Malcolm Turnbull may win over Labor at the expense of his own party room if he moves to lock in emission reductions by regulation rather than legislation.
Labor says it will be easier to work with the prime minister if the flagged changes to the government’s National Energy Guarantee policy take effect.
“It does appear easier for Labor to start to come to some agreement with Malcolm Turnbull on that one point,” Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday.
“We can’t accept any attempt by this government to try to tie the hands of future governments, Labor or Liberal, from lifting these emission reduction targets.”
Labor is reserving its position, with frontbencher Ed Husic noting the difficulty in taking a stance while coalition policy shifts “before us like a kaleidoscope.”
Amid intense leadership speculation, Mr Turnbull will reportedly backflip on earlier promises to legislate Australia’s Paris Agreement emissions cuts.
Rather than run the policy through the gauntlet of parliament, it is understood cabinet will now hear an alternative plan to lock cuts in by regulation.
Only last week, the prime minister said regulation would deny the parliament a voice on the policy.
Regardless of regulation or legislation, former prime minister Tony Abbott continued his call for the government to scrap the NEG altogether.
“It’s no way to run a government, making absolute commitments on Tuesday and breaking them on Friday,” Mr Abbott told 2GB Radio.
“To have a chance of winning the next election, the coalition must create a policy contest on energy, not a consensus,” he then tweeted.
Not least, conservative Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly thinks the reported move would be a step in the wrong direction.
“If you do it by regulation, you are setting up a mechanism where the minister at the stroke of a pen can change the targets,” Mr Kelly told the ABC.
“I know that was a line in the sand for many of us and I know many of the Labor states have been arguing they want it in regulation, so I’m waiting to see what the detail of this is.”
Greens MP Adam Bandt tweeted Mr Turnbull had backed down, putting “coal before climate and power companies’ profits before Paris.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was also forced to shoot down reports he was considering taking a tilt at the leadership.
“In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the prime minister has my support and I support the policies of the government,” he tweeted.