Breathing down his neck

Friday, 11 July 2008 

Poor old Brendan.

Just in case he thought he might be able to play down the differences between him and Turnbull following the latter’s feisty appearance on Lateline on Wednesday night, Abbott then intervenes to make sure Nelson can’t wriggle out of it. Without a hint of irony, the former Health Minister attacked the theological fervour in the climate change debate and spelt out the split that is there for all to see.

There was also a knife buried in Abbott’s comments when he noted that it was the partyroom not shadow cabinet that would decide policy. It is a deliberate shot across the bows of the Liberal leadership to say that he is prepared to challenge it from the floor to push the sceptic line, especially to take on Turnbull and Hunt, but by implication Nelson as well if he gets in the way.

Nelson’s piece in The Australian tries to please everyone and claim that his policy has not changed since the Howard Cabinet agreed on the Shergold report. But of course it has because the risks he talks about of Australia starting a scheme before the rest of the world were dismissed by Shergold. At the end of it he tries and pose himself as only looking at the issue of an ETS from the most effective way to deal with climate change, but such finesse is a waste of time. The debate has already been polarised into believers and deniers.

Nelson is caught here in the position he has always been in since he assumed the leadership, between the old leadership who lost control of its party and a challenger who was unable to take it. Over the last two weeks it has been clear that the old leadership now feel that Turnbull is less of a threat and that it is time to reassert control. Turnbull has been forced to respond to the U-turn as otherwise not to do so would have damaged his credibility. But given his attempt to calm down the rift yesterday compared to Abbott’s willingness to up the ante and spread it out into the partyroom, it looks like it is the old leadership, not Turnbull, who have the numbers.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 11 July 2008.

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