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Tuesday shapes as D-Day for Turnbull and ETS

By Crystal Ja
Tue Nov 24 00:42:35 EST 2009
Mon Nov 23 13:42:35 UTC 2009
FED: Tuesday shapes as D-Day for Turnbull and ETS

CANBERRA, Nov 23 AAP - The future of Malcolm Turnbull's leadership and the government's emissions trading scheme may well be decided on Tuesday after five weeks of uncertainty.

Two crucial votes, one in the coalition partyroom, and one expected in the Senate this week possibly as early as Tuesday, hold the key to Mr Turnbull's grip on the helm of the party and the shape of the nation's action on climate change.

As 200 green protesters blockaded Parliament House, inside Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned the opposition a negotiated deal would be on the table for this week only.

Meetings over opposition changes to emissions trading scheme legislation were continuing as late as Monday night ahead of the crucial shadow cabinet and party room meetings on Tuesday.

Mr Turnbull continues to be dogged by leadership speculation, with Liberal backbencher and former Howard minister Kevin Andrews saying he didn't expect a leadership spill "at this stage".

"At this stage, tomorrow's party room meeting is about the ETS legislation," he said.

"That's the main item on the agenda, that's what we want to discuss."

In a last minute call for action, Mr Rudd told opposition MPs and senators there were times in politics that called for a bipartisan approach and action in the national interest.

"I believe we have reached such a time in Australia. We have reached such a time in Australia this week," Mr Rudd told parliament.

With just three more sitting days to pass the legislation, Mr Rudd turned up the heat on Mr Turnbull, saying any negotiated deal would be on the table for this week only.

"We must get this deal done this week," he told parliament.

This week marked the culmination of decades worth of climate change science, 10 years worth of work on a cap and trade scheme and two years on emissions trading, he said.

"It is simply unsustainable for us to turn and look our kids and grandkids in the eye and say, 'We didn't step up to the plate when we had a historic opportunity to do so'."

The government has agreed to exclude agriculture emissions from its scheme and is expected to concede the need for more compensation for the coal and power sectors in an effort to finalise the deal.

Should Mr Turnbull get the OK from his party room, it means the agreed amendments could be introduced to the Senate and voted on as soon as Tuesday evening.

But even if he gets a majority support, some rebel members have remained staunchly opposed to an ETS - amended or not - and have vowed to cross the floor, which would seriously undermine Mr Turnbull's authority.

The split has even sparked suggestions Mr Turnbull should renege on an ETS altogether to keep the coalition intact, although MPs have denied the need for a secret ballot.

On Monday, senators resumed debate on the unamended scheme in the upper house, where two motions have been moved to have the vote delayed until next year.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding believes there are enough disgruntled Liberals to vote with him, along with the Nationals and the Australian Greens, who are all opposed to the unamended ETS.

Unnamed Liberals have reportedly said a delay motion remains a "live option".

AAP cj/sb/mo