Former prime minister Tony Abbott has not denied reports he is considering running for the Liberal leadership if the Coalition loses the next election.
Launching One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s book in Canberra on Tuesday, Mr Abbott declared “people are always better the second time around”, which could be interpreted as a reference to both himself and Senator Hanson.
The high-profile backbencher is reportedly canvassing support to become the next Liberal leader in opposition, and when asked about his aspirations on Tuesday, he likened public life to a game of snakes and ladders.
“I think public life is a vocation – it’s not a job, it’s not a career, it’s a calling,” he said.
It has its ups and its downs, but you don’t walk away from it just because you’ve had a down.”
The comments will no doubt frustrate many of his colleagues who are fed up with Mr Abbott’s criticisms and refusal to acknowledge his own failures as prime minister.
Despite promising there would be “no wrecking, no sniping, no undermining” when he lost the top job in 2015, Mr Abbott has consistently intervened in public policy debates and laid out an alternative, more conservative vision for the nation.
He has called for immigration to be slashed and the Renewable Energy Target to be frozen – policies which would be more aligned to One Nation than the Liberal Party.
Standing alongside Senator Hanson, Mr Abbott described One Nation as an “ally” and said the Liberals should preference the party above Labor and the Greens because it had worked “constructively” with the government in the Senate.
“We would not have been able to pass any legislation in this current Parliament but for the constructive work of Pauline Hanson and her team of senators,” he said.
“I think it’s only right and proper than good and constructive conduct be rewarded.”
Mr Abbott and Ms Hanson have had a rocky relationship and the idea they could share the same stage would once have been inconceivable.
But the former prime minister now appears to be either actively courting the right-wing One Nation vote, or pitching himself as the intermediary between the Liberal Party and Senator Hanson’s.