MALCOLM TURNBULL has hit back at critics within the right wing of the Liberal Party, saying his popularity with Labor voters is a strength because it means he can lure votes to the Coalition that others cannot.
Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, the former Liberal leader stressed that elections were won in the centre, not at the extremes.
''You don't win elections by persuading your most devoted supporters to cast a vote for you with even more enthusiasm than they did at the last election.
''You win elections by persuading people who didn't vote for you at the last election to vote for you. Elections are always won at the centre.''
Mr Turnbull was pushed from the leadership in 2009 in a coup led by the party's right wing because of his support for putting a price on carbon.
Mr Turnbull has stuck to his principles on climate change since then, prompting increasing internal attack.
This week, the conservative magazine The Australian Spectator said in its editorial that Mr Turnbull should step down from the frontbench because of his climate change views.
''He may be the darling of the Canberra press pack and he may be Labor voters' favourite,'' it says. ''But the Coalition mainstream has come to see him as vain, irrelevant, opportunistic and a walking affront to all they believe in. Mr Turnbull is out of sync with them, perhaps irreversibly so.''
An Essential media poll released yesterday showed Kevin Rudd was the preferred Labor leader on 37 per cent, while Mr Turnbull and Julia Gillard were on 11 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
The April Herald/Nielsen poll showed Mr Turnbull was the preferred Liberal leader, with strong support among Labor voters.
''I don't regard that as a defect, I regard that as a political strength,'' he said of his Labor support. ''If a lot of Labor voters like Malcolm Turnbull, well that's good because it means I'm more likely to hold my seat or increase my majority.''
Mr Turnbull supports putting a price on carbon, but he confirmed he would not be crossing the floor to vote for the scheme which Labor negotiated with the Greens and independents.
He did refute Tony Abbott's assertion last week that carbon dioxide was weightless. ''Carbon dioxide does obviously have a weight,'' he said. ''If you drop a large lump of dry ice on your foot you'll find that out very quickly.''