Federal cabinet minister Arthur Sinodinos concedes the Liberal Party can’t control Tony Abbott.
Fresh internal tensions have emerged after the former prime minister made a number of pointed speeches over the past week.
“If you’re the government you can only control what you control. I can’t control Tony Abbott,” Senator Sinodinos told ABC radio.
Asked if Mr Abbott’s timing, in the lead-up to the first anniversary of an elected Turnbull government, was deliberate, the industry minister couldn’t say.
“You’d have to ask him whether it was deliberate or not,” he added.
Mr Abbott insists he’s playing a positive role, rejecting suggestions his interventions will damage his party’s prospects at the next election.
“I want us to be the best possible government,” he told 2GB radio on Monday.
The former prime minister said he was fighting on two fronts, the first of which was for “one member, one vote” reforms to Liberal Party pre-selection.
“And then there is a fight for the kind of policy which a Liberal-National government should be on about,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce insists he is focusing on delivering for the Australian people, not the “soap opera” of personalities.
“If other people want to have other sort of peripheral discussions about basically fluff and mirrors well they can do it,” he said.
“But I’m not to be going down that path.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday used the July 2 anniversary to reveal he would walk away from politics if he lost the top job.
“When I cease to be Prime Minister, I will cease to be a member of Parliament,” he told News Corp.
“I am not giving anyone else advice but I just think that’s what I would do.”
Asked if this was a threat, Senator Sinodinos said Mr Turnbull was simply being honest with the Australian people.
Mr Joyce said he wants to make sure Mr Turnbull doesn’t lose the prime ministership and Australia has a steady ship.