Australian Opposition Leader May Be Dumped Tuesday Over Climate Change Split

Australia’s opposition Liberal Party will vote Tuesday on whether to dump its leader who has lost the confidence of much of the party for backing a government climate change policy.

The conservative Liberals have been in meltdown for the past week over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation drafted by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s center-left Labor government, The Australian reported.

Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull has enthusiastically backed Labor's proposed CPRS after the government agreed to a series of amendments that would make it friendlier to business.

The legislation includes an emissions trading scheme that would put a price on carbon emissions, a move critics say would unnecessarily hamper the Australian economy.

His position alienated the more conservative Right faction, leading to a week of blood-letting that will culminate Tuesday in a leadership vote.

The key figures in the drama remained locked in meetings Monday, with Members of Parliament (MPs) who have sought to terminate Turnbull's leadership pressing opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey to take over.

Hockey, who had previously supported Turnbull's pro-CPRS stance, offered to agree to send the CPRS bill to a Senate committee — delaying its consideration until next February.

In return, he demanded a free vote in February that would bind all sections of the party, including climate change cynics on the Right.

However, the Right refused to accede to his conditions, setting up a stalemate that continued late Monday.

After talks broke up, Tony Abbott, an MP and former health minister from the party's Right, said he would contest the leadership despite an earlier pledge to support Hockey.

Abbott said he would run "come what may".

Hockey confronted his leader Monday, vowing he would not support the initial “spill” motion asking for a leadership vote but refusing to rule out contesting the resulting ballot if the spill succeeded.

Earlier, Turnbull told a press conference his party could not seriously present itself in an election without a climate change policy. "The Liberal Party has to be a party of today and tomorrow," he said.

"If it is going to be a relevant, credible political organization, it has to be a progressive political movement.

"It has to be one that has credible policies on vital matters of public importance."

The Labor government has enjoyed a clear lead in the polls since being voted into power in 2007 and Turnbull’s rating as preferred Prime Minister against Rudd sits at 14 percent.

A survey of Australian voters released Monday by Newspoll found on a two-party-preferred basis, support for the government was up one percentage point to 57 percent and for the Liberal-National coalition down one point to 43 percent.

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