26/11/2009 - 14:11

Five Liberal MPs quit shadow cabinet

26/11/2009 - 14:11

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The fallout from Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's support for an emissions trading scheme has prompted five of the Liberal Party's frontbenchers, including Tony Abbott, to resign today.

The fallout from Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's support for an emissions trading scheme has prompted five of the Liberal Party's frontbenchers, including Tony Abbott, to resign today.

Mr Abbott was the first to announce his resignation, which he stressed was policy related and not about leadership issues.

Mr Turnbull yesterday survived a leadership spill after several Liberal MPs were unhappy about his staunch support for the Rudd government's amended ETS.

Mr Abbott's resignation was quickly followed by Victorian MP Sophie Mirabella, and ABC has reported that Senators Nick Minchin and Eric Abetz and Federal Member for Casey Tony Smith had also handed in their resignations.

The ABC also reported that Senate whip Stephen Parry has also resigned from his position and their are also reports that Opposition whip Michael Johnson may stand down.

At a press conference this evening, Mr Turnbull said he was still the leader of the coalition.

"I am the leader of the Liberal party," he said.

"I was confirmed as such .... just 24 hours ago."

Mr Turnbull said he was committed to taking action on climate change and the direction in which he had taken the Liberal Party.

"We must maintain this course of action. It's 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."

Mr Turnbull said the coalition could not fight the next federal election without a policy to take action on climate change.

"It would be a catastrophe for us," he said.

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

Mr Turnbull said he believed the ETS negotiated by Labor and the coalition would still pass the Senate.

"I'm confident it will pass," he told reporters.

"There's 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 (to support the ETS)."

The opposition leader noted there was also a motion to spill the leadership on Tuesday "and that was soundly defeated".

Mr Turnbull said Mr Minchin, one of the chief opponents of the ETS who has resigned as the opposition's senate leader, had promised not to delay debate.

"Nick has given me a solemn undertaking not to frustrate the passage of the legislation," Mr Turnbull said.

Senator Minchin had given an assurance the bills would be voted on before the Senate rises for the summer break, expected at 3.45pm on Friday.

But he also told his leader he would still vote against the legislation.

"I don't think any of us had any doubt about his position," Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull said the vote in the party room yesterday had confirmed his position as Liberal leader.

The result of the secret ballot was 48 votes to 35 and meant Mr Turnbull was able to avoid a leadership spill.

A journalist responded by saying: "It's today though Malcolm."

The opposition leader insisted that nothing had changed in the past 24 hours, but said he was mindful that his tenure as leader would end if the party so decided.

"My leadership was confirmed only yesterday.

"But as John Howard used to say, it's always something in the gift of the party room."

Mr Turnbull said he would announce the outcome of the necessary reshuffle in the coming weeks, after the parliament rises.

The Senate will sit tomorrow, and again on Monday and possibly Tuesday, to allow debate on the ETS to continue.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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