Tony Abbott launched an extraordinary attack on his own party on Thursday night, calling the Liberals "Labor-lite" and citing a shopping list of things he says should be changed. It took less than 12 hours for senior ministers to go absolutely nuclear on the former Prime Minister, calling him "destructive", "catastrophic" and just plain "wrong".
In a speech on Thursday and during a subsequent Sky News TV interview, Abbott said the government was in danger of losing votes to One Nation, criticising his own side for "drifting", and called for the government to take swift action to cut back on renewable energy, immigration and spending.
"In or out of government, political parties need a purpose," Abbott said.
"Our politics can't be just a contest of toxic egos or someone's vanity project."
Government ministers seemed to take off the gloves on Friday morning, unloading scathing criticisms of Abbott and his record as PM. Abbott has chided his own party in the past, which his colleagues have usually ignored or refused to seriously engage with, but this latest episode has seen perhaps the most explosive criticisms of Abbott yet.
Finance minister Mathias Cormann was stinging, saying he was "flabbergasted" by Abbott's comments which he called "deliberately destructive" and "self-indulgent".
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) February 23, 2017
"I find it sad... I'm just saddened by what's self-evidently his decision to provide more and more destructive commentary," Cormann told Sky News.
"He's not helping our cause, he's not helping our country, he's not helping himself. Much of what he says is either wrong or inconsistent with what he did when he was prime minister."
PM Turnbull himself didn't hold back either.
"The fact is my government has a record of achievement. In the last six months or so since the election, we have achieved more with fewer seats in the Senate, in the House, than in the previous three years," he told 3AW radio.
"We are acting and we're getting things done. We're getting things done that we couldn't or wouldn't or didn't get done in the last Parliament... I had the courage not just to give speeches, but to act."
Christopher Pyne pointed to polling which shows Turnbull more popular than Abbott, and also attacked the former PM's record in passing legislation. Pyne also said that some of Abbott's ideas would be "catastrophic".
"We won't be slashing spending. Tony Abbott tried that in 2014 in the budget during his leadership but of course a whole lot of zombie legislation sat in the Senate unable to be passed," Pyne said on Today.
Pyne was asked whether there was some plan to quiet Abbott down, after his repeated snipes at the government. After being ousted as PM in 2015, Abbott famously pledged there would be "no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping" from him.
"That's a matter for Tony Abbott. The Australian people are factoring that in to their equation," Pyne said.
"The last time Tony Abbott was leader, one of the last polls had him at 30 per cent to Bill Shorten's 48 per cent as preferred prime minister. So we are on the right track with Malcolm Turnbull and with the government's policies."
Speaking on a panel with Pyne, Labor MP Anthony Albanese was more blunt.
"Tony Abbott is delusional and the government is dysfunctional," he said.
"The government doesn't have an agenda, doesn't have a sense of purpose, and Tony Abbott's solution is to say 'take what I did in the 2014 budget and go more extreme, go harder'. He just hasn't got the message at all," Albanese continued.
Energy minister Josh Frydenberg delivered a veiled criticism of Abbott's record of delivery as PM, saying the Turnbull administration had been able to pass bills where Abbott had failed. Frydenberg also swiped at the former PM for attacking a renewable energy target which Abbott himself had agreed upon.
"Since the last election we've got through 48 pieces of legislation through the parliament and some of that legislation is something that Tony Abbott tried to do which this government has now delivered," Frydenberg said on ABC Radio.
"Just 18 months ago Tony Abbott's government reached an agreement with the Labor Party on a 23.5 percent RET by 2020."
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