Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s habit of undermining the Turnbull government means he should quit politics before the next election, former Liberal Party insiders say.
Since being dethroned in September last year, speculation has been rife that Mr Abbott wants the country’s top job back.
Reports emerged this week that he had decided to contest the 2016 Election.
However, despite a distinguished record in federal politics and a formidable run of election wins in Warringah, Mr Abbott is being urged to quit because staying would hurt the Liberal Party.
Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson told The New Daily that Mr Abbott would be harmful to the party if he kept behaving like he had since losing the leadership challenge to Malcolm Turnbull.
“If he used it [his position in parliament] as a platform to criticise the government I don’t think it is terribly helpful to them,” Mr Hewson said.
When asked if Mr Abbott had been destabilising the Turnbull government since being dumped as PM to get the job back, Mr Hewson said: “Well there has been some inspired comments by his colleagues and himself … More or less inspired.”
Political commentator and electoral voting analyst Peter Brent emphatically agreed.
“I think it would be better for the Coalition and the Liberal Party if he bowed out [before the 2016 election] because as long as he is around he is a focus of discontent,” Mr Brent told The New Daily.
“With him gone at least everything won’t be interpreted as part of a push to bring Abbott back [as the PM].
“Every time one of them says something it is seen through that prism [trying to get the PM job back]. It would be in the interests of the party if he went away.”
Former media advisor to John Howard in the 1990s and political columnist for The New Daily Paula Matthewson said his true intention was only to disrupt any government he wasn’t leader of.
“I think it has become fairly clear that his intentions are more than upholding the broad church that is the Liberal Party in making sure there is enough conservative voices in it,” Ms Matthewson said.
“The fact is that he nurses the hope of going back to the leadership.
“Really, his true intention is about destabilising and finally trying to remind people that he should be leader.
“On that basis I would say no, it is not good for him to stay.”
The Turnbull/Abbott dream team: Kennett
Former Liberal Premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett told The New Daily that Mr Abbott should contest the 2016 election, because it was his government’s work that would lead Mr Turnbull to victory.
However, he did concede Mr Turnbull was a “better communicator” than Mr Abbott, and said the current PM should enjoy the support of the Liberal Party no matter what anyone thought of the coup.
Mr Kennett also encouraged Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott to try to work together – he said if they did, the Coalition would “almost be unassailable”.
“The great disappointment that I hope can be corrected is that for some reason they can’t work together,” he said.
“Imagine the strength for the country – let alone the Liberal Party and the Coalition – if they were able to work together.
“Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, working together in the interests of the country bringing to the table different experiences but both of whom as part of a team would almost be unassailable.”
Mr Kennett reflected on his own career, in particular in 1989 when he was dumped as the Liberal leader in Victoria by Alan Brown.
Mr Kennett subsequently got the leadership back and became Premier at the next election with the help of Mr Brown.
“The great sadness for many of us in the Liberal Party is that you have these two people [Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull] both of whom are bright with different strengths and different weaknesses, they’re both mature men,” he said.
Ms Matthewson rejected the idea that the pair could ever work together closely again.
“No. I don’t think so, in all honesty,” she said. “He has been given the opportunity to demonstrate that.
“In response he has gone out of his way to do the things he said he would not do. To snipe and to white-ant.”
Mr Abbott’s office has consistently denied suggestions he wanted to become PM again.