POLITICS

Conservative MPs Are Pushing For Tony Abbott To Be Promoted Again

Abbott's buddies want him returned to the frontbench.

14/07/2016 10:09 AM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:57
Fairfax Media
Tony Abbott is being pushed for a frontbench promotion

As Malcolm Turnbull prepares to name his new team of ministers, several of his backbenchers are pushing for one familiar face to get a new job -- Tony Abbott.

Abbott's most ardent supporters, such as Peter Dutton and Eric Abetz, have been not-very-quietly dropping hints that the former Prime Minister should be promoted from the fringes of the parliament into a more noteworthy portfolio, perhaps Minister for Defence, as part of a push for more conservative members of the Liberal Party in positions of power.

Turnbull's reign as PM saw the likes of Abetz and former defence minister Kevin Andrews shuffled out and more moderate voices promoted; but with Turnbull supporters like Wyatt Roy, Jamie Briggs and Fiona Scott booted from parliament, and a growing discontent from the conservative elements of his party, the PM has been urged to throw a bone to the Liberal Party's right-wing.

Those calls have grown in recent days, with both Andrews and Abetz levelling blunt reminders through the media that they want Tony back in the game.

"It would make sense to me to reappoint Mr Abbott. I mean, he's a man who's been prime minister of the country, he's got a lot of experience, he's seen as a figurehead, I think, of conservatives within the parliamentary party," Andrews said on Sky News on Wednesday night.

He was being interviewed by conservative commentator Andrew Bolt, who has repeatedly used his columns and TV appearances to agitate for the return of Abbott to the limelight (here, here, here, here, here and here).

"[Promoting Abbott] would be the magnanimous thing to do and the practical thing to do in terms of making sure that this is the party of Menzies, the party of Howard, is the party that broadly represents both liberals and conservatives," Andrews continued.

Abetz was similarly forward when interviewed on ABC radio on Thursday morning.

"I think it would be helpful if the conservative side was to be embraced somewhat more willingly by the leadership of the party," he said.

Rising conservative MPs including Zed Seselja and Michael Sukkar have been mooted as a compromise where Turnbull could add right-wing elements to his ministry without having to enlist Abbott, but Abetz claimed the pair would not be slotted directly into high ranking positions.

"As a result of which, one assumes that people with proven judgement and discernment might be beneficial in the cabinet," Abetz said, avoiding mentioning the former PM.

Abetz also took aim at the government itself, sounding off on the fact that the first-term government only scraped a slim victory.

"When you have had such a big kick up the pants, as we have had as the Coalition, and especially the Liberal Party element of the Coalition, then I think it is worthwhile to ask the question why did we haemorrhage so many seats? Why did we haemorrhage so many votes?" he said.

The calls come as the Coalition prepare to meet for their post-election pow-wow, to work out where they go from here. Turnbull has claimed he has won a mandate from the public to pass his proposed changes to superannuation and company tax cuts, but some MPs have called for the controversial reforms to be altered and scaled back.

Liberal senator Chris Back has argued voters were unhappy about the retrospective nature of some of the superannuation changes, while other MPs have reported discontent with the decision to place a cap on the amount people can pay into their super accounts before they incur tax on those contributions.

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