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Despite Turnbull win, Libs more divided than ever

Malcolm Turnbull has successfully launched a pre-emptive strike on his conservative opponents, calling a party room meeting today and calling on his colleagues to vote on a spill motion. The motion was defeated 48-35, leaving would-be challenger Kevin Andrews in the starting blocks.

Angry backbenchers Wilson Tuckey and Dennis Jensen — both strongly opposed to a deal on the CPRS with the government — had announced last night, while Turnbull was holding a bizarre press conference declaring he had won over the majority of his party room colleagues, that they would seek a special party room meeting tomorrow to debate a spill motion.

That would have given conservative forces in the party to settle on a candidate other than stalking-horse Andrews.

With Andrew Robb too ill to be a contender, attention was focused on Tony Abbott, who had declared he would not challenge Turnbull.

This morning, Turnbull sprang his surprise, calling a 1pm meeting at which the party could debate a spill motion, indicating that if the party favoured a spill, he would resign and throw the leadership open.

The move left conservatives flat-footed, with only Andrews indicating he would challenge Turnbull. Tuckey and Jensen moved the motion.

In a pre-meeting press conference, Andrews continued to insist that Turnbull had failed to attract majority support in the party room last night, in effect declaring Turnbull a liar.

Despite Turnbull’s win, the Liberal Party is now more divided than ever, with three Senate parliamentary secretaries, Matthias Cormann, Brett Mason and Mitch Fifield, all resigning this morning, making a Turnbull reshuffle inevitable. Cormann is a prominent climate denialist, and Fifield has also declared himself opposed to the CPRS deal.  Mason has also spoken out against a deal.

The trio in effect join Robb on the backbench, after he dropped a bombshell yesterday and declared without warning that he was opposed to a CPRS deal.

It is hard to see how Robb can return to the frontbench once he returns to health, although the backbench would give him greater freedom of action on policy issues, making him a more dangerous opponent for Turnbull.

Moderate South Australian Simon Birmingham is the strong tip for a promotion from the backbench.  Birmingham has been highly visible supporter of Turnbull throughout the CPRS battle.

The Christmas break may cool tempers and allow some healing, but the mood of a large minority of the Liberal Party — at least 35 MPs and Senators — is deep anger toward its leader.

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  • 1
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank goodness we have one decent liberal senator in SA because the likes of Minchin and Bernardi are a complete and total embarrassment.

  • 2
    Paddlefoot
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    The ‘rebel’ Libs have hitched the wagon to the Climate Sceptic / Denialist train and, by association ( and typical populist frezy ), to the ever growing ‘world conspiracy’ view, where all rational discussion is actually seen as a sign of conspiracy membership. It brings to mind Flat Tax, No Moon Landing, Flouride, Freemasons and all those clearly interconnected issues. It’s amazing we ever bother getting out of bed, such are the forces of darkness that press down on us !

    And just a few short months ago, we marvelled at the election of a black President. The more things change ….

  • 3
    David Sanderson
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Instead of complaining that Rudd no longer sends him Christmas cards Hockey should be sending a metre high card to Turnbull this Christmas.

    Turnbull has ensured that when Hockey does ascend to the august position that Turnbull now holds the party will be willing to put endless stuff-ups and ‘mis-speaks’ from Hockey simply because they will be so enormously grateful to him for having relieved them of Turnbull’s ministrations.

    Turnbull, to his credit seems to understand that his day has past but has decided to go out fighting for something he believed in - the CPRS.

  • 4
    j-boy57
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    its a carbon copy of Malcolms outstanding work
    on the republic

  • 5
    Jenny Haines
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank goodness Malcolm survived. Why should he give in to all the nongs, dingbats and plain crazies of the Coalition!! I am not a Coalition voter and never will be. But Andrews as Leader!! The Coalition members who supported him have got to be joking!! I remember well his stuff ups as Minister for Immigration. God help us if he was Leader of the Opposition or even PM!!

  • 6
    Julius
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Turnbull has been described as Kennett with an extra 30 points of IQ. The point is that Kennett had quite enough cognitive ability for the job, especially when added to the trained instinctual responses that came from his early start in politics - which is what Turnbull is so obviously suffering from the lack of. However, someone of Turnbull’s brains and energy should be counted on to learn even at his age and to cut down on the blunders - indeed has he repeated any blunders apart from being a bit slow to learn the art of pretending to suffer fools gladly?

