Former prime minister Tony Abbott is facing calls to quit politics as the Liberal Party sifts through the wreckage of its dramatic leadership spill, while one of its most respected figures believes he should be promoted.
MPs have pointed the finger at Mr Abbott for “wrecking” the government after Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party on Friday during a ballot he did not contest and won by former treasurer, now Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
But, the Liberal Party’s most respected elder statesman, John Howard, said Mr Abbott should also be among the new frontbenchers.
“I have been of the view for quite a long time that Tony should be back in the ministry and I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t repeat it, but that is entirely a matter for Scott [Morrison],’’ Mr Howard said.
However, others remained bitter and angry at the leadership coup, squarely blaming Mr Abbott and his relentless crusade to bring down Mr Turnbull after losing the Liberal leadership to the now ousted PM in 2015.
Fairfax reported Mr Abbott’s colleagues were “incandescent with rage” about his behaviour which they assert stoked instability and encouraged the leadership challenge.
“To be frank, the foundation for a leadership challenge which is based on bitterness for revenge is not the type of foundation that Australians want to see,” North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said.
On Saturday, Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming told ABC Radio he believed Mr Abbott would retire at the next election.
“I think he’ll retire at the next election,” Mr Laming told the public broadcaster.
“I’d encourage him to.”
But when asked by The New Daily if this was a view widely held in the Liberal Party, he said: “No, definitely not.”
For his part, Mr Abbott said it was time Coalition members put the past behind them and hinted he wasn’t considering quitting anytime soon.
“This is a reset. I think it is a fresh start,” he told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
“I certainly am going to give Scott Morrison total support, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the weeks and months and years to come.”
Fellow Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch also called time on Mr Abbott.
“I think his mission is accomplished,” Mr Entsch told News Corp.
“He has got rid of his nemesis. Everything there was purely about revenge.”
Nationals MP Damian Drum was another who made his views clear, telling journalists this week that Mr Abbott needed to go.
“He vowed that he wouldn’t be a wrecker,” Mr Drum told reporters.
“That’s exactly what he’s been – a wrecker, and he needs to get out of the joint.”
The Nationals member for Murray in Victoria told the Bendigo Advertiser that most within the National Party felt more comfortable with a Scott Morrison-led Liberal Party, as opposed to the more conservative Peter Dutton.
A media spokesperson told The New Daily Mr Drum would not comment further on the leadership spill and declined to elaborate on the comments.
Mr Morrison said he was “getting on with the job” on his first day as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister, receiving his first phone call from US President Donald Trump on Saturday and quietly forming his cabinet.
First day as Prime Minister and getting on with the job. Meeting with the Deputy PM @M_McCormackMP, my colleague @MathiasCormann, National Drought Coordinator Major General Stephen Day and Chief of the Defence Force General @CDF_Aust. pic.twitter.com/ZeJUxTfx1R
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) August 25, 2018
Some media reported that former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton will return to the front bench, while Nine News reported that Mathias Cormann would also be reinstated as finance minister despite having backed Mr Dutton.