Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing his toughest hour. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing his toughest hour. Picture: AAP

Turnbull still has a target on his back

MALCOLM Turnbull's leadership is under ­increasing pressure, with conservative colleagues claiming his Labor-lite energy policy has cruelled his chance of winning the next election.

One senior Turnbull government figure told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that the Prime Minister's leadership is an "open question" that would be the subject of serious discussions in the coming weeks.

Conversations among the government's conservatives were sparked by yesterday's party room decision to legislate emissions reduc­tion targets in line with the Paris climate accord and the disastrous primary vote of 30 per cent in the recent by-election for the seat of Longman in Queensland.

 

Several senior conservative Liberals said Mr Turnbull was not the best leader to take the party to the next election, citing his inability to campaign on energy, given that he has adopted a Labor-style emissions-reduction legislation.

"People don't see how Turnbull can lead us to victory, and this is the latest ­example, but people are concerned the clock is counting down 'til the next election," one senior figure said.

"This has really raised concerns and it's highlighted the difficulty that the government is in and questions about his (Turnbull's) ability to seize on what should be the number one issue in the run up to the next election.

"There's a lot of familiarity in this for people who were around in 2009."

Tony Abbott in his office at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Tony Abbott in his office at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

Mr Turnbull was rolled as opposition leader by Tony Abbott in December 2009.

One senior Liberal Party source said it was "diabolical" that Mr Turnbull now had to rely on Mr Shorten and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to pass legislation.

The senior figure said the Liberal base did not agree with Mr Turnbull's move to legislate a 26 per cent emissions reduction target.

"It's at odds with our base," the insider said. "This issue has been a touchstone issue for our supporters for almost a decade, so people are bewildered that we'd be relying on Labor to get our energy policy through."

Liberal conservatives fear the problem with the Turnbull government extends ­beyond Queensland to Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia.

At the moment, Mr Turnbull governs with just a one-seat majority and there is anxiety that if they do not change leader, the election result will be a wipe-out for the Liberal Party.

Other conservatives told The Daily Telegraph they supported a change of leader. There was, however, no clear contender for the job, with a level of unease about Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's popularity in states other than Queensland.



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