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Senior Liberals dismiss Turnbull leadership threat

Politics

Two senior cabinet ministers have rejected suggestions Malcolm Turnbull's job is on the line as restless coalition MPs threaten to tear the government apart on energy policy.

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After a lengthy partyroom meeting last night, called to consider a report by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, one Liberal MP told Fairfax Media the Prime Minister could lose the party leadership if he didn’t listen to backbenchers concerned about a proposed clean energy target.

Treasurer Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra today it was the job of government to work through “difficult issues”.

“Those sorts of assertions (about leadership problems) are better placed for New Idea than they are for reporting of news,” Morrison said.

“What we are focused on is getting an outcome for the Australian people and we are working through that process in a very responsible and methodical way.”

Morrison said the meeting ended in a “clear consensus” that the status quo on energy policy could not continue, and a “widespread acknowledgement” of the good work Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg had done in consulting colleagues.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann backed up the Treasurer.

“Yesterday what the Prime Minister did was precisely that – he was listening,” Senator Corman told ABC TV.

Nationals MP Mark Coulton was angered to see reports based on leaks by “some pissant”.

“The reports … are simplistic and do not really relate the burden of responsibility that the coalition is carrying on their shoulders at the moment,” he told reporters in Canberra today.

Coulton said it was wrong to portray MPs as either being “for Finkel, or against Finkel”.

As opposition leader, Turnbull narrowly lost the Liberal leadership to Tony Abbott in 2009 over support for an emissions trading scheme.

Abbott went on to demolish Labor’s carbon pricing scheme after his 2013 election win, replacing it with an emissions reduction fund.

Labor leader Bill Shorten, whose party leads the coalition 52-48 in the latest Essential poll, said there was new civil war in the Liberals and Turnbull had been “weakened”.

“It would appear that chaos is the order of the day for Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal party room,” Shorten said.

“What Australians want is national policy certainty, so that we can have lower electricity prices.”

The Essential poll published yesterday found the voters most likely to support a low emission target, as proposed by Dr Finkel, were Liberal voters (51 per cent) and people aged over 65 (51 per cent).

Forty-five per cent preferred a low emissions target to carbon trading, while 20 per cent backed an emissions intensity scheme.

-AAP

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