News National Liberals decline opportunity to defend Turnbull’s leadership
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Liberals decline opportunity to defend Turnbull’s leadership

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The deafening silence of Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal colleagues was telling after an opportunity to back him as leader. Photo: AAP
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Liberal MPs and Senators have refused the opportunity to back Malcolm Turnbull as preferred party leader to head the Coalition into the next election.

When The New Daily contacted all members of the Liberal party in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and invited them to comment on whether they would support Mr Turnbull into the next election, the silence was deafening.

Liberal MPs Warren Entsch, Ross Vasta, Bert van Manen, Tony Pasin, Andrew Laming, and senators David Bushby and Jim Molan refused the invitation to support the PM or comment on changes to the NEG.

The vast majority of their Liberal colleagues failed to provide any response. A few referred to supportive statements they had made earlier on Monday.

This followed a day of intense leadership speculation that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton could challenge Mr Turnbull for the Liberal leadership.

Mr Dutton did not respond to The New Daily‘s request for comment.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Christian Porter refused to consider questions on the leadership speculation and the NEG, telling The New Daily: “We don’t respond to surveys.”

Senator Linda Reynolds was one of the few Liberals to confirm her support for the embattled Prime Minister publicly to The New Daily.

“Malcolm Turnbull will remain Prime Minister and take us forward to the election as planned,” she said.

Senator Reynolds said she was “happy to support” the National Energy Guarantee, including the Prime Minister’s decision to remove an emissions reduction targets.

Senator Scott Ryan also confirmed his “absolute support” for Mr Turnbull.

Queensland MP Luke Howarth’s office told The New Daily he had “nothing to add” to media speculation, while a media adviser for Ted O’Brien, who succeeded Clive Palmer in the Brisbane seat of Fairfax in 2016, said the MP would not be “contributing to the media speculation around Liberal leadership”.

Senators Lee Gichuhi was in the Senate chamber and not answering media questions, while Senator Slade Brockman, MPs Chris Crewther and Jason Falinski could not be reached by deadline.

Meanwhile, prominent Liberals Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop, Simon Birmingham and Craig Kelly publicly supported the Prime Minister.

“He’s our best hope to beat Bill Shorten at the election next year,” said Mr Pyne said, who admitted tension in the party room.

“There are some people who don’t support the current leader, and that’s quite obvious. The overwhelming majority of my party room are 100 per cent behind Malcolm Turnbull, as is the entire cabinet.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was “absolutely” united.

Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Monday that Mr Dutton had given him his “absolute support”.

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