Former prime minister Tony Abbott waded into the debate about the Turnbull government’s efforts again this week, questioning a deal struck with the Nick Xenophon Team to pass billions of dollars in company tax cuts.
It’s the latest intervention from the now-backbench Liberal MP, who vowed there would be “no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping” when he lost the leadership to Malcolm Turnbull in September, 2015.
On Monday, Mr Abbott told Sky News: “I haven’t had a chance to look at the details of what was agreed with Senator Xenophon but I do want to make this point.
“You should never agree to do something which is wrong to get something which is right.
“We all want to be in the sensible centre but you’ve got to have things that you are fighting for.”
Days earlier, Mr Turnbull had implored the Liberal Party to embrace the “sensible centre” at its Victorian state conference.
The comments came as the Coalition slipped to a 53 to 47 per cent deficit against Labor in the latest Newspoll.
The Prime Minister hit back at Mr Abbott on Tuesday, pointing to legislative achievements around industrial relations and tax in an apparent contrast to his predecessor’s tenure.
Mr Abbott has gradually become more vocal about the direction of the government since he lost the prime ministership a year-and-a-half ago.
In February, he sparked outrage among the Coalition when he outlined his own policy manifesto, likened the government to “Labor-lite”, and suggested it was “drifting to defeat”.
The following day, Mr Turnbull responded by saying his predecessor was an “experienced politician” who “knows exactly what he’s doing”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, a former Abbott ally, went further, denouncing his as “destructive commentary”.
“I am just saddened by what self-evidently is his decision to provide more and more destructive commentary. He is not helping our cause.”
Tony Abbott’s greatest hits
September 22, 2015
In his first post-spill interview, Mr Abbott claims new Treasurer Scott Morrison “badly misled people” after he’d suggested he had warned the former PM about the coup on his leadership.
September 29, 2015
Two weeks after the spill, Mr Abbott appears on Sydney talk radio with a cheeky swipe at the new government. “If you listen to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, they’re even using the exactly the same phrases that Joe Hockey and I were using just a fortnight ago,” he tells 2GB.
September 9, 2016
Malcolm Turnbull announces an inquiry into youth detention in the Northern Territory following revelations of alleged abuse by Four Corners. Soon after, Mr Abbott appears on Alan Jones’ show. “But you’re right, Alan — normally governments should not respond in panic at TV programs,” he says.
October 18, 2016
The backbench MP is at the centre of controversy over speculation that the Turnbull government is considering a Senate deal on the Adler shotgun in return for passage of the ABCC.
Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws. ABCC should be supported on its merits.
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) October 18, 2016
February 24, 2017
On a Friday night in February, Mr Abbott sends Coalition ministers into a spin, labelling the government “Labor-lite” and suggesting it was “drifting to defeat” in two separate public appearances.
March 24, 2017
In the week Victoria’s Hazelwood power station is slated to close, Mr Abbott offers his successor some unsolicited advice. The PM should try to keep it open, he writes in a piece for the Herald Sun.
March 31, 2017
After helping to scuttle an extradition treaty with China being pushed by the government but opposed by some Coalition MPs, Mr Abbott lashes “senior government sources” who had briefed against him.
“Plainly, the whole extradition treaty business was badly mishandled by senior members of the government,” he tells 2GB.
April 3, 2017
The government is overjoyed after it strikes a deal with crossbencher Nick Xenophon in the Senate to pass its company tax cuts. Later on Sky, Mr Abbott is less impressed.
-video by Simon Rankin