JULIA GILLARD will convene a ''citizens' assembly'' to act as a litmus test of community support for an emissions trading scheme before Labor's final decision on implementing its centrepiece climate change policy in 2012.
In an attempt to stamp her consensus-building style on the ETS backdown by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, Ms Gillard will pledge to lead the case in favour of a carbon market. But she will argue that such an enormous change must be based on genuine community support.
Despite Labor having long made the case for early domestic action, Ms Gillard will stick with the terms of Mr Rudd's decision in April to delay the ETS. She will promise not to implement a carbon market unless there is also ''credible action'' on reducing emissions in the United States, China and India.
In a speech today at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, she will outline other energy saving and renewable energy policies to help Australia reach its minimum emission reduction target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.
But she will also reveal that heavy polluting industries will be able to continue to claim the generous concessions offered under Mr Rudd's emissions trading deal with the former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull. These apply to their 2009 levels of emissions, so the polluters are not dissuaded from becoming cleaner in the meantime.
As well as the year-long citizens' assembly - where participation is voluntary for the ''ordinary Australians'' chosen by an independent body through the census or the electoral roll - a re-elected Labor government would also set up an independent climate change commission to explain the science and report back on international negotiations.
''I will make the case in public and in Parliament. I will lead the debate and lead the advocacy for our approach in the community … I will use the carbon pollution reduction scheme as the basis for this citizens' assembly and community consultation on the way forward … In doing so, I recommit to the need for a market mechanism,'' Ms Gillard will say in her speech.
''The role of this citizens' assembly will not be to become the final arbiter or judge of consensus, but to provide an indicator to the nation of the progress of community consensus,'' she will say. But she also implies that if the assembly is unpersuaded, an ETS is unlikely to be brought in.
''If I am wrong, and that group of Australians is not persuaded of the case for change, then that should be a clear warning bell that our community has not been persuaded as deeply as required about the need for transformational change,'' the speech says.
''I will act when the Australian economy is ready and when the Australian people are ready.''
With billions of dollars of investment stalled, business has been demanding a clear statement on whether Labor will introduce a carbon price. Ms Gillard's policy does not deliver that certainty, and makes it unlikely an ETS could be legislated before the next election, due in 2013.
But Ms Gillard will argue that a true community consensus will deliver a policy that is ''durable''.
Ms Gillard has $652 million in the budget for as yet unannounced climate initiatives and recently received the report of an energy efficiency taskforce set up by Mr Rudd to help shape election policy on climate.
The Coalition has pledged to spend $3.2 billion over four years on grants and subsidies to cut emissions enough to meet the 5 per cent reduction target by 2020.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has said he will review the ''direct action'' policy in 2015, but believes it is highly unlikely there will be ''a global carbon price'' by that date. This would be a prerequisite for the Coalition to consider introducing a carbon price.
The government's ETS was defeated in the Senate after the Coalition refused to back the deal brokered by Mr Turnbull. Mr Abbott was installed as leader in his place.
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