HIS voice hoarse and breaking from arguing his case over 12 hours of solid meetings, a haggard Malcolm Turnbull declared “I’m the leader” six times last night at a defiant but probably futile press conference aimed at asserting his authority over a political party which is split almost exactly in half.

I have made the call: Turnbull and Ian Macfarlane at his press conference last night. Picture: Ray Strange

By the end of the press conference he looked like a doomed man, almost resigned to his likely demise as he faces betrayal by members of Shadow Cabinet, abandonment by the National Party, with almost half the party now canvassing a leadership spill as early as this Thursday - or protracted sniping ahead of his execution at a later date.

The press conference started in bullish fashion. Flanked by deputy leader Julie Bishop and chief climate negotiator Ian Macfarlane, Mr Turnbull declared he had won “overwhelming” party support for his deal with Kevin Rudd over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Rubbish, rebel MPs were saying to reporters via SMS and in corridor chats, explaining that 40 MPs had spoken against the package and just 33 in favour - and that Mr Turnbull had inflated the numbers by arbitrarily including Shadow Cabinet in its entirety in the yes camp, getting him the paltriest possible majority at 47 to 46.

Mr Turnbull would not outline his exact count of the numbers. He said his support was “strong”, “overwhelming”, and then he started.

“I’m the leader.”

Again: “I’m the leader. I have made the call.”

Again: “I’m the leader, right?”

“I’m the leader.”

He said it six times and the more he said it, the more he looked like he knew he wouldn’t be saying it for much longer.

MPs hostile to the deal were describing his performance in the Party Room as poor, woeful, saying he “blew up” at several stages.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. People didn’t know what was going on,” one MP said. “The problem is for all his success, he doesn’t act like a leader - he acts like a boss.”

The numbers were all over the place all day. And there is anger across the party as to whether Shadow Cabinet should be counted as a blanket yes vote.

This is because it includes outspoken climate skeptics such as Nick Minchin, belated skeptic and likely leadership candidate Tony Abbott, and every member of the Nationals - including Leader Warren Truss who held a brief but devastating press conference straight after Mr Turnbull tonight to say that neither he nor any of the Nationals would be backing the CPRS deal.
His day began at 8am when shadow cabinet met to discuss - and approve - the amendments he won to Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. It then shifted to the Party Room at 10am where he tried to placate the waverers, address the concerns of the more trenchant critics, and win majority support.

Question Time was originally going to be put back from 2pm to 4pm so the Libs could continue to meet. It didn’t happen due to a glitch in the Senate. So with a 90-minute break for a pretty half-hearted Question Time, Mr Turnbull returned to face the Party Room once more, and it dragged on and on and on from 4pm to 5pm to 6pm to 7pm to 8pm, at which point Mr Turnbull declared he had won majority support. Which few people believe. Which many people are angry about.

It’s this anger which is fueling the jockeying ahead of Thursday’s meeting. It almost got there today - Wilson Tuckey moved a spill motion, but nobody seconded it.

That is now looking like a near certainty for Thursday - and if not, Mr Turnbull will still go into the summer recess knowing that almost every other MP in his team wants him gone.

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    • Lucy says:

      09:39pm | 24/11/09

      Dead man walking.

      To hold a press conference and assert the Party Room has agreed to something - a determination clearly still in dispute - is CEO politics gone mad. Malcolm Turnbull can’t seem to understand why his Party Room doesn’t treat him like a boss. It shows his utter ineptitude for politics.

      Even putting aside the obvious problems with this Bill and the insanity of the Coalition being forced into rushing something through of such significance, it beggars belief that the so-called ‘Leader’ would conduct himself in such an arrogant fashion.

      Leadership spill is inevitable and it is hard to see how Turnbull could possibly win - almost regardless of who the main contender will be.

      He has asserted his position as leader against the wishes of the majority of the Party - all a challenger has to assert is that they won’t do the same thing. Allowing a majority to rule is at the heart of the Liberal tradition. For all Howard’s faults, when he took an unpopular policy to the Party Room, he didn’t assert it was endorsed - until is actually was.

