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Faced with the Rudd government's continuing popularity, the Liberal Party failed to maintain its unity throughout 2009. Undermined by fluctuating opinion polls and the 'ute-gate' controversy, Malcolm Turnbull struggled to find traction in the electorate. By year's end the internal debate amongst Coalition members over whether to support the government's Emissions Trading Scheme legislation saw a challenge to Turnbull's leadership. Tony Abbott emerged as the new Leader of the Opposition defeating both Turnbull and Joe Hockey.

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