    So, unless the Liberals can effect some brain transplants they had better recognise that Malcolm is their best hope and that now the opportunity is opened up for a counter-attack on Rudd by a masterly advocate of high intelligence and a much greater appearance of candour than Rudd. Don’t write off Turnbull until you see whether he can capitalise on the opportunity he now has.

    As for Andrews: consult the excellent article in Wikipedia on “stalking horses”. Which version best captures the humble Andrews’ exposure of himself to ridicule? And, for fun, which variant description best describes his 30 seconds of fame: “stalking donkey”, “stalking mule” or ???

  • 7
    Bullmore's Ghost
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I suppose at one level it’s comforting to be reaffirmed, for the time being, as the captain of a ship of fools.

    It’s all plain sailing from here on — just set course for the nearest iceberg and relax.

    And it would be fun to hang a few mutineers to lift morale.

  • 8
    Kerry Lewis
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    What a lot of people, I’d suggest, want to know, re that undertaking of his last month, with such a large proportion of his party so diametrically “uncommitted” to this issue now, why is Turnbull still leader of his “Coal-ishun”? Or was that “Turnbull the Brief” talking back then?

  • 9
    David Sanderson
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Head to head with Kevin Andrews. Leadership spills don’t come much dumber than that. It is like asking Robin to fight to the death against Batman. We know they will both enjoy it but inevitably the biggest prick will come out on top.

  • 10
    John james
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Turnbull has demonstrated why he was never fit to lead the Liberal party. This is deja vu! The AustralianRepublican Movement debacle all over again. Turnbull is intelligent and urbane but, as a political leader, completely inept.
    His declaration that effectively, there ” is a majority” because I say there is a majority and “I’m the leader”, is farcical.
    Moreover he has demonstrated to Conservatives all over Australia that this is not someone to follow into political battle.
    This decision will impose enormous costs on Australian industry, will erode our competitive edge because of our cheap energy, fails, as to-day’s AFR states in its editorial, to lay out a low carbon energy road map, ignores the elephant in the room, nuclear energy, and does nothing in terms of impacting on global emissions. Why the need to act before Copenhagen when clearly other participants will go to Copenhagen without any agreed strategy or targets.
    Turnbull should go and soon.

  • 11
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Interesting discussion on the ABC earlier today on this, Barrie Cassidy considered that Turnbull may consider his win to be a major achievement staring down the partyroom trogs and go even more hairy-chested! Which, while being a sight to behold, would of course, alienate his backbench even further.

    Then again a win against Andrews can’t really be seen as proving he has the numbers against the conservatives.

  • 12
    EnergyPedant
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    The way I see it the hard right conservative faction doesn’t have the numbers and is unlikely to get the numbers soon. However it could lead to some serious brawls over pre-selections.

    Basically the Minchin faction of the Libs should split and go join the nationals. The Liberal and Conservative wings actually differ in their beliefs (unlike the labor factions which is more about internal control as far as I can tell rather than policy beliefs).

  • 13
    merlot64
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Rudd has been playing a clever wedge game by using an issue that was bound to be contentious to fracture the opposition along ideological fault lines that the Liberals were unaware even existed. He has basically created (or at least revealed) the perception that half the parlimentary Liberal Party are reactionaries more willing to sink their ship than bail it out. He can’t even be bothered with the Nats…

    I think Rudd would have preferred the spill to be successful, just so that he could add a notch to his belt for dead opposition leaders - who ever would have taken over would have been a dead man walking so far as the next election goes, if they survived that long. I think Rudd is trying to create as much damaged goods in the Liberal Party as he can so that their leadership will always looked tarnished. That, and using plum political appointments to send conservative commentators to the far side of the planet to shut them up seems to have been an exceptionally clever political strategy.

    But isn’t it about time that he started delivering rather than getting his jollies kicking the Libs (always fun but not that productive)? The CPRS is farcical so far as actually delivering against greenhouse reductions. The whole thing smacks of papal indulgences. Where is the policy to kick start a renewable energy economy? Where is the policy to begin de-coupling from the carbon industry? Where is the policy to take carbon energy workers and retrain them in renewables? Where is the policy for delivering an enhanced public transportation infrastructure? Where are the incentives to build zero-emmision housing and public buildings? Where is the vision?