      Again, Dead Man Walking

    • Julia says:

      09:58pm | 24/11/09

      Since the 1950s and 1960s, we’ve been told we’ve got finite resources. When, when when will people understand we’re going to have to pay more for power and water?

      If it isn’t us, it will be our children. Or theirs.

      Turnbull knows that Labor will make a hundred mistakes in this scheme, that’s why he’s prepared to risk the wrath of the backbench to win the next election.

      But you can’t tell the knuckledraggers that, can you?

    • joe says:

      10:08pm | 24/11/09

      It looks like the majority of the coalition are opposed to the job destroying scheme of Rudd’s. This is great news, just in the nick of time as the climate “science” unravels by the day…

    • Louis McLennan says:

      10:35pm | 24/11/09

      If all goes well Turnbull will back down. I can’t give him another chance after attempting to help ruin Australia. I really liked him until this ETS stuff.

      Now lets hope Rudd doesn’t rope us into a World Government. I assume that’d be a wet dream of his.

    • John Ryan says:

      11:25pm | 24/11/09

      Yes just think Kevin Andrews as leader of the opposition how wonderfull I hope it happens maybe Tuckey as deputy,Rudd will be laughing his head off,what a gutless rabble the Libs are,So much for 11 yrs of Howard,the Liberals are a joke,hopefully 20 yrs in opposition.
      You know that this will be a job destroyer Joe,who told you the local branch of the Liberal party or did you think it up all by yourself

    • hoofman says:

      05:07am | 25/11/09

      Joe 11:08 - you say the coalition are opposed to Rudd’s job destroying scheme, but by opposing it they’ll be destroying jobs - their own. I hope the Libs put someone like Abbott or Andrews in as leader and really seal their fate.

    • Chris says:

      05:28am | 25/11/09

      It’s like the “Brisbane Line” of 1942, except that the party room opponents of Turnbull are committed to defending the wrong part of the country - not the south eastern third where all the voters are. For entertainment value, i’m giving it an eight!

    • DG says:

      05:40am | 25/11/09

      I agree with Julia. It’s inevitable that the cost of resources will increase as demand increases - whether to not global warming is man-made or even whether global warming will cause the expected outcomes, this will push for renewable energy in a way that previous campaigns have failed… instead of using renewable energy to save the planet, this way people save something that they really care about - money*.

      It’s really the only thing that he can do and “win” in the court of public perception (i.e he’s playing politics). If he supports the changes he can claim that the GOVT clearly had a mandate from the last election, and still claim some success in the form of the amendments that he managed to negotiate. If things go horribly wrong he can blame labor and claim that his changes made the system less disastrous than it would have been - if it works then the Libs will gain the extra $ when they take government next (whenever that may be).

      *of course this assumes that energy providers who currently offer ‘green energy’ (such as wind power and the likes) don’t hike the price up in line with carbon based energy production.

    • Wayne Hutchins says:

      06:28am | 25/11/09

      Yes Julia, Labor will make a hundred mistakes and more in this regard but the Coalition are now forever associated with this dog of a bill. I still don’t think this is over.  This ETS will rape and pillage this country for nil return to the environment. Most see that but Turnbull thinks wrongly that he had no other choice. He and the treacherous labor side kick Macca should fall on their swords for the sake of this country.

    • Mike says:

      06:43am | 25/11/09

      The Liberals are like spoiled children. When they’re in government, they’ve got what they want so they behave, even though they don’t actually do anything except stitch up deals for their mates in big business. When they can’t get their way in opposition, their selfish, impatient nature and lack of self-control gets the better of them. Malcolm clearly doesn’t understand that. Someone so used to getting results could never lead that party in opposition.

