Coalition dismisses Gillard assembly

The coalition has dismissed a key feature of Labor’s new climate policy even before Prime Minister Julia Gillard formally unveils it in Brisbane later on Friday.


A re-elected Labor government will establish a citizens assembly aimed at involving “a range of Australians” on climate change.

The measure hasn’t impressed the coalition.

“It’s a massive failure of leadership,” opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt told ABC Radio ahead of Ms Gillard’s speech at 9am (AEST).

“She has produced a 2020 summit meets the Copenhagen conference.”

Climate change action is the last of three issues Ms Gillard identified as needing attention after she toppled Kevin Rudd in June.

But as she reveals details of her new climate policy, another issue is unravelling in Western Australia where Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is campaigning on Friday.

Billionaire miner Andrew Forrest is planning to reopen a war on Labor’s plan for a mining tax.

Small and mid-tier miners are threatening to use a war chest to run campaign advertisements against Labor, even though three big miners – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – reached agreement with the Gillard government on the minerals resource rent tax early in July.

The remaining issue – border security – remains unresolved as negotiations continue with East Timor for the establishment of a regional processing centre for asylum seekers.

On climate change, an issue which was responsible partly for the political demise of Mr Rudd and a dramatic dive in voter support for Labor, the prime minister also will announce the establishment of a commission to explain the science of climate change and to report on progress in international action.

Labor will reward business for taking early action to reduce pollution using emission baselines for industry assistance from its dumped carbon pollution reduction scheme.

But there won’t be a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, which Labor is putting on hold until at least 2013.

Mr Abbott has the mining tax back as a plus for the coalition, especially in WA where opposition was strongest among the mining states.

The re-emergence of the tax as an election issue is likely to cause concern in government ranks with its hold in a number of regional seats in Queensland susceptible to a voter backlash.

As well, Labor is facing another distraction of its own making.

The opposition wants answers to claims Mr Rudd, while prime minister, sent his chief of staff in his place to high-level security meetings.

The coalition is demanding Mr Gillard withdraw her promise to give her predecessor a senior position in a re-elected Labor government.