Australia PM leaves open option of poll on carbon

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily via agencies, December 3, 2009
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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stopped short on Thursday of ruling out an early election over climate-change policy and sought instead to pile more pressure on an opposition split over the issue.

Rudd, in his first public appearance since parliament on Wednesday rejected for a second time his plan to cut carbon emissions, said only that the government "should" serve out its full three-year term.

He did not dismiss the option of an early poll entirely.

"What I've said all along is that I believe governments should serve their full term," he told reporters. "That has always been our intention."

Australia is the rich world's biggest greenhouse-gas polluter per head of population and is prone to water shortages, droughts and devastating bushfires, but the nation has been paralysed by political deadlock over Rudd's cap-and-trade emissions scheme.

Parliament's rejection this week of the scheme's legislation gives Rudd a constitutional trigger to call an early election to resolve the deadlock, but he has promised to re-introduce the legislation into parliament again in February.

In the meantime, analysts say, Rudd wants to use the hot, dry summer months to put pressure on the opposition, which is split between climate-change sceptics and deniers and those who favour some sort of action to cut emissions.

Rudd told reporters the government would reintroduce the legislation in the hope that "over this long summer that cooler heads, calmer heads, more responsible heads in the (main opposition) Liberal party may prevail."

The next general election is not due until late 2010, but analysts say Rudd may opt to go to the ballot box as early as March to push through his carbon-trade scheme. Opinion polls show that most Australians support action over climate change, but are also wary of the ensuing increases in living costs.

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