Tony Abbott was chosen to replace Malcolm Turnbull as Australia’s opposition Liberal Party new leader. The election took place at a Canberra meeting, amid row over the government’s carbon trading laws. (photo, from bbc.co.uk)
While Mr Turnbull had backed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), Mr Abbott opposes it.
In order to pass the legislation in the Senate, where his party does not have a majority, the government needs the support of the Liberals. Therefore, their revolt throws Mr Rudd’s plans into turmoil.
Mr Rudd had wanted the legislation to pass the Senate by the start of the Copenhagen climate change summit next week.
He secured Mr Turnbull’s support for the bill last week, which prompted the angry reaction from some Liberal lawmakers. It triggered the leadership challenge.
Mr Abbott won the final vote against Mr Turnbull by 42 votes to 41. A third challenger, Joe Hockey, was eliminated in first-round voting.
Just minutes after his victory, Mr Abbott told a news conference that he would fight the ETS bill.
“We will seek to refer the legislation to [a Senate] committee for further scrutiny. If we cannot get the support for that course of action we will oppose the legislation in the Senate this week,” he said.
“I think on something of this magnitude, it is much more important to get it right than to rush it,” he added.
The government’s immediate hopes of passing the bill now rest on the possibility of some opposition lawmakers rebelling and voting with it.
However, if the Senate fails to back the scheme, correspondents say Mr Rudd could call a snap election.
According to opinion polls, he would win such an election and could then pass his climate legislation in a joint sitting of parliament.
Yet the issue is complicated by the onset of the southern summer, when political hostilities tend to be put on hold, said the BBC’s Nick Bryant, in Sydney.
The ETS aimed at reducing Australia’s carbon footprint. It is the centrepiece of the government’s environmental strategy.
By 2020, Mr Rudd wants to cut Australia’s carbon emissions by up to 25% from 2000 levels.
However the scientific case for global warming is questioned by some opposition politicians. The energy lobby says the move would damage the country’s economy.
Australia has the highest per capita carbon emissions among developed nations and coal is its biggest export.