Tony Abbott has warned colleagues he is in politics for the long haul – if he can retain his seat of Warringah – describing his career as “a calling”.
His declaration that all political parties need a mixture of new blood and experience suggests he may again emerge as candidate for the frontbench after the election.
The former prime minister described the most recent high-profile departures of Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne as about “renewal”, with his tongue firmly in cheek.
The departure of Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Pyne and Ms Bishop means that some of the biggest opponents of his return to the frontbench have now retired from politics.
Mr Abbott was then asked, amid raucous laughter, of whether he had to get his “hanky out of his pocket” to have a cry when Mr Pyne and Ms Bishop retired. He fell out with both MPs over the leadership change to Mr Turnbull.
“Governments need renewal and they need continuity,” Mr Abbott replied.
“People like Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne going, that’s renewal. And people like me staying, that’s continuity.”
His observation prompted more raucous laughter from broadcaster Ray Hadley on Sydney radio 2GB.
“You’ve got to have experience – just as you’ve got to have fresh blood,” Mr Abbott said.
“It’s a question of getting the balance right. I can understand them wanting to go. But the point I keep making is I see public life as a calling.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison omitted Tony Abbott from his “new generation” ministry after the leadership challenge but later appointed him as a special envoy for Aboriginal affairs.
After entering politics in 1994, Mr Abbott is now one of the longest-serving MPs in the House of Representatives.
The title of Father of the House for the longest-serving MP is still held by Kevin Andrews, who joined Parliament in 1991.
But there is still speculation he may bow out of politics in the next term of government, with Mr Abbott’s former chief of staff and Sky broadcaster Peta Credlin still touted as a potential candidate.
Mr Morrison refused to be drawn on Monday on whether he agreed with the assertion of Ms Bishop that she would have beaten Bill Shorten if only she had won the leadership.
“I thank Julie for her outstanding service to our country, to our party and I wish her all the best in her retirement,” he said.
“I’m just thanking Julie for her position and what she’s done for our party and I wish her well in her post-politics career.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek continue to target the Coalition over its perceived “women’s problem“.
The ALP released an attack video titled “The Liberals’ record with women” that features some of the Liberals most infamous gaffes, including Mr Abbott talking about the “housewives of Australia” and their ironing.
But Mr Shorten is facing his own women’s problem amid speculation he is under pressure to add Kristina Keneally to cabinet.
“We haven’t finalised our line-up. Who the ministry will be is ultimately decided by the parliamentary party, but I’d be amazed if we didn’t have more women in the cabinet and in the ministry and indeed the parliament because we are already at 46 per cent,” Mr Shorten said.
“I think the Liberal Party has a problem with promoting women, full stop. You can only draw that conclusion when they have 58 members of the House of Representatives and 11 are women but four are not re-standing.”