CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has long been under attack from the most conservative members of his party, who have always regarded him as too progressive to lead an Australian center-right government.
The 63-year-old former journalist, lawyer and merchant banker has a history of championing progressive causes including gay marriage, making polluters pay for greenhouse gas emissions and severing constitutional ties with Britain by making Australia a republic.
Moderates have been disappointed by the concessions that Turnbull has been prepared to make to the hard-right faction of the conservative Liberal Party to retain power since 2015.
Making Australia a republic hasn’t been on his government’s agenda, and this week he abandoned a policy to legislate a target of reducing Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent below 2005 levels.
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Conservatives had threatened to revolt against him by voting against the legislated target in Parliament. They argue the government should focus on reducing electricity prices rather than carbon pollution.
Turnbull’s leadership was weakened by the 2016 election that left his coalition with a single-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Some of Turnbull’s key supporters lost their seats and any disgruntled lawmaker could threaten to quit the government and deprive its leader of his majority.
He is also criticized for appearing out of touch with the lives and concerns of ordinary Australians.
Turnbull is the wealthiest lawmaker in Parliament and entertains world leaders in his private mansion on Sydney Harbor.
Peta Credlin, a staffer of conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott whom Turnbull deposed with a leadership ballot in the face of poor opinion polling in 2015, has described the public perception of Turnbull as “Mr. Harborside Mansion.” That name has gained some public traction.
The government is now in a similarly disastrous position in opinion polling as it was in 2015 under Abbott before Turnbull’s leadership buoyed them for a period.