The Coalition has launched its first test of Julia Gillard's decision to name a September 14 federal election by seeking to block any investment from Labor's $10 billion climate change fund until the national poll has been decided.
The move comes as the Coalition claims the government is in an "effective caretaker period" that justifies suspending contentious spending programs that would be scrapped if Tony Abbott secured power in seven months.
Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb and climate spokesman Greg Hunt wrote to the fund's directors yesterday to tell them the election announcement meant they should avoid signing contracts to release the funds.
Formed in 2011 under Labor's climate change policy, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will be funded by government to buy stakes in energy and technology ventures, starting from July 1 this year.
The investments of about $2bn a year will be treated as assets and are not expected to affect the federal budget's underlying cash balance, although the financial return depends on the success of the green ventures.
Mr Robb and Mr Hunt warned the CEFC directors against spending the cash now that the election had been set. "In light of the now very public timeframe for the upcoming election, we request that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation desist from entering into contracts or releasing any funds prior to September 14," they wrote.
"The Coalition considers that any funds committed or agreements reached after 1 July will be during what will effectively be a caretaker period and as such we will neither allocate funds nor accept any agreements struck in the event that the Coalition forms the next federal government."