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Most Australians would back PM in snap poll

MOST Australians want the government to push ahead with its plan to cut greenhouse gases, even if this means calling a snap election to overcome parliamentary opposition to it, an opinion poll showed today.

The government failed in its first attempt last week to push the scheme through a hostile Senate, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd vowed to try again in three months, when a second defeat could see him call an early election on the issue.

Today's Nielsen survey in Fairfax newspapers found 55 percent of voters backed Rudd's strategy to push on with his cap-and-trade proposal for cutting emissions, with only 29 percent preferring the government to hold off until a clearer international picture emerges next year.

Nations meet in Copenhagen in December to agree a new global pact to combat climate change. By next year, the United States is also expected to have decided its own carbon-reduction scheme. The poll showed Rudd's Labor party still held an election-winning 56-44 percent lead over the conservative opposition, though Labor's support in the two-party vote that decides elections edged 2 points lower from June.

Rudd has said he does not want to call an early election, but some political experts say he will never rule that option out, especially with the opposition trailing badly in opinion polls.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said today the conservatives would be ready to fight a general election by late this year, a year before the next one was due.

"We'll fight confidently an election whenever it is called," Turnbull told a business conference in Canberra.

Turnbull's campaign against the government's scheme received a boost today when Australia's top steel-maker, BlueScope Steel, said the government's plan would cost the firm up to US$1.16 billion and put the entire local steel industry at risk.
"It would severely damage our competitiveness, putting domestic investment, Australian jobs and the Australian steel industry at high risk," it said in its annual results statement.

Separately today, the government held talks with opponents on removing hurdles to renewable energy laws holding the key to a US$22 billion flood of investment in solar, wind and geothermal energy, linked to the emissions scheme.

Climate Minister Penny Wong at the weekend said she would hold talks today with rival conservatives and greens in the upper house Senate on removing linkages to ensure the renewable scheme passed parliament later this week.

"Now that the government has backed down on the renewable energy target, let's begin talks today on the Emissions Trading Scheme. There should be no strings attached," conservative opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt told reporters.

The Nielsen poll showed Rudd's margin over Turnbull, a former Goldman Sachs executive, as preferred prime minister had widened 2 points to 67-24, despite Labor's overall slippage.


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