A spat is developing between former prime minister Tony Abbott and Senator Cory Bernardi over the future of the Liberal Party.
Mr Abbott has urged conservative MPs to “stay in and fight” if they want to progress their movement, during an interview on Sydney radio station 2GB.
Senator Bernardi has previously warned he may start a new party for disenchanted conservative voters.
After the radio interview, Senator Bernardi fired back.
“While most on break only person talking up division in Lib Party this past week is @TonyAbbottMHR,” he tweeted.
“Always back the horse named self-interest.”
While most on break only person talking up division in Lib Party this past week is @TonyAbbottMHR. Always back the horse named self-interest
— Cory Bernardi (@corybernardi) December 30, 2016
Senator Bernardi was a keen supporter of Mr Abbott in his leadership battle with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
During the interview, the former prime minister echoed his comments in a newspaper editorial today, where he urged fellow conservatives to stay in the Liberal Party and try to “fix it”.
“I am very anxious about the possibility of a new conservative party because the absolute lesson of Australian history is that division on the conservative side of politics just helps Labor,” Mr Abbott said.
Government frontbencher Scott Ryan defended the value of disagreement in the Liberal Party during a press conference.
“Unlike the Labor party, we’re not ‘factional daleks’ in the words of a former Labor powerbroker,” he said.
“We have different views, we argue the case and every view from right around Australia and the Coalition party room is heeded in this government.”
Centre-right government shouldn’t hurt ‘aspirational people’
Mr Abbott also launched an attack on the pension changes, two days before they take effect.
“The last thing a centre-right government should want to do is to hurt aspirational people, hurt people who are doing the best they can,” he told 2GB.
The changes passed Federal Parliament in June 2015 as part of $2.4 billion savings measure proposed by the Abbott government and supported by the Greens.
From January 1, more than 300,000 pensioners could lose part of their pension through changes to the asset test.
Another 166,000 Australians are likely to receive a modest increase of $30 a fortnight.
The Prime Minister has been on the front foot to curb anger against the changes, issuing his own robocall.
Mr Abbott noted that the budget needed to be repaired and the pension changes were not his first choice of policy.
He suggested the changes were formed to pass the “populist” Senate, which he argued made good government difficult.