Tony Abbott has sworn he has kept his pledge, given on the day of his ouster from the prime ministership, to never wreck, undermine or snipe at his successor.
His answer came during a primetime TV interview on the ABC in which he trashed the government’s energy plan, due to be debated in the Coalition party room, as “dangerous”.
After being played footage of his now-infamous promise, Mr Abbott smirked as he was asked if he could “look Malcolm Turnbull in the eye” and say he had kept his word.
“Oh look, ah, there has been no leaking, there has been no briefing against the government,” he told the ABC’s Leigh Sales.
“Sniping? Wrecking?” Sales asked.
“There’s been none of that,” he replied.
“Look, I have talked in this term of Parliament, but not prior to the 2016 election. I have talked a lot about policy because I want this government to be the best it possibly can be.
“But I have confined myself, as I think is quite proper for a government backbench member of Parliament, to policy.
“You know, Leigh, what I say to journalists off the record. You would also know what some of my former colleagues said to journalists off the record. And I’m prepared to back myself against my former colleagues when it comes to playing it straight and playing it fair.”
The interview capped a big day of media for Mr Abbott, who was keen to air his criticisms of the National Energy Guarantee far and wide.
His chief attack was that the NEG would impose a mandatory carbon reduction mechanism, whereas the Paris agreement, which his government signed, had no penalties for breaches.
When asked to explain the business lobby’s support for the NEG, Mr Abbott replied that “the business establishment has been wrong before”.
He also suggested business “wants to be polite to the government because it knows that Labor’s plans are even worse”.
On company tax, Mr Abbott appeared to hint that the government should not take the policy, in its current form, to the next election.
“Company tax cuts are good economics. In the context of wider tax reform, I think company tax cuts are a very good thing. I’m pleased that the government has already got significant company tax cuts in place,” he said.
“I hope that the tax cuts for very large businesses can also go into place, but I think it would be a lot easier to get the final tranche of company tax cuts passed if it was in the context of wider tax reform.”
The tax cut policy has been blamed for the government’s defeat in the recent by-elections.
It will be voted on next week in the Senate, for what could be the last time.