In the short term, Xenophon’s support may deliver the Coalition with an additional vote on the ERF from like-minded Victorian Senator John Madigan, while in the medium-term, Xenophon’s ability to draw attention to Australia’s policy vacuum – and the potential for an improved ERF to fill the void – may place pressure on other members of the crossbench (and potentially the Opposition-Greens) to come to the party.
Detail aside, Xenophon’s dialogue with the government (which has also sought longer contract periods, changes to the objectives of the Act to establish its intention to meet the 5 per cent target, and assurances on emissions safeguards) suggests that there may be some scope for meaningful compromise between the government and the crossbench, particularly given the potential for the ERF to support a languishing Carbon Farming Initiative – a scheme which has historically enjoyed bipartisan support.
Even with senators Xenophon and Madigan on side, the government will require Palmer United Party support to progress its ERF legislation, with party leader Clive Palmer stating that his backing for Direct Action is conditional on the government’s long-term support for the PUP’s ‘dormant’ emissions trading scheme – which is unlikely to be forthcoming.
While there is much water to flow under the bridge, Xenophon’s support would be significant for the government, with the independent able to provide the Coalition with a critical advocate on the crossbench as it seeks to gain additional support – a role Xenophon appears willing to play.
As unlikely as a compromise on the full Direct Action policy (ERF and baselines) may be, neither the Coalition or PUP have the points on the board for continued scrutiny of their climate policies to play out in their favour – suggesting that the sooner the short term policy void is resolved, the better for all.
Following a turbulent end to the winter sitting of parliament, the government’s ability to work with the new Senate remains a key watch over the upcoming session, with initial attempts to bluster the crossbench into action backfiring, while Clive Palmer ultimately took the points on the carbon tax repeal in what should have been an important win for the government.
Read more here: Business Spectator