The Liberal Party is falling apart tonight as conservative frontbenchers resign, leaving Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership untenable. Tony Abbott and Sophie Mirabella resigned a short time ago, with Nick Minchin rumoured to be about to resign, Tony Smith apparently having also resigned, and more set to follow.
A massive wave of protests from the Liberal Party membership over the CPRS, conveyed via phone and correspondence to electorate offices across the country and described by one Coalition figure as a “meltdown”, has breathed new life into the conservative campaign against Malcolm Turnbull and the CPRS deal and emboldened Abbott and Minchin to confront Turnbull after Question Time this afternoon to demand he reverse his course on the CPRS.
According to Abbott, Turnbull refused to countenance backing down on his decision to agree to a deal with the Government, leaving Abbott with no alternative but to resign. It is expected that Nick Minchin will resign shortly. Sophie Mirabella joined ABbott on the backbench minutes after Abbott’s announcement.
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Abbott denied his resignation was related to the leadership issue, but pointedly refuse to rule out either challenging Turnbull or standing against him in a spill. There are reports currently that an “Abbott-Smith” ticket is being assembled.
The Liberal Party base, which is much older and wealthier than the Australian electorate, has reportedly assailed MPs’ and Senators’ offices with demands that the deal with Government over the CPRS be shredded, encouraged by radio talkback hosts to challenge Turnbull and the moderate leadership.
It is clear now that Turnbull’s support for an ETS deal will cost him his leadership. With party conservatives – including Andrew Robb – now so openly aligned against him, his position is untenable. Even a man of Turnbull’s remarkable self-belief must realise that his short, amazing period as Liberal leader is coming to a close. In the end, he was simply too moderate a leader – if not for a majority of his partyroom, then certainly for the Liberal Party base.