turnbull, welcome to The World Today.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Great to be with you.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Are you the Government's best shot at getting this legislation passed in November?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: (Laughs) Well I think they, Penny Wong talked about a lot of things she was going
to do before the end of the year. And one of the things she really must do is start negotiating.

It really is remarkable that she has gone right through this year and refused to negotiate or have
any discussions with the Coalition about the bill.

And we put forward proposals. We put forward some very constructive suggestions. We put forward a
report only a few days ago which showed some alternatives that would make for a scheme that was
greener, cheaper and smarter. A greener, cheaper and smarter scheme and she just dismissed it out
of hand and said it was a mongrel idea.

LYNDAL CURTIS: She says she's prepared to negotiate in good faith. You've said as much yourself.
How soon can you develop amendments and sit down and talk to her?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well we have actually set out a number of principles that she, she has a
perfectly good basis for negotiation now. The issues that we've raised throughout the year right at
the beginning of the year I raised this important issue about agricultural offsets or green carbon.
This is one of the big deficiencies in the bill.

You know in the United States agriculture is, agricultural emissions are not included but
agricultural offsets, investments which increase soil carbon, biochar, environmental forestry are
very much included and encouraged and a lot of other measures.

Now Penny Wong and Kevin Rudd have decided to deny Australian farmers those opportunities, deny our
environment and the world's environment those massive opportunities for abatement.

I've been trying to talk to them all year about that and they won't discuss it so if she has a
change of heart and wants to sit down and negotiate with us that will be terrific.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You have said you will develop amendments. How soon can you do that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well we will work through them over the next you know few weeks and months. But
it depends Lyndal on how, well what Penny Wong is actually talking about in terms of amendments.

I mean normally the way differences like this are negotiated is the, you know the party that the
Government is seeking to get support from sets out the issues of principle that it has concerns
about, as we have done in our nine principles that we set out or restated just recently and we sit
down and work on amendments together.

Now if Penny Wong is saying she will not have any discussion with us until such time as we present
formal legislative amendments then that will take some time. But it's, this is really pedantic,
bloody-mindedness, stubbornness on her part.

I mean she knows, you know we've said for example we want to have green carbon included. We want
Australian farmers not to be disadvantaged by an unfair emissions trading scheme in Australia that
disadvantages them versus American farmers.

Now you know once you agree on that principle then you can get the draftsmen and women off to do
their work.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Your Senate leader Nick Minchin has called today for the legislation to be put in
the deep freeze until Copenhagen. He says it would be reckless and irresponsible to pass it before
then.

If you get proposals up for negotiation can you get his agreement on those?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Oh certainly we work, everything that we're doing has been, all of our proposals
and principles have had the support of the whole shadow cabinet of which of course Nick is a very
distinguished member.

But he, Nick is quite right in saying the scheme ideally should not be concluded until after
Copenhagen. I mean that is, that really is the best time to reconsider this legislation because by
then, and we're only talking about the difference of a few months Lyndal, we will then know.

If this scheme were to come back for final consideration for example in February when the
Parliament comes back in February we would know then what the American legislation looked like
because we would have heard from the US Senate. So far we only know what the US House of
Representatives bill looks like. And we would know what Copenhagen had agreed or not agreed. So we
would be able to make a much more informed decision.

Now Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN framework on climate change secretariat, who's the head UN
person on climate change, has said you do not need to go to Copenhagen with concluded legislation
on an emissions trading scheme. It's quite likely the Americans won't have concluded their
legislation.

What you need is a commitment to targets. Mr Rudd has some targets and we have supported him on
them.

LYNDAL CURTIS: If we can get back to what Senator Minchin said, he said it would be reckless and
irresponsible to pass the bill before Copenhagen yet you're prepared to entertain the idea of doing
just that.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well look we have to deal in the real world. I mean the reality is that if the
Government comes back with their legislation in November we've got to have an answer to it.

Now Senator Minchin and I absolutely agree that it would be better for the legislation to be dealt
with early next year but both of us have to confront the reality, you know the real world situation
of Kevin Rudd bringing the bill back in November.

And he's doing that for political purposes because he wants to get a double dissolution trigger so
he can have an early election before next year's budget. I mean let's face it, that's what he's on
about.

I mean why would anyone, just think about this: Given that the scheme is not going to start in full
force until 2012 with proper trading, so you're going to have a sort of soft start in 2011, why
would you make a decision in November as opposed to February when the difference of three months
would enable you to be fully informed in making that decision?

None of us for the sake of three months in our own lives would choose to make a less rather than a
more informed decision. And that's the recklessness that Nick Minchin is talking about and I, well
this is the point we've been making all year, let's make an informed decision.

LYNDAL CURTIS: On another issue a report prepared for the Henry Tax Review has recommended that
vehicles be taxed on how far they drive. While it would hit hardest people such as long haul truck
drivers, is it one way to send a signal about the impact of driving on the environment?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Lyndal a tax, well this is just a newspaper report so I don't want to you
know take it too far other than to say if it is as reported it would work enormous unfairness.

I mean there are many people in Australia particularly those in rural and regional Australia who
have to drive very long distances on very unsatisfactory roads in many cases, on dirt roads. Why
should they be penalised because of where they live?

Now you know all of, the real answer if you want to reduce congestion in the cities I can tell you
this and I'm a passionate supporter of public transport, is you've got to invest more money in
public transport that provides an alternative.

But slugging people who have to drive hundreds of kilometres every day as part of their work in the
bush, there's no justice in that.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Malcolm Turnbull, thank you for your time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Thank you very much.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull speaking to our chief political
correspondent Lyndal Curtis in our Canberra studio.