Tony Abbott says he has a duty to speak out and the Liberal Party will only be able to retain government with a two-pronged strategy of tackling rising power prices and ending the power of factions within its ranks.
The former prime minister has returned from a holiday in Croatia before a special Liberal convention in Sydney this weekend to overhaul party rules on candidate selection and ensure greater internal democracy.
The convention comes amid tension between Mr Abbott and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – who hail from conservative and moderate wings of the party – which incoming Liberal president Nick Greiner says needs resolving if the coalition is to hold onto power.
Mr Abbott has been vocal in recent weeks on problems with the government’s policy and direction, from submarines to climate change, which has fed into speculation about leadership tension.
He’ll also be strongly backing an internal party reform program to be debated at the convention on Sunday, which is at odds with the plan supported by Mr Turnbull.
The former Liberal leader told 2GB radio on Wednesday there were too many lobbyists and factional warlords pulling the strings in the party and his “one member one vote” motion should be supported.
He linked the motion to the future of the party and the government.
“We will win the next election if we are the best possible government and the best possible party,” he said.
“We will be the best possible government if we ensure we are the party of lower power prices … and we will be the best possible party if we support one member one vote on the weekend.”
Asked whether Mr Greiner had been in touch, Mr Abbott said he expected to have “plenty of conversations with Nick Greiner throughout the time he is party president”.
“As for myself and Malcolm, if we need each other we’ve got each other’s phone numbers and we make the relevant calls – that’s as it should be,” he said.
However he would not be refraining from making public comment.
“I’m a former prime minister. I’m a member of parliament. My first priority is obviously the people of Warringah, but as a former prime minister I’ve got not just a right, but a duty, to speak out where I think it’s important.”
Asked on Wednesday whether he had managed to catch up with Mr Abbott, Mr Turnbull told the Nine Network: “No, I haven’t. I haven’t spoken to him since he’s been back from overseas. I catch up with him irregularly and look forward to doing so in the future.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the issue was not of any interest to the Australian public.
“That’s an issue for the Liberal Party to talk about,” he told Sky News.