The Senate has defeated legislation to establish an emissions trading scheme, forcing the Government to negotiate with the Opposition or persist with its bill with the threat of an early election. Just after 11am, the Opposition, Greens, and the independents, Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding, voted to defeat the package of 11 bills that sought to establish a scheme from 2011 onwards.
If the Government waits three months to reintroduce the bills, and they are defeated again, it would serve as a trigger for a double dissolution election. [An early election which dissolves both the Senate and the lower house]
Before the vote, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong called it a "day of reckoning" on climate change. "This is a reform that is long overdue, that is in the national interest, that both major political parties said they would implement when they went to the last election," she said. In summing up the Government's case before the vote, Senator Wong said: ''This bill may be going down today but this is not the end. We will press forward, we will press on with this reform for as long as we have to. ''We will bring this bill back before the end of the year."
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said he was willing to negotiate amendments to pass a scheme in the event the Government reintroduces the bills. But his party room is divided and he faces a tough test ahead, even though he has majority support to negotiate.
Senator Wong said again this morning she would consider amendments "when Mr Turnbull has serious and credible amendments that have the support of his party room". Debate on the scheme began about 10am but there were few speakers left to make a contribution. Family First Senator Steve Fielding told the Senate of his concerns that humans were not the cause of global warming.
But early election trigger won't work
KEVIN Rudd's plans for an early double dissolution election have been sunk, with the discovery of a legal defect in his Emissions Trading Scheme. The Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, is understood to have confirmed that even if Mr Rudd were to go to a double dissolution election to get his ETS through Parliament, the scheme could still be blocked by the Senate.
Mr Evans an expert on Senate practice is understood to have based his argument on the fact that most of the ETS relies not on law, but on regulation. The Standing Orders of the Parliament state those regulations could still be struck down by the Senate even if the laws establishing the ETS were passed at a joint sitting of Parliament following a double dissolution election.
Mr Evans' views are based on the 1987 precedent of the failed Australia Card. Then Prime Minister Bob Hawke went to a double dissolution election using the Senate's obstruction of the ID card as a trigger. He won the election and was preparing for a joint sitting of the Parliament when it was discovered by the Opposition that the start-up date for the card was governed by regulation and a hostile Senate would vote it down. In a humiliating backdown, Mr Hawke had to abandon the ID card.
Mr Evans believes Mr Rudd is now in the same position.
When contacted yesterday, Mr Evans declined to comment publicly. It is understood that shadow attorney-general George Brandis shares Mr Evans' opinion. It is likely Mr Evans' view will be confirmed in writing this week when Senator Brandis approaches him for confirmation of his opinion.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here