    • Robert says:

      06:55am | 25/11/09

      So let’s get this right: The Liberals have backed a plan to create a trading exchange where a whole lot of people get rich trading the rights to pollute the environment, using a ‘currency’ that no-one can see (carbon credits) resulting in every Australian family being slugged some $1100 extra a year in living costs (according to the Daily Telegraph today) - all in the name of reducing pollution. Yet the scheme allows for millions - billions? - of dollars being given by those same families, via taxes, straight to the worst polluters in the land - the coal companies - who will continue to pollute the environment at will.
      Is it just me or is this the most stupid, pointless, ill-conceived and plain dumb piece of government legislation this century??
      BTW: I am NOT a climate skeptic and I would normally consider myself a Liberal voter.
      For the good of Australia - and everyone who lives here - we need to ditch this nonsensical piece of legislation which will hurt every Australian who wants to feed their children or stave off a cold winter’s night - and immediately focus on the real issue: reducing emissions and improving the nation’s environmental footprint. A good start would be to develop a plan to phase out coal burning for fuel and exports of raw coal (which only allow other countries to pollute the atmosphere) and redeploy resources (jobs and investment) into greener forms of energy - wind farms, tidal, hydro, etc. And continue from there.
      Taxing families to subsidise the coal industry makes as much sense as taxing schools to fund opium farms….

    • TruBlu says:

      07:26am | 25/11/09

      I agree with Malcolm Turnbull. We need Climate Change action now and we need the agreed form of Emissions Trading Scheme passed now.

      There is, given the way both sides went to the last election on both points, a clear mandate for action now.

      Suck it up and get on with it.

    • Simple Symon says:

      07:32am | 25/11/09

      Reading your article in today’s Tele, Penbo, half way through it I thought I was actually reading the SMH, until I saw your, as usual, common sense.  There are without doubt a great number of eminent scientists who believe climate change is resulting from man’s abuse of the planet, specifically due to the burning of fossil fuels etc.  Just as you are, I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and agree with them that something positive needs to be done about climate change.  However, the thing that is infuriating me and I suspect a great number of people, is the dictatorial manner in which Messrs Rudd and Turnbull are behaving.  None of these pollies are going to be adversely impacted financially with these proposed changes and if they are they have the readies to cope with it quite easily, particularly the aforementioned gentlemen.  A lot of the so-called working families that elected this arrogant government are going to feel the greatest pain if this legislation gets passed and I can see Rudd getting thrown out on his arse as a result.  He will have achieved one thing, that is being remembered as being the PM responsible for sending OZ’s financial prosperity down the river and making approximately 1.50% of the world’s environment cleaner.  The massive debt emanating from the stimulus package, the increased fuel bills and resultant cost of living increase (which may result in double digit interest rates) will see an enormous number of OZ families suffering and to what end.  If India, China and the US don’t come to the party, then what a costly and futile exercise this will have been.  The only thing more obscene than the indecent haste in which Rudd is trying to push this legislation through (without the electorate being given an opportunity to see the full details) will be the number of jobs thrown on the scrapheap and the former working families will rue the day they elected this bastard!

    • Daniel says:

      07:36am | 25/11/09

      “Turnbull is terminal”. i just love this line that I heard last night. I hope this continues into the weekend. It has made politics more interesting for once. It does highlight that this was the party that under Howard that led Australia for a decade. Very scary thought in my view. I hope they get exposed as the climate change skeptics they really are though. We need a Greens government in Australia. People with political ideals and will to change things.

    • steve says:

      07:44am | 25/11/09

      Oh good grief
      Kevin Rudd wants to bring in a tax on everything that by Treasury figures is going to be a cost every household of an average of $1,100
      Right OK
      Can anyone remember an issue where “Treasury Projections” were right?
      So this $ 1,100 figure will be the starting figure and it will just go up from there (never get between a Politician and a bucket load of money)

      This tax is to reduce the temperature of the planet that has not risen for the last 10 years
      This tax is based on “proven science” that is at best is distorted by political agendas, ignored raw data that did not fit the agenda. The “peer review” was little more than getting your mate to check the spelling and at worst may be fraudulent

      After all this Malcolm Turnball and the leader of the Liberal party is the issue?