  • 14
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Interesting points EnergyPedant. Minchin is always referred to as a right wing powerbroker but would he back Abbott against Turnbull. Maybe Abbott’s keeping his powder dry before before a challenge in the New Year if things continue to deteriorate?

  • 15
    denise allen
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always said….if the three parties Labor ,Liberal and Greens were dissolved and three new parties established you would have Howards hasbeen neo cons as one party, the soft L libs would join the right of Labor and the left of Labor would join the Greens….now that makes more sense……

  • 16
    Bullmore's Ghost
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Merlot64 asks: “Where is the vision?”

    A: outside of parliament, as usual. Pollies love to think they are leaders but all they lead is a flock of sheep who answer to vested interests and toe the party line.

    Who’s going to stand up to big coal?

    For a classic example, take Peter Garrett (please!). For years he’s preached “there ought to be this and that”. Now he’s Minister for Environment and what have we? A photo opportunity in an ill-fitting suit and hard hat.

    Bugger the lot of them.

  • 17
    Rena Zurawel
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Does it really make any difference whoever leads the Liberals? Howard left a very dubious legacy.

  • 18
    Julius
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Good analysis Merlot64. A pity about the Merlot though. Just a minor pollutant in too many good Bordeaux cabernet based reds.

  • 19
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I was really looking forward that homunculus Kevin Android leading them further into the wilderness.

  • 20
    John james
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Denise, you’re right. The ‘soft Libs’ would, and should, join the Labor Right. One of them is trying to lead a ‘Conservative party’ at the moment and he’s woeful!
    For myself, ‘Abbo’ is the man. When he becomes leader, its game on! And many Conservatives, like myself, will look forward to the day. That’s a guy who’ll articulte the concerns of many Australians, including those much derided ‘Howard battlers”.
    The Left-Green alliance needs to be shredded. Rudd is, ironically, quite conservative himself. But with Abbott vs Rudd, you wont die wondering!

  • 21
    vajras2000
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    i liked Malcolm when we were in primary school together - i used to play with him sat his house after school; i have not had contact since.

    Then i heard about and so admired the (apocryphal?) way it was said he took notes during his law degree at uni by paying a fellow student to put carbon paper btw his pages so he could go out and get paid to do KP’s bidding; career moves on.

    And i admired him entering parliament (tho not how he did it), and then rising so quickly, and his advocating the cabinet adoption of the Kyoto protocol under Howard.

    But his handling of this episode?

    He is the leader, and should patently know this, of a herd of cats and one must now seriously question his judgement. He has not so far, and it appears he never will ever bring them on board to his way.

    This blind belief in his personal aura is and will always be his achilles heel - and Brendan Nelson’s medical diagnosis was correct if i remember his pre-pubescent days correctly.

    He had it in primary school, he still has it!

  • 22
    Chris Johnson
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Apparently Malcolm’s crime is invoking his party’s policies for the delinquent and disorderly and just like thousands of asylum seekers thirty five Liberals this week protested their right to be heard and taken seriously. No surprise the leader of the dissidents was Kevin Andrews the former Immigration and Workplace Relations Minister best known for his nasty, hapless presence in Howard’s cabinet and the guy who unlawfully revoked Dr Mohammed Haneef’s work visa and denied the doctor the presumption of innocence. The other 35 must feel the same as Andrews: “From what’s occurred over the past few weeks a clear message is that things must be done differently in the future.” Hockey agreed “Malcolm said he could always do things better - we do not have an emperor who imposes his views”. I guess the message for Malcolm is “don’t impose on your party what you impose on refugees.”

  • 23
    Robert Garnett
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Andrew Robb is the consummate political distal end of the alimentary canal. He dodges off on a bit of stress leave, dumps McFarlane in it and then rubbishes Macca’s effort when he comes back as the messiah. I like blokes like Macca they are straight forward, uncomplicated and honest. The Robb’s of this World are the antithesis. What a class act he is!

