Liberal party in ‘meltdown’ as frontbenchers revolt

By Angela Dorizas

The Liberal Party is in a state of turmoil following the resignation of five frontbenchers and two Senate whips.

Liberal MP Tony Abbott quit shadow cabinet after failing to convince Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull to reconsider the party’s position on the emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Mr Abbott and Senator Nick Minchin approached Mr Turnbull after question time today in an attempt to convince him to defer a vote on the ETS.

Mr Turnbull rejected their proposal, prompting a number of party members to quit cabinet positions, starting with Mr Abbott.

“Nick and I put it to Malcolm that given the adverse reaction to the deal done with the Government we should instead accept the amendments and propose that the amended bill be sent to a Senate inquiry for ultimate voting in February after the Copenhagen conference,” Mr Abbott said.

“Malcolm was unprepared to reconsider. I indicated to Malcolm at the end of the conversation that given his position I could no longer support the Opposition’s policy and there could no longer be in the shadow cabinet.”

He denied his resignation was over the Liberal leadership, but described the party as being in a state of “meltdown”.

Following Mr Abbott’s announcement, MPs Sophie Mirabella and Tony Smith announced they too were resigning.

Senators Nick Minchin and Eric Abetz also stepped down from their portfolios. They were joined by Stephen Parry and Michael Johnson who resigned from their positions as Senate whips.

Yesterday parliamentary secretaries Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Brett Mason offered to resign in protest over the ETS.

Mr Turnbull vowed to stay on as Opposition Leader despite the resignation. He said he respected the decision of MPs and Senators who stepped down from cabinet in order to cross the floor over the ETS bill.

“That’s their right and I respect it,” Mr Turnbull said.

“But I believe we must maintain this course of action. It is the honourable thing to do. It is the responsible thing to do.

“We must be a party committed to action on climate change. Anything else is irresponsible.”

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