Coalition tells clean energy fund to hold up over caretaker period

Published 05 February 2013 11:39, Updated 08 February 2013 09:37

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Coalition tells clean energy fund to hold up over caretaker period

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said she was getting advice on whether the caretaker period had started, which would mean the public service should stop forming government policies and be willing to work on policies from other parties. Photo: Andrew Meares

The opposition is seeking legal advice on whether the nation has entered a “caretaker period” before the September 14 election and has written to the Clean Energy Finance Corp warning it that it can’t sign any contracts when it begins operating on July 1.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said she was getting advice on whether the caretaker period had started, which would mean the public service should stop forming government policies and be willing to work on policies from other parties.

“We are taking advice on that,” Ms Bishop told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

Normally a campaign does not enter caretaker mode until parliament is dissolved, and that would be after the writs for the election are issued on August 12.

But opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt has written to the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp telling directors not to sign any contracts now that the caretaker period had started.

“As of the first of July when they have the ability to issue funds, we have given advice we will not proceed with the fund, we believe it is shovelling billions out the door and we believe the government should stop trawling for dodgy programs,” Mr Hunt told the ABC on Tuesday.

“We believe once parliament goes down, so as of first of July, we are right on the edge of an election, it would be inappropriate, it would be a risk of taxpayers money and it would be a symbol of pink bats and green loans,” Mr Hunt said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on January 30 set Australia’s election for September 14, the longest campaign in at least six decades, saying it would give time to focus on policy and put pressure on the Coalition to announce and cost their plans.

“We believe the government has made this call and we are in campaign mode,” Ms Bishop said. “We are in a virtual campaign.”

Ms Gillard’s break with convention came before embattled former Labor MP Craig Thomson was arrested on 150 fraud charges, the resignation of two senior ministers and a slump in Ms Gillard’s lead over Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on the question of who would make a better prime minister.

Ms Gillard’s support as preferred prime minister fell four percentage points to 41 per cent, while Mr Abbott’s support rose six points to 39 per cent. The two-point lead is the closest since September last year.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce on Monday swore in Ms Gillard’s new ministry, including Chris Bowen as Skills Minister and Brendan O’Connor as Immigration Minister. Mark Dreyfus took over from retiring MP Nicola Roxon as Attorney-General. Chris Evans, who was Senate leader and Skills Minister, will resign from the Senate in coming months.

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