by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government’s carbon trading scheme is still far from settled.
And the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, almost made a significant admission, to that effect, when he hit the airwaves yesterday, to sell the scheme.
He stayed firmly “on message,” f throughout most of his interview with the Sydney radio station 2UE, saying the government is taking ” a responsible, balanced course of action through this.”
And he added:”The key thing, though, is there is a huge cost to Australia if we fail to act.”
That is the standard sales pitch for the government’s plan.
But Mr Rudd knows that he will have to get the plan through the Senate, to make itÂ stick.
That won’t be easy.
The numbers in the Senate are very close.
The Liberal and Labor parties each have 32 senators.
The Nationals have four, the Greens five,Â the Country Liberal party one,Â the Family First party one and there is one independent.
The Greens have already let the government know that they regard its plan as too soft.
A deal with the Greens would still, certainly be possible,Â but the price would probably be too high for Mr Rudd.
As several analysts have already noted, the Green paper which the government published this week, charts a course that would probably help the Prime Minister get re-elected in 2010.
Australian voters certainly want something done about climate change.
But they cedrtainly don’t want to see petrol prices rise sharply, yet again, to achieve that.
The conservatives won’t want to damage their own chances of getting back into government, in 2010.
So a deal with them, on climate change,Â wouldÂ certainly come with less political risk for LaborÂ than one made with the Greens.
Rudd would certainly welcome a defector, from the Conservative side in the Senate, in any case.
He virtually admitted as much , in that radio interview.
He noted that the Liberals had committed themselves to action on climate change, before last year’s election.
“So the Liberals have got some serious soul searching to do on this question in terms of acting responsibly in the long term,” he said.
The transcript of that interview did not record whetherÂ Rudd sighed when he said that.
But his message to Senate Liberals could hardly have been any clearer.
“Come join us,” it said.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Saturday May 18
The Dow Jones Index rose 121.18 points to 15,354.40
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