So now there’s another Coalition position on the Government’s ETS bill: Nick Minchin told 2UE this morning that the bill is unlikely to be passed by the Senate because of all the amendments that the Coalition, Greens and independents will want the Senate to consider. Minchin ruled out “filibustering” on the bill but he made it clear the Coalition would not support the bill coming on for a vote before Parliament rises for summer on 26 November.

Incidentally, why’s Parliament knocking off a full month before Christmas? Ask Anthony Albanese, Manager of Government Business. He schedules things round here. But Minchin promised an “extensive committee stage” on the legislation.

Let’s go back to basics here, just for a moment. Climate change is being used by the Government to wedge the Opposition mercilessly, in far more savage a fashion than John Howard ever managed to do to Labor on refugees or national security.

There’s a lot of focus on a double dissolution election but why would the Government want an election when the Opposition has reduced itself to a rabble over the issue of an ETS? Why not sit back and watch the Coalition destroy itself over an issue it is plainly sorely divided on?

Minchin — and Wilson Tuckey, who is backing the tactic too — is in effect saying that the Coalition will allow the Government to go on wedging it for three months longer, well into an election year.

Delaying the vote until next year just means the same shenanigans that have been going on for a week and longer will continue over summer — another long, hot, fiery summer, most likely — continually reinforcing in voters’ minds how uncommitted to addressing climate change the Coalition is, and how deeply divided they are.

Remember, this issue won’t go away if the Liberals change leaders. The Liberals almost seem on the verge of flying apart. Minchin is the first shadow Cabinet minister to break ranks. Who’ll be next? It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Malcolm Turnbull suddenly called a press conference and announced he was jack of the whole damn lot of them and was leaving. But that legislation will still be coming on whether Tony Abbott, or Joe Hockey, or Rowan Ramsey leads them. The dilemma, the wedge, the painful choice will still be there, waiting. Turnbull is the one offering the least painful resolution.

In any event, for a double dissolution election, legislation merely has to “fail to pass”. As Senate Clerk Harry Evans has pointed out, the meaning of “fail to pass” is unclear, and the only point at which the issue could be decided in a court would be after the relevant legislation has been passed by a joint sitting, following an election. The Prime Minister’s advice to the Governor-General that a bill has “failed to pass” and the requirements of s.57 of the Constitution have been met can’t be challenged.

You’d imagine Rudd wouldn’t bother. The Opposition is tearing itself apart. Why interrupt them?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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