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Bargaining begins on renewable energy target -

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Bargaining begins on renewable energy target

Sabra Lane reported this story on Monday, August 17, 2009 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is due to sit down with her Opposition
counterpart Greg Hunt this lunchtime, to negotiate a deal on getting the Government's renewable
energy target bill through the Parliament.

While the Government was adamant last week that the bill couldn't be unhooked from the emissions
trading scheme bill, it has now buckled to pressure and separated the two. Both the Government and
the Opposition are now saying they want the renewable energy legislation passed by the end of this
week.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Bowing to pressure from the Opposition and crossbench senators, the Government
announced yesterday it would decouple its renewable energy target bill from its emissions trading
scheme legislation.

That target will guarantee a fifth of Australia's electricity supply will be sourced from renewable
power by 2020. It's supposed to encourage energy-hungry industries into finding greener and cleaner
power sources now.

The Government had linked both bills, to put additional pressure on Malcolm Turnbull and the
Coalition, into supporting the carbon pollution reduction scheme. Mr Turnbull welcomed the decision
to split the two as a win for common sense; but Government backbencher Yvette D'Ath had a different
take.

YVETTE D'ATH: What we saw yesterday was nothing but smugness. Here is the leader of the Opposition,
the man who wants to be future Prime Minister, actually celebrating that he was the one who stopped
the Government dealing with climate change.

SABRA LANE: And Liberal MP Stuart Robert dismissed Government claims that his party is a collection
of climate-change deniers.

STUART ROBERT: Remember we are the party that actually introduced an ETS. We are the party that put
an ETS on the floor. We are the party that started the Shergold Review to getting an ETS as part of
our climate change strategy but we are not the party that wanted to rape and pillage the Australian
society with a badly thought-through ETS that is flawed and friendless and no one wants.

SABRA LANE: The Opposition's climate change spokesman Greg Hunt wasn't using such descriptive
language on Radio National, but says the renewable energy target bill needs amending.

GREG HUNT: If they won't fix it, we will. Our goal is to have a proper negotiation and we are
seeking to get this bill passed. There are things that can improve it. That can, must be dealt with
but we have a very clear goal. Let's get this legislation fixed. Let's get this legislation passed
and let's get solar jobs flowing.

SABRA LANE: Mr Hunt will meet with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong today. It's understood the
Opposition will push the case for more compensation for the aluminium industry. The Greens will
seek to increase the target to 30 per cent.

Either way, the Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told Fairfax radio that the Coalition
had been something of a speed hump in getting the legislation through Parliament.

GREG COMBET: We have been hamstrung by the fact that the Coalition is so divided on climate change.
I mean we have got very different views. A number of the members of the Coalition do not believe
the science on climate change. They are sceptics about it and they are quite vocal about it and
they are critical of Malcolm Turnbull.

SABRA LANE: The Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull says too much of the emissions trading scheme
debate has been bogged down by a discussion on the science, when he says the debate should have
been about the design of the emissions trading scheme.

And he has told an audience of business chiefs this morning, that it's still the Opposition's wish
to have a vote delayed until early next year, after the UN talks in Copenhagen.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The best course of action is not to have a final vote on this scheme until early
next year. We should obviously be debating this and exchanging economic modelling and you know,
getting the rocket scientists together so they can test their economic assumptions. We should do
all that, absolutely but we shouldn't finalise the design until after Copenhagen.

If the Prime Minister continues to insist on this November deadline which is all about politics, it
has got nothing to do about the policy, then we will seek to amend the legislation.

SABRA LANE: It's an acknowledgment of the current political realities. Based on current polling,
the Opposition would be smashed in a double-dissolution election. Mr Turnbull also delivered a
backhander to the captains of industry, attending today's annual forum of the Australian Industry
Group.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I would just in closing urge you and all other business groups like yourselves to
engage actively in the policy debate but engage actively and publicly. There is a tendency for
business organisations to be cowed by this Government and to just engage privately and you know,
behind closed doors in the hope that their eloquence will persuade the Government to change its
mind.

We need to have a fully informed public debate and it has to get down now into issues of design.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, ending that report by Sabra Lane in
Canberra.