Tony Abbott has fired a telling shot across Malcolm Turnbull’s bow, warning that any energy package agreed to in cabinet must also pass a party room wary of anything approaching a clean energy target or other subsidy scheme for renewables.
It came as the Turnbull government received more bad news in the fortnightly Newspoll series, prompting Mr Abbott to declare a future return to the leadership was possible but would occur only if he was drafted by colleagues, which he described as “almost impossible to imagine”.
The government is expected to announce this week its new energy policy with the clean energy target likely to be dumped.
Signalling that Coalition MPs will be no rubber stamp on energy, the dumped former prime minister said the backbench deserved “plenty of chance to digest” the formula.
Mr Abbott’s blunt message sets the stage for another showdown over a policy area that has divided moderates and conservatives within the Coalition for a decade, and become a constant cipher for simmering leadership rivalries.
Just hours before the Turnbull cabinet was due to discuss the contentious energy affordability and reliability formula, itself a reframed clean energy policy due to internal frictions, Mr Abbott used a regular radio chat with 2GB host Ray Hadley to lay down some political markers.
Acknowledging the government was now just nine losing Newspoll surveys away from the 30-poll benchmark Mr Turnbull set as his trigger for challenging Mr Abbott in September 2015, Mr Abbott emphasised the importance of “getting the right policy”.
“I don’t think this is something that should be, as it were, rushed through, but nevertheless, it’s got to be got right,” he said.