News National The hardest part of Malcolm Turnbull’s overseas trip will be coming home

The hardest part of Malcolm Turnbull’s overseas trip will be coming home

Malcolm Turnbull at G20
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull mixes it with world leaders at the G20. Photo: AAP
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There is one more thing for Malcolm Turnbull to do before he winds up his trip to Europe and that is to see the Queen.

It probably sums up a pleasant seven days out of the country and being on the right side of a majority of the world’s leading nations.

Mr Turnbull kept Australia in the G19, leaving Donald Trump’s USA the odd one out on a global effort to combat climate change in the 2015 Paris accord framework.

In many ways, the most fractious – or at the very least divisive – G20, thanks to Donald Trump, probably reminded Mr Turnbull of what he has to deal with when he returns to our shores.

Mr Trump’s attitude, especially on climate, would have been very familiar.

The US President’s rhetoric is indistinguishable from the gentleman Mr Turnbull prefers not to name, one Tony Abbott.

Mr Abbott, based on his most recent statements, would never have signed up to: “the leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible.”

The former prime minister is calling for the measures to implement that deal to be either scrapped, halved or frozen.

Merkel Turnbull
German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hand with Malcolm Turnbull on the eve of the G20 summit. Photo: AP

By embracing the tough language promoted by Germany’s Angela Merkel, Mr Turnbull now has to credibly find a way to deliver. A point strongly made by the Labor opposition.

Ironically, thanks to strong action from American states and cities and the Obama administration, the US is doing better on emissions reduction than Australia since Mr Abbott scrapped the carbon tax.

The Prime Minister’s biggest challenge will be to show the nexus between pricing carbon – one way or another – and electricity prices is increasingly tenuous. New modelling by RepuTech suggests it is even counterproductive.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is pointing the finger at the states for the nation’s energy crisis. They certainly share some of the blame but the argument can only go so far, especially if electricity prices keep rising thanks to no federal political consensus.

Energy policy isn’t the only issue that has the government tearing itself apart.

There is now a well-flagged concerted effort to bring marriage equality to
a free vote of the Parliament.

Liberal senator Dean Smith is urging politicians to rise above the petty squabbling and end the embarrassment of Australia being the only major English-speaking nation still discriminating against gay couples.

There is a strong political argument to get the issue out of the way.

Even Liberal backbenchers who do not support same-sex marriage are coming to this view.

It will all come to a head when Parliament resumes in August. One thing is clear: this time the party room will be the Liberal Party room and not include the Nationals.

Christopher Pyne slammed that manoeuvre as a “branch stack” when Mr Abbott pulled it on in 2015.

Tony Abbott has his own alternative policy vision for the nation.

The issue, of course, is a toxic proxy for the Turnbull-Abbott wars, but if the hardliners try to turn it into a leadership showdown they may be in for a shock, is the reckoning of one veteran backbencher.

And just to give a wider context to it all, the government is trailing in the 15th consecutive Newspoll – the fourth in a row with a landslide producing six per cent gap.

Victoria’s Liberal Party President Michael Kroger is predicting a turnaround by Christmas and insists there is a lot of work behind the scenes for peace to be restored to the federal party room.

But it is difficult to see what would be the catalyst for that to happen.

One of the 12 government MPs on a margin of one per cent or less, Michelle Landry, is suggesting Mr Abbott should be offered High Commissioner for London again.

Those close to Mr Abbott say he would rather be a truck driver or a garbage man.

The images aptly describe what he’s doing to Mr Turnbull at the
moment: driving a truck through his credibility and trashing his best efforts.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics. He tweets at @PaulBongiorno

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