Cutting through to the party

THE chasm in the Federal Liberal Party over climate change and an emissions trading scheme cuts right through to the party’s grass-roots membership, NSW Climate Change Shadow Minister and Lennox Head resident Catherine Cusack conceded yesterday.

However, Ms Cusack, who is also the NSW Coalition’s Shadow Minister for Environmental Sustainability, said those divisions ended at Macquarie Street, saying the party’s state branch remained united and was busy learning from the internal warfare tearing at the Federal Party.

“I don’t really understand what’s going on in Canberra and I don’t know if anyone does,” Ms Cusack said yesterday, pointing to Thursday’s front-bench walk-out and Senate Leader Nick Minchin’s decision to resign his post in protest but continue doing the same job until February.

Speaking soon before the Government’s 3.45pm deadline for vote on the trading scheme slipped past, Ms Cusack praised embattled Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who she has previously described as a friend, saying he was showing ‘a lot of leadership and courage’ in his stand on the emissions trading scheme.

Mr Turnbull’s post was last night on a precipice after former party ally Joe Hockey hinted he was prepared to abandon his support for the trading scheme as Sen Minchin prepared a plan that would have former Howard Government Health Minister Tony Abbott shelve his own leadership ambitions to clear the way for Mr Hockey.

Greens leader Bob Brown told ABC Radio yesterday the damage done to the Liberals was irreversible, saying it was the biggest political split seen in Australia since the party-wrecking split that tore apart Labor during the 1950s.

However, Ms Cusack said the divisions were confined to Canberra where, she conceded, passions had run out of control.

Those divisions within the Federal Liberal Party, and those within the party’s membership, mirrored a similar split across the entire Australian community between those who support an emissions trading scheme and those who do not.

That suggested the ructions now shaking the Federal Liberal Party might have been unavoidable – regardless of what position Mr Turnbull had taken.

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