Malcolm Turnbull has explained the sudden change of plans on energy policy he's making to stave off a backbench revolt

(Photo by Janine Schmitz/Photothek via Getty Images)Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

  • Malcolm Turnbull will host ministers for a dinner in Canberra on Sunday night to discuss political strategy amid mounting speculation of a leadership challenge.
  • The prime minister has confirmed some changes to his energy policy aimed at placating conservative MPs, and may also be open to dumping proposed cuts to company tax for large businesses which are deeply unpopular.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has explained the proposed changes to energy policy he is hoping will help quell increasing talk of a move against his leadership by conservative MPs.

Turnbull will also host cabinet ministers for a dinner in Canberra tonight where there will be a discussion on the future of the Coalition’s proposed company tax cuts, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph.

Backbench dissent over Turnbull’s approach to the national energy guarantee, or NEG, has been mounting in recent weeks and the prime minister decided on some concessions on its structure last Thursday night — including a removing the emissions reduction target from legislation, and pursuing it through regulation instead.

In a Facebook message almost five minutes long released this weekend, Turnbull said emission reductions under the Paris agreement would be easy to meet.

He also pointed out that Tony Abbott, the leading backbench agitator against Turnbull’s energy policy who has threatened to cross the floor over the NEG along with around seven other Coalition MPs, had called the 26 per cent target reduction in emissions as “a strong and responsible target, environmentally and economically responsible”.

There are reports that Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton is being encouraged by rebel MPs to mount a leadership challenge as early as this week, so the outcome of the Cabinet dinner at The Lodge is critical for Turnbull’s future.

Here’s how Turnbull explains his revised plans for the NEG:

Years of political uncertainty have contributed to higher prices and that’s why there is overwhelming support from industry and energy users for the National Energy Guarantee, the NEG. The NEG delivers reliable energy by ensuing we have enough on demand power – including coal, gas and hydro – so that over time we meet a gradual reduction in our emissions. The certainty the NEG brings will, the experts and industry confirm to us, result in lower prices for electricity.

The target in the NEG is by 2030 to reduce emissions by 26% from 2005 standards. We will meet this in a canter. As Tony Abbott said in 2015, it is a strong and responsible target, environmentally and economically responsible.

We can make the NEG work even better. I have been listening to my own team about how we can achieve that, especially how to protect you, the consumer, in the future. So we will introduce a new law that ensures that before any new emissions target is set, or changed, the energy regulators and the ACCC must advise what that means for your electricity prices. This will ensure that any government who wants to change this, has to tell you up front what the cost will be.

Dutton said in a tweet on Saturday morning that he supported the prime minister.

However, Dutton made comments during the week that made it clear he was keeping his options open.

“Now, if my position changes — that is, it gets to a point where I can’t accept what the government’s proposing or I don’t agree — then the Westminster system is very clear; you resign your commission, you don’t serve in that Cabinet, and you make that very clear in a respectful way,” he said in an interview with 2BG’s Ray Hadley.

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