Australia’s embattled PM abandons greenhouse gas emissions proposals

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Australia’s prime minister has abandoned plans to legislate to limit greenhouse gas emissions to head off a revolt by conservative politicians.

Malcolm Turnbull on Monday conceded that he could not get legislation through the House of Representatives where his conservative coalition holds only a single-seat majority.

He said, although most government politicians supported the target of reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels, that support was not enough.

“Even with strong support in the party room, if a small number of people are not prepared to vote with the government on a measure, then it won’t get passed,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Some politicians including former prime minister Tony Abbott argue the government should be focusing on cutting electricity prices instead of cutting emissions.

Mr Abbott deposed Mr Turnbull as leader of the conservative Liberal Party in 2009 over differences in energy policy.

But Mr Turnbull ousted Mr Abbott as prime minister in 2015 in a leadership ballot of government politicians concerned by the government’s poor opinion polling.

Some government politicians want Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, a close ally of Mr Abbott, to challenge Mr Turnbull’s leadership.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Dutton had told him he would not challenge for the party leadership.

“He has given me his absolute support,” Mr Turnbull said of Mr Dutton.

Mr Dutton also watered down speculation of a challenge.

“In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government,” Mr Dutton tweeted.

The government has trailed the centre-left opposition Labour Party in most opinion polls since the last election in 2016.

Australia Politics
Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, centre, has abandoned legislation to limit greenhouse emissions (Rod McGuirk/AP)

A Fairfax-Ipsos poll published on Monday showed 55% of voters surveyed supported Labour and only 45% supported the government.

The phone poll of 1,200 voters was taken last week from Wednesday to Saturday and has a 2.9% margin of error.

Australia has gone through an extraordinary period of political instability since prime minister John Howard lost power in 2007 after more than 11 years in office.

Mr Turnbull would next month become Australia’s longest serving prime minister since Mr Howard, having held the office for three years and four days.

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