Abbott spills Turnbull's leadership over climate alarmism and Rudd's ETS

November 30, 2018

On 1 December 2009, Tony Abbott defeated his then leader Malcolm Turnbull (and Joe Hockey, in a three-way contest) for the Federal Liberal Party leadership. The successful challenge occurred essentially due to Turnbull’s surrender to climate change “science” and leftist greenhouse gas emissions policy, but also after a 2009 long run of poor polling and tin-eared leadership. 

It followed a month of climate change tumult (November 2009) where:

  • then Liberal Senator, Nick Minchin, appeared on an episode of the ABC’s Four Corners program suggesting man-made climate change was in essence a leftist hoax 
  • then Liberal Senators (including Minchin and then Liberal senator, Cory Bernardi) threatened to cross the floor if Turnbull and his climate change spokesman, Ian MacFarlane, struck a deal with (then popular) Labor PM Kevin Rudd and his emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation, aka and
  • the ClimateGate emails dropped on the world stage, revealing the manipulated, bogus science and data behind the global warming scare and torpedoing the approaching Copenhagen Climate Summit of December 2009.

Abbott built on the win to generate momentum all the way to the Lodge:

  • First, the Coalition strongly opposed PM Rudd’s ETS legislation.
  • In April 2010, just five months after Turnbull was deposed, Rudd Labor entirely abandoned the so-called "greatest moral challenge of our time".
  • By late June, Rudd was knifed as PM and Labor - under new leader Julia Gillard - lost their government majority at the August 2010 Federal election.
  • In a minority government deal with their ideological siblings, the Greens, Gillard announced and implemented her carbon tax in the next term, breaking faith with the Australian people and her pronunciation in Brisbane before the election "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead".
  • The Abbott Coalition Opposition continued to vigorously oppose carbon taxation, leading to another Labor leadership knifing and a landslide election win for the Coalition in September 2013.

Mark/celebrate the first of two spills of the Turnbull Liberal leadership by:

  • watching this short clip on the events (and a 2009 Julie Bishop as loyal deputy)
  • reading further about this Turnbull spill
  • viewing the documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle” and comparing it to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” that was a catalyst for the Rudd push for carbon pricing
  • perusing the Conservative Party’s policies on energy and climate change, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, classical liberals, climate change sceptics, realists and those that long for cheap and reliable energy again.

Further details on the first spill of the Turnbull Liberal leadership

PM Rudd – riding high in the polls – had introduced to Parliament Labor’s ETS legislation in response to his grandiose proclamation that climate change was the “greatest moral challenge of our generation”.

Despite the overwhelming sentiments of his backbench and the Nationals, Turnbull and his then Coalition spokesman for climate change, Ian MacFarlane, negotiated with Labor and agreed (on 23 November 2009) relatively minor amendments to Rudd’s ETS legislation.

After taking this “white flag” climate deal to his Coalition party room - roundly rejected by backbenchers - Turnbull claimed he had the support of his party, adding presumptively all 20 of his shadow cabinet members to his column (who, due to cabinet solidarity, couldn’t overtly oppose without resigning).

This audacity, and the resulting rancour, precipitated a leadership spill motion (moved by conservative Kevin Andrews on 26 November) to test the numbers, which Turnbull only won 48-35. It was, coincidentally, the exact same result as the spill Turnbull brought on himself as PM in August 2018 (which, a few days later, would also see his leadership end, in acrimony).

Given the spill’s relatively thin margin, a full contest was soon inevitable. A day later, Abbott announced he would challenge Turnbull for the leadership, unless Joe Hockey (shadow treasury spokesman, then a moderate and quite popular at the time) put his hat in the ring against Turnbull and his ETS deal with Rudd.

But nice, affable Hockey couldn’t get off the fence – his position became that of allowing a “conscience vote” on Rudd’s ETS bills on both floors of Parliament, effectively guaranteeing their passage. In response, Abbott – who had only recently switched from supporting an ETS – saw opportunity and said he would contest regardless.

According to opinion polls, Kochie’s morning TV viewers and Canberra insiders, Hockey was the favourite and expected to win the contest, but he was knocked out in the first round of the three-way ballot with only 23 votes (Abbott got 35 and Turnbull got 26). With Hockey eliminated, Abbott beat Turnbull by the narrowest of margins (42-41) with one Turnbull supporter absent and one donkey vote. (Apparently, Turnbull assured Hockey that he would not contest if the leadership was spilled, but then he did anyway.)

Abbott went on to effectively tie the August 2010 Federal election against Gillard and win in a landslide the September 2013 election against a returned Rudd. But Turnbull continued to lurk the halls of Federal Parliament and stalk Abbott, eventually getting his revenge six years later (September 2015).

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