Malcolm Turnbull has defended “liking” a social media account devoted to kicking Tony Abbott out of Parliament, accusing his Liberal critics of being “bullies”.
The former prime minister, his wife Lucy Turnbull and son Alex have all recently commenced following an Instagram page called “Vote Tony Out”.
Their support was reportedly one of the catalysts for the Roseville Liberal branch voting to expel Mr Turnbull from the Liberal Party earlier this week.
Mr Turnbull broke his silence on the matter Thursday morning with a 6.30 am post on Twitter.
“It’s pretty obvious really, but following someone on Instagram or Twitter does not imply support approval or endorsement – simply that you are for whatever reason currently interested in seeing the followed person’s posts in your feed,” he said.
“And another equally obvious point. The more you try to bully people into NOT reading something the more they will do so. Freedom matters.”
The Instagram page includes high profile residents of Warringah claiming that the seat “deserves better’ than Mr Abbott.
“Our community, our environment and our nation deserves better!” champion surfer Layne Beachley said.
“We want a leader who is willing to represent the majority of views and ideals instead of protecting their own strongly held beliefs,” she said.
The latest blow-up comes after Mr Turnbull accused Mr Abbott and other former prime ministers of haunting politics as a “miserable ghost”.
He also angered some within the Liberal Party by failing to campaign with candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, before the seat ultimately fell to Independent Kerryn Phelps.
This week, Mr Abbott said he was prepared to give Mr Turnbull the benefit of the doubt for liking the Instagram page.
“Maybe he’s just keeping an eye on them so he can help me more effectively,” Mr Abbott mused.
“There are lots of people who follow site, not because they particularly support the site but because they want to know what the bad guys are up to. That’s the interpretation I’d like to put on it.”