    The Liberal party don’t deserve people like Macca and Malcom. They are far more deserving of the leadership of people like the egregious Kev the Rev, architect of Work Choices and the Haneef farce. Other candidates such as the man who victimized the weak and vulnerable Pauline Hanson, Tony “look at me” Abbot should not be overlooked. Other possibilities include our Bronny or perish the thought Wilson “from the West” Tuckey, an intellectual giant of a man. They are all good Howard men/women who will continue the cause.

    They could try and recruit Minchin, but he spends so much time white-anting anyone who disagrees with him he would never have time to attend a cabinet meeting. And if he did it is unlikely anyone else would turn up.

    The problem for those of us not in the Liberal party is that when Rudd reaches his use-by date and the Liberals get in we will be stuck with one of them.

    All we can hope is that Malcom prevails or its back to the 20th century

  • 24
    Jillian Blackall
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Jenny,

    I agree: “Why should he give in to all the nongs, dingbats and plain crazies of the Coalition!!”

    Julius,

    I agree: “Don’t write off Turnbull until you see whether he can capitalise on the opportunity he now has.” Yes, this is the only the beginning. Malcolm has survived this, so I would say he can survive just about anything.

    Energy pedant,

    I agree with your idea that the Minchin faction should join the National Party, resulting in a genuinely liberal party and a genuinely conservative party that could form a coalition.

  • 25
    the duke
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Vajra - You must admist, atleast Turnbull has the ability to make a hard decision which is in stark contrast to powder puff Rudd? I still think Turnbull is the right man for the leadership and has a lot to offer Australia. Turnbull is a leader whereas Rudd is closer to an academic. Turnbull can intimidate whereas Rudd can only intimate.

  • 26
    vajras2000
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    @ The Duke - i agree, and admit your first premise/sentence is correct; to the remainder of your comment/observation? No, and not on any account.

    Reason being?

    Malcolm is not, and nor ever has been, the slightest bit interested in leading this nation solely for our nations sake but is only inrterested in doing so for self gratification. At the moment, and on balance, Kevin is and has shown himself to have done so. i do confess to being disquieted by Kevin’s overt “spin over reality” lately. However, if your take into account and this to yor equation the vastly different spousal occupations and backgrounds, the Lucy vs Therese thingy then i think you may get a bit more as to my drift.

    Of course, i could be wrong, and would gladly be open to someone cogently proving otherwise however, i know not any of Kevin’s formative years and, for me, these personal observations of mine are entirely pertinent to Malcolm then then man and the Malcolm the man now.

    If anyone has any personal experiences of Kevin during the equivalent times i knew Malcolm in then i’m only to happy to compare comment further.

  • 27
    Jillian Blackall
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Vajra,

    i liked Malcolm when we were in primary school together - i used to play with him sat his house after school; i have not had contact since….Malcolm is not, and nor ever has been, the slightest bit interested in leading this nation solely for our nations sake but is only interested in doing so for self gratification.”

    I would be reluctant to make such a judgement on anyone I have not seen since primary school.

  • 28
    vajras2000
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Jillian - that’s OK, i agree that at first blush my comments may be taken the way you say however, i do know and am still in contact with many mutual friends from both that primary time, then our secondary, and on to our tertiary, who chose to remain in contact with both of us but not us together .

    The primary school comment was given to allow you all to observe him today and to reflect on the [unsaid here] Jesuit saying, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”

    i see nothing today that i did not see at 7!

  • 29
    denise allen
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Actually John James, I wasn’t being kind to the conservatives…..I’m a leftie myself….and I’m sorry but I couldnt think of anything worse than Abbot being a choice for PM….well I could actually……Andrews, Robb, Bishop, Bishop, Tuckey, Ruddock, …oh the list goes on…….
    I just dont understand why, when talking about climate change they only talk about clean energy - why on earth aren’t they talking about clean crops like industrial hemp (no fertilisers)…. and other natural fibres…..and bio dynamic farming? (NO it is not marijuana - in fact if you grow industrial hemp near marijuana the pollination from IH will significantly reduce the THC in the illegal hemp - thats why illegal hemp growers loathe IH being grown anywhere near their crops - and yes it should be being used to rid illegal hemp…. ask Qld why they didnt do it!).
    And before you debate the issue do your research on how much atmospheric carbon can be sequestered per hectare by using the bio dynamic organic system.
    Food for thought.

