Former Liberal Party leader John Howard has pledged his support to Malcolm Turnbull, while praising Tony Abbott’s accomplishments as Prime Minister.
In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Howard – Australia’s second-longest serving PM – said he would advise the “highly intelligent” and economically eloquent Turnbull if he so desired.
“He will have all the support and advice he may care to seek from me,” he told reporters.
Speaking on the change, Mr Howard said the “state of the polls” was to blame for the change in leader and a “more intensive and active media cycle”.
“I’m not into blaming the media… but I do think we are living in a more super-charged, frenetic top-of-the-head environment – it is different,” he said.
But his most glowing praise was reserved for Mr Abbott, who led the Liberal Party for almost six years – with nearly two spent as Prime Minister.
“Inevitably with the pain of disappointment and loss that undoubtedly my friend Tony Abbott feels at this particular time, I say to him as a friend and as a former Liberal Party leader, that he has an enormous amount to be proud of,” he added.
“There is much in his record, both as Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, of which the Liberal Party should be profoundly grateful and indebted.”
Mr Abbott achieved a turn around in border protection policy that Howard praised and said was one: “that I didn’t think would be possible”.
The former PM also hailed Mr Abbott’s removal of the mining and carbon taxes, and the “leadership” he provided on national security issues, including the “dividend of stopping the boats into the opportunity… to take 12,000 additional refugees”.
He praised Abbott for achieving the “quite remarkable” feat of effectively ‘killing off’ the first term Labor government of Kevin Rudd.
“Nobody else leading the Liberal party could have achieved that,” Mr Howard said, in what was presumably a reference to Malcolm Turnbull, who was replaced by Abbott in 2009.
Howard also said he had spoken to both Turnbull and Abbott after the leadership change.