Abbott warning to Public Service chief on Carbon Tax

By Julian Bajkowski

Opposition leader Tony Abbott very publicly told the head of the public service, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Dr Ian Watt AO, that he expects to have legislation to scrap the price on carbon and an emissions trading scheme pre-written and ready to table should the Coalition win government.

The Coalition on Monday took the prominent step of releasing its official correspondence to Dr Watt in the form of a campaign email from Mr Abbott to voters saying that he has “asked the Secretary to have the necessary arrangements ready so that we can move swiftly, if elected.”

The bold move has underscored the Coalition’s sometimes testy relationship with the upper echelons of Canberra’s bureaucracy who have already been told to expect cuts of around 12,000 public service jobs.

Shadow Treasurer has also made a point of very publicly discounting the value of advice from Treasury, a position that sets the stage for some frank conversations with public servants in the event the Coalition wins government.

In the letter released by Mr Abbott to Dr Watt, the Opposition leader says that “the first piece of legislation to be introduced into the Parliament by an elected Coalition Government will be the Bills associated with the repeal of the Clean Energy Legislative Package.”

“Therefore I request that as a priority, arrangements are put in place to identify drafters who are expert in the legislative detail of this package,” Mr Abbott wrote to Dr Watt.

“It would be the expectation of an elected Coalition Government that the drafting of the relevant Bills related to the repeal of the Clean Energy Legislative Package would begin immediately following the election after 7 September 2013.”

Dated 5th August, Mr Abbott’s letter to the head of PM&C follows the entry of the government into the Caretaker Period which essentially rules out any big new government initiatives or commitments until a new government is established following the election.

However the caretaker conventions are essentially a set of protocols that parties agree to abide by as opposed to law.

“Governments avoid making major policy decisions during the caretaker period that are likely to commit an incoming government,” PM&C’s official caretaker documents state.

“Whether a particular policy decision qualifies as ‘major’ is a matter for judgment.”

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