Cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg has hit out at Tony Abbott’s “constant interventions” in a sternly worded interview on ABC Radio.
Mr Frydenberg was insistent that his former conservative ally is helping Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s case by continually criticising the Turnbull government.
“Is it the party members – who want to see a continuation of the Liberal government – the answer is no,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
“Is it my parliamentary colleagues – who want to see them retain their own seats and the government stay in office – the answer is no.”
“Is it the Australian people who want to see a government talk about how we’re boosting funding for education and health, infrastructure and the people with disabilities as well as protecting the national security? The answer is no.
“Or is it Bill Shorten, the alternative Prime Minister?
“He’s the one who’s benefiting most, unfortunately, from Tony Abbott’s constant interventions.”
Mr Frydenberg’s rebuke of the former PM is the strongest from a cabinet minister since Finance Minister Mathias Cormann described Mr Abbott’s conduct as “deliberately destructive”, “completely unhelpful” and “very sad” in February.
However, Mr Frydenberg stopped short of suggesting Mr Abbott should leave parliament.
“Tony Abbott was elected by the people of Warringah at the last election and he deserves his place in the Parliament, articulating the best interests for his constituents,” he said.
Mr Frydenberg’s comments come after Mr Abbott recently unveiled an alternative policy manifesto, questioned the government’s major investment in submarines and suggested the party was at “a bit of a low ebb” in a speech to a Liberal Party branch in Melbourne.
In that same speech, which was leaked to Fairfax Media, Mr Abbott also described the government’s “taxing and spending” budget as the “second best”.
But as senior government figures step up their rebuke of Mr Abbott, News Corp reported on Thursday that the former PM has vowed to keep speaking publicly about the direction of the government.
“I’ve made the judgment that at least for the moment, and obviously there’s a limit to how far this can continue … it’s important for someone to stand up for those Liberals feeling a bit let down and disenfranchised because we do not want the more traditional or conservative Liberals to leave the party and join some other party,” Mr Abbott told a local branch meeting, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Mr Abbott has also claimed the party has been “hemorrhaging members” and is calling for Liberal candidates to be elected by plebiscite in New South Wales, a move that is opposed by local moderates.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is now in Germany for the G20 summit, took a new approach to questions about Mr Abbott on Wednesday, refusing to even say the former Liberal leader’s name.
Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek on Thursday noted Mr Turnbull’s refusal to refer to Mr Abbott by name by suggesting he was the “Lord Voldemort” of the Liberal Party, a reference to the character from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.