In a typically spirited performance, Malcolm Turnbull tonight declared he is committed to addressing climate change and dared his party opponents to blast him out of the leadership.
Turnbull was confident, even aggressive, in his determination to stare down his critics, whose ranks have dramatically swelled this evening to include Tony Abbott and several junior frontbenchers. He declared that he was in politics to make a difference and climate change was a key issue for this and subsequent generations.
He also indicated that Nick Minchin and Eric Abetz have resigned but indicated they will continue in their Senate leadership positions until the Senate completes its current session. Critically, Turnbull indicated Minchin had agreed to implement this week’s partyroom decision to back a CPRS deal with the Government, although Minchin may back a move to defer passage of the CPRS bills until next week
There is now a race against time for the Government to pass its CPRS before Malcolm Turnbull is brought down by his internal enemies, with Anthony Albanese indicating this evening that the Government had agreed a deal with Turnbull and the Liberals to pass the CPRS by 3.45pm Friday. That timetable, however, looks unlikely to be met.
The crisis, which surely has destroyed Turnbull’s leadership if not tonight then over the next few days, brought out the best in him. He delivered a rousing address to the press conference expressing his determination to ensure that the Coalition did not enter an election opposing action on climate change.
The contrast with a hesitant Tony Abbott, who at his afternoon press conference refused to even state that he would stand against Turnbull or that today’s events were about the Liberal leadership, was stark.
Nevertheless, sheer bravado will no longer be enough to save Turnbull. A small number of moderate supporters joined Turnbull in the partyroom for the press conference, compared to the large number who crammed in on Tuesday night to cheer him on when he declared victory in the partyroom debate.
At one stage while speaking, Turnbull complained his lectern was falling apart. Party moderates will be desperately hoping it wasn’t symbolic.