The Government’s emissions trading bill isn’t the only climate change-related bill coming back next week.

You may recall that during the last Parliamentary session the CPRS picked up a hitchhiker, in the form of the bill to implement the Government’s Renewable Energy Target. The RET bill refers to a definition of emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries in the CPRS bill which, if the latter isn’t passed, is inoperative.

This connection goes back to a COAG meeting earlier this year that decided to give emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries the same free pass under the RET that they’re getting under the CPRS. The rest of us will have to pay higher prices for electricity while your local aluminium smelter can carry on just like it always has, except with a small competitive advantage over other, less emissions-intensive industries.

So no CPRS bill, no free pass in the RET bill for big polluters. Which would be a good thing, except from the point of view of the Government and Opposition.

The Coalition supports the Renewable Energy Target bill, without the connection to the CPRS. At the moment. But the Government knows that the Nationals don’t like the RET. The longer the bill remains unpassed, the more time Nats like Ron Boswell will have to overturn the joint partyroom decision to back it, or at least muster enough support to embarrass the Coalition leadership.

Yesterday, Penny Wong continued to insist that the bills were somehow, magically, unsplittable, held together by the legislative equivalent of atomic bonds.

Inconveniently, an officer of her Department had told a Senate committee hearing this week that there was no problem with splitting the bills. Ah yes, Senator Wong said when asked about that, but:

“I think the official was making a technical point — this is a policy point. Australia needs both. If we pass the Renewable Energy legislation, the renewable energy target, but don’t pass the CPRS let’s be clear: emissions will continue to rise. We will continue to contribute more each year to climate change than we do. So Australia needs both. We’ve put forward a coherent policy, a price on carbon, a limit on our carbon pollution. That’s how you tackle climate change and legislation to drive the investment, the transformative investment in the renewable energy sector. And I would invite the Liberal Party of Australia to support both pieces of legislation.”

Ah, there we go. This being a Penny Wong answer, I knew where it would end up. Virtually any answer on any topic from Wong inevitably finds its way back to Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals’ position on the CPRS bill, no matter how far distant the originating question. Quizzed yesterday about the dislocation of people from the Carteret Islands, Wong swivelled, locked on to Turnbull thousands of kilometres away, and fired.

“The first is we have to start to reduce the impact of climate change. That means we actually have to have to start reducing Australia’s emissions. That means passing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Pacific Island nations have been very vocal in this Forum and in international negotiations about the need for strong action on climate change. That starts at home and that starts with the Australian scheme which is voted on in the Senate in a week’s time.”

Perhaps climate change refugees can be put up at Point Piper, Minister.

Don’t expect the Government to de-couple the RET and CPRS bills next week. They will want to be able to point to the defeat of both to attack the Opposition. The RET was an ALP election policy, but this Government is quite happy to see that trashed to make life difficult for the Opposition. The renewable energy sector, which is the meat in the sandwich here, is well aware of how extraordinarily cynical the Government is being. The Clean Energy Council told the Senate inquiry that it wanted the bill decoupled, and complained about how long — over a year — the Government took to prepare relatively simple legislation implementing its election commitment.

The Government isn’t listening. From its point of view, the renewable energy sector can continue in investment limbo for another six or twelve months if it means inflicting more pain on the Coalition. The old saying is that good policy can be good politics. But with this Government good politics always comes first.