Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Malcolm Turnbull warns the Liberals to focus on the centre of the political spectrum

Malcolm Turnbull says his popularity among Labor supporters is a strength, not a defect

Malcolm Turnbull, addressing the National Press Club, has warned against extremism in the Liberal Party. Picture: Kym Smith Source: The Australian

Malcolm Turnbull has cautioned against extremism in the Liberal Party, saying elections are won in the political centre, not by convincing ardent supporters to "vote for you with even more enthusiasm".

The former Liberal leader told the National Press Club today that the party  “must remain a broad church” if it was to return to government.

Amid new polling showing him virtually on par with Julia Gillard as preferred Labor leader, Mr Turnbull said his ability to win over Labor supporters was a political strength, not a defect.

“You don't win elections by persuading your most devoted supporters to cast a vote for you with even more enthusiasm than they did at the last election - particularly in a system with compulsory voting like ours,” he said.

“You win elections by persuading people who didn't vote for you at the last election to vote for you. Elections are always won at the centre.”

As a shadow cabinet member, he said he would vote with the opposition on the Gillard government's carbon tax.

But the advocate of emissions trading urged all those involved in the carbon debate to listen to the scientists, and lamented the lack of “civility” in political discourse.

He also contradicted Mr Abbott's claim that carbon dioxide was “weightless”.

“Carbon dioxide obviously does have a weight and if you drop a large lump of dry ice on your foot you'll find that out very quickly,” Mr Turnbull said.

“When it is compressed to a liquid, it actually has about the same volume and weight characteristics as water - an interesting piece of trivia for you.”

Mr Turnbull said the Liberal Party embodied elements of liberalism and conservatism and most people in the party “would find themselves to be an amalgam in various mixture of those two philosophical approaches”.

He said his performance in the last two elections in turning his Sydney seat of Wentworth into a Liberal stronghold proved his value to the party.

“Now, I don't regard that as a defect. I regard that as a political strength.

“And I work very hard to represent all of my constituents, and indeed all Australians as a member of the national parliament, and recognise that you have to draw support from across the field.”

The latest Essential Poll suggests just 12 per cent of voters want Ms Gillard as Labor leader, compared to 37 support for Kevin Rudd.

Mr Turnbull was regarded as preferred Labor leader by 11 per cent of voters, including six per cent of Labor voters and 17 per cent of Coalition voters.

“I think it (the poll) shows 11 per cent of the respondents had a devilish sense of humour,” Mr Turnbull said today.

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