Movement in the Liberal party

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has quit her post as parliamentary secretary. This was a big surprise as not only had I pegged her as a Turnbull supporter, but she had come out in favour of the ETS deal that had been hashed out with Labor on Tuesday. My guess is that she had her preselection threatened. She was probably one of the first targetted, being part of the conservative faction of the Liberals.

From this it would assume that, overnight, Fierravanti-Wells has changed her mind and will vote against the ETS – or at least try and delay it. Alongside her in the overnight change is Bill Heffernan and Helen Kroger. Heffernan, from NSW like Fierravanti-Wells, was probably convinced by leadership not so much a threat to his preselection.He was probably target number 2, being from the conservative faction as well.

Assuming that Turnbull has some control over the senators that have been identified as still loyal to the leadership, and that the delay tactics don’t work and a vote does come up (which is looking less likely, though still plausable), I calculate that he still has these votes: Gary Humphries (ACT), Helen Coonan, Marise Payne (NSW), Sue Boyce, George Brandis, Russell Trood (QLD), Simon Birmingham (SA), Richard Colbeck (TAS), Judith Troeth, Michael Ronaldson (VIC), David Johnston (WA).

Troeth, retiring at her next election and from the left faction within the party, is a certain lock. Birmingham, from the highly factional SA and nemesis of Nick Minchin, is a lock as well. Payne I would say is a lock as well, being a progressive in the party. Brandis too is a progressive within his party on a lot of issues and, while outspoken in his criticism of the Greens in the past, I imagine he is supportive of Turnbull and the ETS. Coonan is part of the shadow cabinet and hasn’t quit yet – probably an indication she would vote with the Liberal leadership and for the ETS. She’s also a Howard veteran who won’t easily be strong-armed around like Fierravanti-Wells. But she’s also a survivalist it would seem (having been a cabinet member of Howard, then Nelson, then Turnbull). She might see her vote against the ETS would position her better in the future and vote no. But having stuck this long, I think, has doomed her anyway.

So if these five vote yes, Turnbull and Labor only need two more votes if it comes up. I think Humpries is one to focus on. He’s a bit of a renegade – the first Liberal senator to vote against Howard in 10 years over the ACT’s civil union issue. Ronaldson is another I would work over. Troeth’s state compadre, she probably has a line of communication there to use. He also has Turnbull to thank for his quick rise to power. He’s also part of the shadow cabinet, and hasn’t quit yet, so there’s an indication much like Coonan’s. There’s a theoretical seven votes.

Ideally, both Labor and Turnbull would like to get eight or nine, just to be safe. I believe that the WA senators will be coping it from all sides, and will probably fold. So focus on the QLD senators, where Brandis has some relationship with them. Boyce and Trood who have stuck with the ETS this long are the two I’d go for. There’s a real danger for Trood, who is up for reelection at the next election. If it’s a regular election, the ETS issue will be at the front and with Rudd, Swan and other prominent faces of the government turning out the vote for Labor, Trood could lose his spot in the Senate.

There’s under an hour until the supposed deadline for the ETS vote. We’ll see what happens.

Thomas.

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