    • SM says:

      07:51am | 25/11/09

      I’m sure David and his colleagues loved it, but do these “rebel” MP’s really need to be texting reporters whilst they’re in these meetings?  Can’t they at least feign some sort of maturity and some level of professionalism?  I’m not sure they understand how childish and rank amateur it makes them look

    • Hunterruner says:

      08:26am | 25/11/09

      Will we see “Lazarus with the triple by-pass” rise from the Liberal mileu? Turnbull, the Managing Director, is determined to cruel his party to get his own way? Whatever the result the Libs will be a basket case divided by hardline policy division and obdurate personalities. The goal to confront the need to deal wiyth climate change is vital. But Turnbull’s approach does not go far enough. The naysayers have emasculated the proposed legislation (too little as it is) and left the electors confused about the science, the policies and who is driving the proposed changes. Turnbull’s actions raise question whether his “bossiness” is due to a clear understanding of the need for action against climate change or is he asserting leadership claims for a megalomatic charcter?

    • AdamC says:

      08:31am | 25/11/09

      I am no fan of Kruddy’s ETS, but the best approach to take to it has always been to negotiate to make it as benign as possible and see how the issue plays out internationally. Or, in other words, the best strategy is Turnbull’s.

      And the best leader for the Liberal Party is Turnbull.

      I can’t believe this whole affair. These rebel MPs are destroying the opposition! And they can’t seriously think anyone would ever vote for Kevin Andrews as PM!

    • Paul Prentice says:

      10:10am | 25/11/09

      Game Up!this climate-gate scam is now fully exposed,its time now to start bringing in the people behind it and start holding them accountable,they have a bloody lot to answer to.To begin with, just in this country every child who went through the education system in the last thirty years has been robbed,especially
      in science.Its time we put up the Berlin wall again and put all the WATERMELONS( global green on the outside,communist red in the middle )back where they belong…

    • Malcolm rules says:

      10:23am | 25/11/09

      Yep, Turnbull’s right. Act on climate change, pass the compromise ETS, cut a stiff deal in Copenhagen, and take it fomr there.

    • Belle says:

      10:46am | 25/11/09

      Turnbull is acting like the bully he is.  If there are otherFederal Libs who have true majority support, they should go for a spill.  Otherwise let Turnbull wear the flak.

    • Karen says:

      01:53pm | 25/11/09

      If Turnbull was doomed then he would have been doomed at 1pm today. It didn’t happen. MOVE ON!

    • Kazza says:

      02:07pm | 25/11/09

      The problem with the Liberals is not their Leader, as the media would have you believe by all the headlines, but the minority in the party who are stuck in the Howard era. Turnbull is a good Leader and would make an excellent PM. Those in the Liberal Party who don’t want to move forward without Howard should get out and let the Libs move forward with some fresh blood.

    • John Ryan says:

      03:20pm | 25/11/09

      The Problem with a lot on here is they don’t know what they are talking about and turn to The Telegraph for guidance,what a joke, NEWS LTD owners of said paper have been running against Labour for the past 2 yrs and you quote the Tele,thats Desperation

    • Simple Symon says:

      06:47pm | 25/11/09

      John Ryan, I’d suggest that a lot of the Tele readers that you disparage have forgotten more than you’ve ever learned…...........if you subscribe to that low rating, left-wing broadsheet then good on you but you’re paying more for the privilege…...........I presume that you hold a doctorate in science enabling you to explain to those of a lower intellect as to why the indecent haste to get this legislation passed…..........there’s no guarantee of Obama even attending Copenhagen so I suspect that indicates the US apathy for the proposed ETS…............without the US do you really think China and India are going to come to the party?..............if you still want this legislation to be passed without these polluters agreeing to reduce carbon emissions and see jobs lost, billions of OZ dollars pissed into the wind and seeing super funds collapsing before our eyes, then you obviously don’t care about your fellow Australians!

    • Heléna says:

      10:18pm | 25/11/09

      there will be no deal in Copenhagen @Malcolm rules

    • John of Perh says:

      02:45pm | 26/11/09

      I am the Leader!
      No I am the Leader!
      I am the Leader!
      Stop it, who is talking to me?
      I am the Leader!
      No you are not, I am the Leader.
      I am sure I can hear voices.
      I am the Leader!
      Oh hi, it is you! My Dear Imaginary Friend.


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