Conservatives dig in heels on carbon tax
MALCOLM Turnbull has locked the Coalition into a bruising fight with the Rudd Government over Labor's controversial carbon tax on big polluters. On the same day Peter Costello backed Mr Turnbull's decision to block moves to means-test the private health insurance rebate, Mr Turnbull reaffirmed his opposition to the emissions trading scheme in its present form. Asked if the Government's ETS was unacceptable to the Coalition, Mr Turnbull said: "At the moment, yes of course it's unacceptable, but it's not going to stand where it is."
The ETS is shaping as the most likely trigger for a possible double-dissolution election, which can be called if the Senate twice blocks the same piece of legislation more than three months apart. The Government's climate-change troubleshooter, NSW MP Greg Combet, was last night meeting with the Queensland Resources Council over concerns the ETS will gut mining jobs in Queensland.
Mr Turnbull said the Coalition also had major concerns with Labor's plan to set the income threshold for employee share schemes at $60,000. The changes, he said, would "effectively shut down just about every employee scheme around the country", affecting millions of Australians. "If it was (the Government's) intention, then I think it may prove to be one of most controversial and unpopular and unpalatable elements in the Budget," Mr Turnbull told the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week said he wanted the Budget passed in its entirety and threatened a double-dissolution election if key pieces of legislation or Budget measures were blocked in the Senate. But on the weekend, Mr Turnbull indicated the Opposition would no longer block the Government's tax hike on pre-mixed drinks.
Asked for comment, former treasurer Peter Costello said the important thing was to follow good policy. "These are always judgment calls," he said. "But I am not in the camp that says just vote for anything that Mr Rudd wants so that he can't get a double dissolution. For example, I think it is absolutely right to oppose the Government's attempts to restrict private health insurance rebates." Mr Costello said he did not believe Mr Rudd would rush to an early election.
The latest Nielsen opinion poll, the first to be taken after the federal Budget, showed Mr Rudd's personal approval rating had plummeted 10 percentage points to 64 per cent. "You would have seen last week that (Mr Rudd) was threatening an early election," Mr Costello said. "After today's polls, he may get a little less keen on an early election."
Mr Rudd said the Government had taken a hit because it had made tough decisions in last week's Budget.
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