SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday that he is postponing his planned emissions reduction legislation as a leadership crisis is looming in the wake of his policies to cut electricity prices.
“In a House of Representatives with a one seat majority, 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,” Turnbull told reporters.
“But of course, it is a moot point until such time as we have enough support to pass it through the House,” he added.
The measure does not imply that the government abandoned its commitment to the Paris climate change agreement, but it postpones any attempt to pass a law on 26 to 28 percent emission reductions from the 2005 levels by 2030, along with its so-called National Energy Guarantee (NEG) plan.
“Our energy policy remains the same, but we are not going to present a bill into the House of Representatives until we believe it will be carried,” the Prime Minister said.
“I am just interested in trying to ensure that Australians have the lowest possible power prices and that people’s jobs are safe,” former prime minister and now backbencher Tony Abbott said.
Turnbull made the announcement amid growing rumors about the home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s intention to challenge his leadership in the Liberal Party.
The ruling coalition between Liberal and National Parties is in the midst of a crisis over the NEG policy, which seeks to lower the price of electricity. Coal accounted for the majority of electricity generation in Australia, at approximately 61 percent of total generation in 2017.
Turnbull called an emergency meeting on Sunday night amid rumors that some lawmakers without government portfolios have asked Dutton to try to unseat him.
The prime minister assured that “he enjoys the confidence of the Cabinet and of his party room,” and stressed that on Monday Dutton gave him “his absolute support.”
A poll published on Sunday night indicates that the opposition Labour Party has 55 percent of the support compared to 45 percent for the coalition, which means that the government could lose 20 seats at the general election.
Australia has gone through several leadership crises since 2010, when Labour Party leader Julia Gillard wrested power from fellow parliamentarian Kevin Rudd, who regained the Executive power in 2013.
That same year the liberal Tony Abbott won the elections but was deposed by another internal conflict led by Turnbull at the end of 2015.