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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Malcolm Turnbull - impressive by any measure


Tonight's complete 7.30 pm press conference:

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Now I think we all recognise that most Australians expect their political leaders and their political parties to take effective action on climate change. This is about the future of our planet and the future of our children and their children. It is one of the great challenges of our time. Now I know there are many people, including many people who are supporters of my own party, who have doubts about the science and grave reservations about it. I understand that and I respect it. But as Margaret Thatcher said, right back nearly 20 years ago in 1990, this is about risk management. Or as Rupert Murdoch said, we have to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. Matt Franklin smiles, from The Australian. He is very pleased when I quote his boss.

But the fact is we have to take a prudent approach to this. Saying that we are not going to do anything about climate change is irresponsible, and no credible, responsible political party can have a ‘no action on climate change’ policy. It is as simple as that.

Now the Liberal party room meeting here, Coalition party room in fact, meeting here and, of course, the shadow cabinet asked Ian Macfarlane and I to negotiate a package with the Government, to take amendments approved by the party room to improve the Government’s emissions trading scheme. And we did that with the full, the overwhelming authority in fact, of the Coalition party room. And it was a set of amendments that were designed to make the scheme more environmentally effective and to save tens of thousands of jobs.

We achieved enormous concessions from the Government and indeed when they were announced many of you wrote it up as an enormous win for the Coalition. Many of you were surprised that the Government made such big concessions as they did, and those concessions, those improvements will save tens of thousands of jobs and, in addition, make the scheme more environmentally effective. Then the shadow cabinet endorsed that deal, the party room endorsed that deal.

Now this has now become a question not simply of the environmental responsibility of the Liberal Party but of its integrity. We agreed with the Government on this deal. We must retain our credibility of taking action on climate change. We cannot be seen as a party of climate sceptics, of do nothings on climate change. That is absolutely fatal. And we also must be seen as men and women of our word. We entered into a bargain. There was offer and there was acceptance....

Now I know, and I just repeat this, this is a difficult issue for many Liberals, many Australians. But I repeat most people who doubt the science also know that it makes sense to take out insurance, to manage the risk, to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. Now at the moment, as you know, some of my colleagues have found it necessary to resign from ministerial positions so they can cross the floor on the issue. That is their right and I respect it. But I believe we must maintain this course of action. It is the responsible thing to do. It is the honourable thing to do.

Australians expect their political leaders to act responsibly, to take action on climate change, to protect and safeguard the future of our planet, the future of our children. That is the challenge for us now and I am committed to it. We must be a party committed to action on climate change. Anything else is irresponsible.

Any questions?

QUESTION:

Will you commit yourself to the leadership of the party? Will you stand and do you intend to remain the leader of the Liberal Party?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I am the leader of the Liberal Party and I was confirmed as such little more than 24 hours ago in this very room.

QUESTION:

Are you prepared to face a new ballot if these frontbenchers who have resigned and gone to the backbench chose to try to trigger one?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well the fact is that people can move a spill… it is not often that people move a spill motion within a few days of one already being resolved but if people wish to move a spill motion it is a matter for them.

QUESTION:

Do you think you have the numbers over Tony Abbott, Mr Turnbull?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I have no doubt that the party room will make the right decision. But let me just say this – it is not a question, I know you guys love getting into the personalities and the numbers and it is terrific fun. Can I tell you something? I came here to make Australia a better place. I came here because of my commitment to political action to make Australia a better place for my children and your children to grow up in. And one of those issues is action on climate change, just as the historic reforms we achieved in the Howard Government on water policy and water management were part of that agenda. I am committed to real reform. I am committed to real environmental action. So you guys write about the numbers. I am focused on the policy. I am focused on our children’s future.

QUESTION:

It would be unprecedented, would it not, for a leader to face such a series of front bench resignations? Do you seriously think that you can continue to lead the Liberal Party under those circumstances?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I am very serious about everything I do.

Yes, Dennis.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, at issue here is the numbers not of the leadership but of that Coalition room... Many of your colleagues dispute your call as a majority and say that they did not endorse it, that it was evenly split.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Dennis, I think I said this yesterday or the day before. There was a clear, albeit a slender majority in the joint party room in favour of the shadow cabinet’s recommendation – that included the Nationals. Now the Nationals on this issue don’t regard themselves as bound by the views of the joint party room as we know. There was a very substantial majority in the Liberal party room and I think, as many of my colleagues have said, and they’re right, it was very similar to the numbers in the ballot yesterday.

QUESTION:

What’s the position in the Senate Mr Turnbull, will you need a new Senate Leader and Deputy Leader?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’ve met with Nick Minchin. As you know, he has conveyed to me his offer to resign and that of his deputy Eric Abetz and the Opposition whip Senator Parry. They have undertaken to continue to fulfil their positions in the Senate until the rising of the Senate – that is to say until we finish for the year.

Nick has given me a solemn undertaking not to frustrate the passage of the legislation and he will use, he has assured me, his best endeavours to see that it goes through its final, to its final committee stage by I think 3.45pm on Friday.

He has said that if there is a motion to defer the legislation he would vote for it and he would vote against the bill, assuming that wasn’t carried and it then came back to the House, passed in the House, went back to the Senate he would then vote against it. So he is, well I don’t think any of us had any doubt about this position.

QUESTION:

Does that then leave the numbers in the Senate to carry the bill?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look the position is that there are certainly more than enough Coalition senators who have supported the shadow cabinet’s recommendation for the bill to be carried but, you know, the party made a decision, it was if you like confirmed yesterday in the ballot here over the spill, but you know there are obviously some people who don’t agree with it.

But can I just say to you, if where we are heading is for an election on the issue of should Australia take action on climate change or not, and if the Coalition is on the take no action side then it will be a catastrophe for us – and that is perfectly clear.

We cannot be a responsible or credible political party unless we are committed to taking responsible action on climate change.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull is sounds from there as if you are not absolutely certain yourself tonight, standing here that the ETS in its amended form will pass?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

No I am confident it will pass. There has been no change to the decision of the party. We had a meeting in the party room here earlier in the week which endorsed the shadow cabinet’s recommendation and as you know there was a spill motion moved to spill the leadership and that was soundly defeated.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull what do you think it says about your leadership authority and the powers [inaudible] that so many of your backbench but also now these senior frontbenchers have not accepted your argument and your right as leader to tell the party what you think it should do?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well there was a vote in the party room yesterday. It was 48–35, supporting my leadership.

QUESTION:

But you have to admit things have changed Mr Turnbull since then?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Nothing has changed as far as the leadership is concerned. My leadership was confirmed only yesterday but it is, as John Howard used to say, always something in the gift of the party room and on that…

QUESTION:

So you wouldn’t call this a crisis of your leadership?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’d love to award a prize for somebody that asks a question that isn’t inviting me to comment on myself.

QUESTION:

Have you accepted the resignations, how many have been offered to you and when and will you conduct a reshuffle?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well we have to have a reshuffle anyway because a number of people are not recontesting the election and so forth. What I am going to do is assess all of that after the Parliament rises and I will let you know in due course and on that note have a great night.


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