Despite Malcolm Turnbull having his signature energy policy the National Energy Guarantee pass the joint Coalition partyroom last Tuesday he faced a backbench revolt with 10 MPs reserving their right to cross the floor. The situation ratcheted up on Thursday with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton when questioned by Ray Hadley on Radio 2GB refusing to back the policy and said he if couldn’t support it he would resign from Cabinet.
Then the Daily Telegraph on Friday reported that conservative Liberal backbenchers were lobbying Peter Dutton to challenge the Prime Minister. Ray Hadley that afternoon said on 2GB about a challenge “It’s happening, for sure and certain”. On Friday night responding to the backbench revolt and leadership rumours Turnbull put out a media release stating his government would no longer legislate the 26% reduction in emissions by 2030 committed to in the Paris Climate Accord.
The revised policy was announced at press conference today with Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison with it also aiming to cap default electricity prices for customers and increase financial penalties for the big three energy suppliers, underwrite new energy projects that add more reliable power to the grid and new powers for the ACCC forcing energy providers to sell its assets if they have too much market power.
Labor accused Turnbull to capitulating to conservative wreckers in his backbench who will never be satisfied with any climate policy, but the political reality is that if the Coalition passed the NEG with Labor’s support due to its own MPs crossing the floor it would sink the government. Labor supports a 45% emissions reduction target by 2030.
Dutton responded to the leadership speculation on Twitter pledging his support for the Prime Minister and his policies.
In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government. My position hasn’t changed from my comments last Thursday.
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) August 17, 2018
Sunday night brought a horror Fairfax-Ipsos poll for the Turnbull Government with it losing two party proffered to Labor 45-55 with a primary vote of just 33%. Malcolm Turnbull suffered a 9 point drop in his preferred Prime Minister ranking of 48% but still leading Shorten on 36%.
All eyes are on this sitting week in Parliament where a potential spill can take place. Cabinet held a dinner meeting Sunday night to discuss the NEG as well to rally support around the Prime Minister, the media dubbed it the last supper. Notably absent was Peter Dutton. Tony Abbott was reported to have said at a Tasmanian Young Liberal event this weekend he was looking forward to serving in a Dutton Government.
“Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a meeting of Tasmanian Young Liberals over the weekend he was looking forward to serving in a Dutton government.” pic.twitter.com/BVRQIP938b
— Ross Cameron (@RossCameron4) August 19, 2018
The latest development today is Queensland Liberal National Party President Gary Spence has urged MPs in the state to back Peter Dutton for the leadership as the party could lose half its seats in Queensland with the current state of the polls, which includes Peter Dutton’s of Dickson which he holds by 1.6%.
The 2015 Liberal leadership spill which toppled Tony Abbott and saw Malcolm Turnbull seize the Prime Ministership occurred on a Monday evening with the challenge announced after Question Time after a Friday news article kicked off leadership speculation. If history is repeating itself time will tell, but history also says it takes two spills to remove a Prime Minister. Parliament comes back on September 10 for another sitting fortnight so if nothing happens this week the speculation will continue and could culminate then.