News National This is not the end for Tony Abbott

This is not the end for Tony Abbott

Former prime minister and Warringah Liberal candidate Tony Abbott conceded defeat at Manly Leagues Club in Sydney. Photo: AAP
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Former prime minister Tony Abbott has some big decisions to make after losing his long-held seat of Warringah to Independent Zali Steggall on Saturday.

After what he described as a “nasty” campaign that even involved a stabbing, voters in the blue-ribbon Sydney seat dealt their former member a powerful blow, ending his 25-year political career with a 12.7 per cent fall in the Liberal Party’s primary vote.

But despite his crushing defeat at the ballot box, Mr Abbott is not licking his wounds.

In fact, he may even be feeling triumphant, leaving government at 61 years old on a pension of nearly $300,000 – a sum that will only grow in value over time.

His generous pay packet is a result of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Scheme, which awards ongoing benefits to any politician who was elected before 2004.

Mr Abbott will also benefit from the Life Gold Travel Pass, which allows former prime ministers 10 free return domestic flights in business class each year, for life.

The Gold Pass scheme was available to all former MPs and senators until Malcolm Turnbull scrapped the entitlement in 2017.

Now it’s only available to former prime ministers and those elected before 2012.

But despite the prospect of a comfortable retirement, Mr Abbott has indicated that he isn’t ready to put his feet up just yet.

Warringah Liberal candidate Tony Abbott arrives the Warringah electorate Liberal reception. Photo: AAP

“My public life will, I imagine, go on,” Mr Abbott said during his concession speech on Saturday night.

“I look forward to many, many more years of living, working and serving in the greatest part of the great city of the greatest country on earth.”

The ex-MP, former journalist and Rhodes Scholar has plenty of friends in high places and an impressive resume, which includes leading the Coalition to victory in 2013.

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has already put Mr Abbott’s name forward for the role of envoy to the Vatican.

Mr Fischer served as Australia’s first resident ambassador to the Holy See between 2008 and 2012, and recommended Mr Abbott for the position due to his extensive political experience and strong Catholic faith.

The current ambassador, Melissa Hitchman, is approaching the end of her three-year posting.

Others have hinted at higher profile diplomatic posts in Washington and London.

In Australia, it is common for ex-prime ministers to remain in the public eye after their terms in parliament are over.

Former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard became the chair of Australian mental health organisation BeyondBlue in 2017, and former Liberal prime minister John Howard has been outspoken on a number of public debates since he was voted out in 2007.

Monash University political expert Dr Zareh Ghazarian said many conservatives in the Liberal Party still “held a lot of good will toward Tony Abbott”.

“He was a tireless campaigner for the Liberal Party so there is an expectation that the party will reward that loyalty by keeping him in public office at some level,” Dr Ghazarian told The New Daily.

“He’s got his detractors and he can be a divisive figure… but I think he’s really in line for a plum position.”

After serving 25 years in parliament, perhaps the former prime minister just wants to go for a swim.

Tony Abbott
Outgoing Warringah MP Tony Abbott is a regular at Sydney beaches. Photo: Getty

Mr Abbott’s office has been contacted for comment.

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