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Turnbull Takes Communications Role in Australian Opposition

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive, as communications spokesman and retained Joe Hockey in his treasury role after failing in a bid to govern.

“This is a stronger, hungrier team that will better hold the government to account,” Abbott told reporters in Sydney today. The Labor government’s planned A$43 billion ($40 billion) national broadband Internet network will “be the absolute focus of the political battle over the next 18 months,” Abbott said.

Abbott vowed to lead a “ferocious” opposition after Prime Minister Julia Gillard, 48, formed a minority Labor government with the support of three independent lawmakers and a Greens Party member following the deadlocked Aug. 21 election. Laws such as Gillard’s planned mining tax remain vulnerable to being revised or voted down because the independents have said their support doesn’t extend to all legislation.

Independent lawmakers Tony Windsor, Robert Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie have said Labor’s broadband Internet services plan developed by state-owned NBN Co. was crucial for their support. Abbott’s coalition proposed a A$6.3 billion network that would have been built by public and private operators.

Abbott, 52, defeated Turnbull by one vote in a leadership ballot in December after Turnbull’s support for the previous Labor government’s proposed emissions-trading plan split the coalition.

Turnbull, 55, staked his position on a deal struck with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to pass carbon-trading laws before December’s Copenhagen summit on global warming.

The leadership change killed the legislation and Rudd shelved the plan in April. Gillard, who ousted Rudd in June after voter support fell to election-losing levels, said during the election campaign she won’t push for emissions-trading until after 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marion Rae in Canberra at mrae3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Iain Wilson at iwilson2@bloomberg.net

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