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Friday, 27 November 2009

Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull was confronted yesterday by the mass defection of frontbenchers protesting his soft line on carbon trading. He presented a strong persona during an ad-hoc press conference held at 7pm.

Journalists are sceptical he can survive.

In the heat of the moment, a string of frontbenchers resigned their portfolios. Barnaby Joyce, seasoned climate denier, appeared on Sky TV to slam Turnbull and the “massive new tax” that would eventuate if a carbon trading scheme were introduced.

He couldn’t see how introducing the “new tax” would help to reduce carbon emissions, and pooh-poohed Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong, labelling them “omniscient” – with a practiced sneer – for wanting to ‘do something, anything’ in advance of the COP-15 meeting in Copenhagen.

“This is about the future of our planet,” said Turnbull in the press conference.
By the end of the conference, Turnbull seemed confident that the amended climate change bill would pass in parliament. If he could retain the leadership, that is.

“My leadership was confirmed only yesterday,” he said. He tried to diminish the importance of what had happened in the Liberal Party room until a few minutes before the press conference began.

“We have to have a reshuffle anyway. What I’m going to do is assess all of that after the parliament rises, and I’ll let you know in due course.”

He came out punching at the beginning of his appearance, his trademark smile intact. He defended his position with the full weight of his native eloquence.

Turnbull said that he was asked to improve the CPRS, and he did. “We achieved enormous concessions from the government,” he said. “Many of you were surprised that the government made the concessions that they did.”

“Then the shadow cabinet endorsed that deal, the party room endorsed that deal.”

“We must maintain our credibility; we cannot be seen as climate sceptics.”

Turnbull admitted that it is a difficult issue for Australians, even those who only doubt the science. But the emissions trading bill is a matter of risk management, he said. He quoted Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch on risk management. Murdoch had said that we have to give the planet the benefit of the doubt.

“Australians expect their political leaders to act responsibly on climate change, to safeguard the future of our planet for our children. Anything else is irresponsible.”

Pundits and journalists dissecting events in the aftermath of the press conference speculated as to which would happen first: passing of the climate change bill or a change in the Liberal leadership.

Turnbull was asked by a journalist about the chance of another leadership spill motion.

“I came here to make Australia a better place,” he said. “And one of those issues is action on climate change. I am committed to real reform. You guys write about the numbers, I’m focused on the policy, I’m focused on our future.”

We’ll see what happens today. It’s unlikely it will be one of Turnbull’s best days.

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