Even so, there are good grounds for their reset.
The disclosure of the new approach on Friday was shambolic for a reason: Turnbull discussed the ideas with conservative MPs to get their support, one of them leaked the news and wider disclosure became imperative.
Nobody – absolutely nobody – deals in good faith on climate change. Political victory always takes priority over policy compromise.
There is some logic to Turnbull’s new approach. Labor states were demanding the emissions target be adjusted by regulation rather than legislation.
Federal Labor spokesman Mark Butler welcomed this change on Saturday even as he accused Turnbull of panic. Labor wanted the change but accuses Turnbull of caving in to the hard right when he delivers it. That is climate politics.
The poison pill in Turnbull’s new approach is to put a hurdle in the way of any change to the target. The 26 per cent goal could only be increased after clearance by competition regulators to tell Australians the likely impact on electricity prices.
This offers full disclosure for Australian voters but constrains future governments.
And the leadership? There is no imminent challenge. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is positioning in the event of the crisis, taking a full 24 hours to issue his public support for Turnbull Saturday morning, but the priority is to settle the energy debate.
Turnbull’s critics will keep willing the challenge to come. Nothing will stop Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin, Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and others from wanting the challenge so badly they help make it happen.
Abbott and his climate rebels have only a handful of votes out of 85 members of the Liberal Party room. Their success depends on whether they can force Turnbull to stumble and, in doing so, deepen the frustrations in the party room to the point where desperate MPs turn to Dutton.
That strategy will take time if it is to succeed.