  • 30
    the duke
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    well, I’d take a Turnbull over an arts graduate and a career politician anyday. I am based in London and had the pleasure of seeing Turnbull a few months back, I could not have been more impressed with him as an individual.

    Given Rudd is the master of grandstanding, I’m not quite so sure. I think you will find that Rudd has always been obsessed with being the Prime Minister of Australia. Turnbull has money, so that is not an issue, perhaps he is actually in politics for the right reasons? he certainly has more spine than Rudd.

  • 31
    the duke
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    perhaps Turnbull is what Australia is actually craving? try sitting in the UK and the US, I have worked in both, and see how Australia is viewed.. a brand new country with fuddy duddy views.

    Rudd is the Jack of all trades, master of none. The king bureaucrat, career politician and the self proclaimed economic conservative. I generally dislike both the ALP and Coalition but would lean towards the Coalition if push came to shove. I certainly like Turnbull more than Rudd.

    I also work in the same industry as what Turnbull did, Mergers & Acquisitions. He is not a crook, contrary to what a number of people believe, but a very intelligent person with incredible business acumen. Contrary to popular belief, he did not have a career in trading or high leverage lending and was not part of the problem that caused the liqudity crisis.

    Business acumen is something the Rudd does not have and is why he will not be a good Prime Minister and why Australia will continue along the same path. Turnbull has a conscience and is prepared to make hard decisions as per yesterdays events..

  • 32
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    I have said it often in the Crikey fold, PM Rudd is so under estimated and I can see that even in this moment of enlightenment it is still happening.

    The Liberal party’s true character is being underestimated also. Following is a comment I made to BK’s pre-meeting article this morning………

    ….. As a medical practitioner I can say (by medical standards) how ugly it is to bring in a liberal entity with integrity and power printed on his previous forehead to deliver the necessary power statement of support for the denialists (you call them conservatives) when that liberal is recovering from a ‘nervous breakdown’ and its the first time in recovery that he’s popped up.
    This could be a new definition of ‘gruesome’ but it’s definitely a new definition of ‘desperate’ and ‘audacity’. ……..

  • 33
    Jillian Blackall
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately I don’t have much sympathy for Andrew Robb in this matter. He was not forced to do what he did. I am very disappointed with him. He could have at least warned Malcolm he was going to do that. Why the ambush?

  • 34
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    Hey, THE DUKE
    Hey, the real way to pick serious business talents in the finance industry wasn’t in terms of whether they were smart enough to cause the global financial crisis but whether like you they were smart enough to see it coming.
    You’re trying too hard to sell your opinion and feelings.

  • 35
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    To Jillian Blackall
    He gets a pardon. He’s not well.

  • 36
    the duke
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Hey Doc,

    I agree with the first part of your paragraph. And those that are close to the liquidity side of the banking world, like I am, could have told you that liquidity was contracting way back in mid 2007. I believe in my opinion and feelings, I am passionate.

    Rudd is predictable, not underestimated. He is a text book leader, that is, if you refer to him as a true leader - I don’t. Re the GFC, I was merely highlighting that the M&A sector was not the driving force behind the GFC, the ALP and left believers will tell you otherwise. But then again, the UK is basically bankrupt due to Labour policies.

    If you recall, there was only one party in Australia that understood the severity of the GFC, the Coalition. The ALP was reactive, not proactive.

  • 37
    Jillian Blackall
    Posted Wednesday, 25 November 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Harvey,

    Maybe… but I think Malcolm was entitled to expect his support. Malcolm would have had a hell of a week. I know I have had a very challenging week just trying to counter his climate sceptic opponents online…

  • 38
    EnergyPedant
    Posted Thursday, 26 November 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Three things. Firstly the Liberal party isn’t just a conservative party. There are actually plenty of moderate liberals in there too.

    Secondly I know some people who worked with/for Turnbull when he was environment minister who were impressed by both how much he understood and how hard he worked.

    Thirdly if his political instincts are rubbish why is no one on his staff feeding him good advice and tactics. Surely there has to be someone within his faction who has the instincts and experience. Or maybe its just really easy from the outside to claim he doesn’t know what he’s doing…

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