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Nationals downplay talk of Coalition split -

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ELEANOR HALL: National Party leaders are playing down reports that the party is considering
severing its Coalition agreement with the Liberals.

Party leader Warren Truss and Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce say the partnership is working well
despite some differences with their Liberal colleagues.

Nationals MPs were persuaded yesterday to agree to changes to allow the passage of the Government's
renewable energy target bill but they say that doesn't mean they'll have a change of heart on the
Government's contentious emissions trading scheme.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: The Nationals are holding their Federal council meeting this weekend and the party's
Senate leader Barnaby Joyce has confirmed that in the past there have been talks about the Nats
pulling the plug on their partnership with the Liberals.

That led to a little mischief making as MPs arrived at Parliament this morning.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding:

STEVE FIELDING: Look I think the Nationals should probably consider joining Family First because
frankly they are not comfortable with the Liberal Party. That Coalition is just a sham.

SABRA LANE: Senator Barnaby Joyce:

BARNABY JOYCE: What I like about Family First is even though they have got one member, sometimes
they've got two positions (laughter) so there's a place in there for all of us. In fact if we
doubled the number we could have like 15 positions.

SABRA LANE: Senator Joyce says the Coalition is like any business partnership; that it's not
harmonious all of the time.

BARNABY JOYCE: Reports of the demise of the Coalition are way overstated. This is, you know, this
is the reality of all parties - a whole range of issues that strategically are discussed and that's
what you should be doing. But you are putting far too much on it because you think it's got any
credibility. And I can back that up because we have a very successful Coalition that's in play at
the moment.

SABRA LANE: And Nationals leader Warren Truss says while the idea of quitting the Coalition may
have been floated at a recent meeting of MPs that that doesn't amount to party endorsement.

WARREN TRUSS: Well discussions in party meetings should never be taken flippantly but the reality
is there was no serious consideration given to severing the relationship and we have no plans to
talk about it again.

People raise a whole range of issues about how we should manage things in the future. Some of these
discussions occur in the context of issues where there is a difference in the views of the two
parties and naturally some people have extreme views, others have more modest views.

The reality is that we have been able to find ways through difficult issues in the past. The issues
associated with the RET were creating some difficulties. A solution has been reached where both
parties are satisfied.

SABRA LANE: Certainly the Liberals and Nationals worked together yesterday to agree on amendments
enabling the Government's renewable energy target bill to pass Parliament.

But Senator Joyce and his party colleagues Ron Boswell and John Williams say neither the Government
nor the Liberals should expect the Nationals will agree on an emissions trading scheme.

BARNABY JOYNCE: The agreement on the RET in no way foreshadows any agreement on the ETS.

RON BOSWELL: Yesterday's vote cannot be interpreted in any way as an acceptance or a movement from
the National Party on the ETS.

JOHN WILLIAMS: As far as the Nationals supporting the CPRS, I think probably never in your wildest
dreams if I could put it that way.

SABRA LANE: And that may well test the Coalition's partnership in the months ahead. If push comes
to shove the Liberals have signalled they're prepared to talk with the Government about amendments
to avoid the bill becoming a snap election trigger.

Based on current polling including the Prime Minister's soaring popularity the Coalition and
Malcolm Turnbull would be smashed at a double dissolution election.

And for the moment the Opposition leader says the partnership's just fine.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The fact is the, there is no, you know there is no, there is no move to do
anything other than work closely together but recognising that from time to time issues will come
up on which we will take a different view.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull ending that report by Sabra Lane.