Tony Abbott’s highly vocal week has not been ‘the most helpful thing he could be doing’, says one Liberal MP. Photo: Andrew MearesFormer prime minister Tony Abbott has raised eyebrows among his colleagues for making high-profile interventions on Indigenous affairs, political donations and superannuation policy while Malcolm Turnbull has been travelling overseas.
In a radio interview on Friday, Mr Abbott suggested Mr Turnbull had responded “in panic” by launching a royal commission following the Four Corners report on the Don Dale detention centre and said the government should be “very careful” about making retrospective superannuation changes.
He also called for a ban on corporate and union donations and spoke out against a treaty with Indigenous Australians.
The comments came as Mr Turnbull prepares to mark one year since he toppled Mr Abbott for the Liberal leadership next Wednesday.
Asked to name the top achievement of his prime ministership on Friday, Mr Turnbull nominated “jobs and growth”.
“The statistics tell you the story,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Micronesia, pointing to Australia’s 3.3 per cent GDP growth rate.
“Strong jobs growth. Strong economic growth. Stronger than any of the countries in the G7.”
Mr Turnbull has been travelling in Asia this week, representing Australia at the G20 summit in China and the ASEAN summit in Laos.
Mr Turnbull also defended the royal commission as a “very appropriate response to what appeared to be a systemic failure in the justice system in the NT”.
One Liberal MP noted that Mr Abbott had been “very vocal” this week.
“It’s not the most helpful thing he could be doing,” the MP said. “I don’t think the PM would be very happy.”
The MP questioned why Mr Abbott was now supporting sweeping donations reform when he had reneged on a deal with Labor in 2013 to introduce much smaller changes.
“I didn’t detect any enthusiasm from him on donations reform when he was PM,” one MP said. “It’s an opportunity to remind people he’s there.”
Another Liberal MP said: “The partyroom has moved on [from Abbott]. The right of the party is not thinking about him any more and I think he would be struggling with that.”
A minister said: “We can’t be talking about leadership right now – we really have to get some runs on the board.”
Other MPs defended Mr Abbott, saying he had an important contribution to make to public debate and is as entitled as any backbencher to give his views.
“He has a deep commitment and passion for indigenous affairs in particular so you can expect him to speak out on that,” a frontbencher said.
Another MP praised Mr Abbott for opposing a treaty.
“We need to draw a line on the sand about what the Liberal Party will and won’t cop,” the MP said.
In an interview with 2GB’s Alan Jones on Friday, Mr Abbott said: “My own view, as you know, is that superannuation is not the government’s money, it’s our money, it’s your money, it’s money that we’ve saved up over time.
“In many cases, it’s money that we have invested, it’s not concessional money, it’s after-tax money that people have put in and governments should be very careful about changing the rules once the game has started.”
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