MALCOLM Turnbull's leadership was under renewed pressure last night as a former senior minister declared the Liberal Party was ''paralysed'' over the emissions trading bill and dissident MPs canvassed the possibility of ousting him.
Rebel senators are set to defy Mr Turnbull and vote in favour of deferring the legislation this week if, as expected, the Opposition party room agrees this morning to a deal with the Government to pass the scheme.
The deal is expected to give extra assistance to power generators, the coal industry and trade-exposed industries, as well as already-announced concessions for agriculture.
The Turnbull camp last night described the proposed deal as ''amazing'' for the concessions won from the Government.
Supporters expressed confidence they had the numbers to push the deal through the party room - but at the cost of the Nationals and some Liberals crossing the floor.
They also expect a test of strength by rebels. One possibility would be a demand for a vote on whether there should be a secret ballot in the party room.
Nationals Senator John Williams yesterday flagged an amendment to defer the legislation until after next month's Copenhagen climate conference and the passage of US emissions legislation. Family First senator Steve Fielding is also moving to delay the bill.
If the Opposition accepted a deal, the move to defer the bills would be lost. But it would still be a public show of criticism of Mr Turnbull. The Opposition has always said a vote should be left until after Copenhagen.
As Mr Turnbull and frontbencher Ian Macfarlane yesterday sought to shore up support for the deal, former Howard government minister Kevin Andrews refused to rule out contesting the leadership.
Mr Andrews said last night: ''We are in a state of paralysis and it has to be resolved - preferably by a consensus to delay any support of the ETS until after Copenhagen.''
Earlier, when asked whether he could call for a leadership spill if he didn't get his way in the party room, he told Sky: ''That's not an intention at this stage. What we're on about is the ETS.''
Asked if he would be willing to put up his hand for leadership, he said: ''I haven't been canvassing colleagues … At the moment we have a leader … I'll do whatever job people regard as appropriate for me to do.''
Liberal sources were divided over the possibility of a spill move, with one putting it as high as 50-50 but another saying it was unlikely.
Mr Macfarlane rejected calls for a secret ballot on the ETS legislation, but Mr Andrews said a secret ballot would be ''not inappropriate''.
Liberal Senate leader Nick Minchin scotched rumours he might quit the frontbench to vote for deferral, saying: ''I've always respected the party room decisions and have no expectation that would change.''
Senator Minchin and fellow frontbencher Tony Abbott restated their opposition to a deal at yesterday's shadow cabinet meeting.
Cabinet will meet at 8am to approve the deal. Shadow cabinet will also meet at 8am, followed by a meeting of all Coalition MPs.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd turned up the pressure on the Opposition, telling Parliament that the proposed deal being put to them was ''a deal for this week''.
''The Government is focused on passing the legislation this week,'' Mr Rudd said. ''I appeal to all those on Opposition benches who are people of good will who wish to see the passage of climate change legislation to look beyond our normal partisan divide and join with the Government [in voting for the bills],'' Mr Rudd said.
He said Parliament had reached the ''culmination of 30 years' worth of science, some 10 years of development of a cap and trade scheme for Australia and some two years of specific work on the design'' of an emissions trading scheme.
Victorian Liberal senator Julian McGauran said Victoria would probably suffer more than any other state because of its brown coal industries.
His warning is echoed in full-page advertisements taken out in newspapers by power company TRUenergy, warning Victorians they will bear the brunt of a carbon price. The ad, which appears in The Age today, paints a bleak picture of life under the carbon pollution reduction scheme, saying, ''Victorians will carry the ETS burden''.
It predicts higher electricity prices, rolling blackouts, massive job losses, $8 billion wiped off the balance sheets of generators and ''catastrophic'' results for the state economy.
The company, which owns the Yallourn brown coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, says the emissions scheme has the potential to bring down the entire electricity sector in Victoria.
? Parliament's front doors were locked yesterday as about 200 protesters gathered outside to demand deeper cuts to carbon emissions.