CANBERRA -- Tony Abbott has vowed not to destabilise his successor Malcolm Turnbull and delivered an angry parting shot to the media, as he gave his last public statement as Australian Prime Minister.
Breaking his silence since being ousted in a 54 to 44 party room vote late on Monday, Abbott said today was not easy.
“Yes, this is a tough day, but when you join the game, you accept the rules,” he told reporters in the Prime Minister’s courtyard of Parliament House.
“Leadership changes are never easy for our country.”
Thank you for the privilege of being Prime Minister. My love for this country is as strong as ever. pic.twitter.com/CP0ioCzE1Z— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) September 15, 2015
Not mentioning Turnbull by name, Abbott pledged to make the Liberal leadership change easy.
“There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping. I've never leaked or backgrounded against anyone.”
And he says he will not start now.
“Our country deserves better than that. I want our government and our country to succeed.”
Abbott said there was more he wanted to do, including constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.
He said he was proud recent job figures, the Free Trade Agreements with Japan, South Korea and China, as well as the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption.
“We stayed focused despite the white-anting,” Abbott said.
“Of course, the government wasn't perfect. We have been a government of men and women, not a government of Gods walking upon the earth. Few of us, after all, entirely measure up to expectations.”
Abbott singled out two people to thank. His wife Margie for “her grace and dignity” and his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, who he said has been “unfairly maligned by people who should've known better.”
It was a composed and reflective parting speech, but Abbott had angry words for the Australian media, classing current media commentary as “mostly sour, bitter, character assassination.”
“Poll driven panic has produced a revolving door prime ministership which can't be good for our country.”
“And a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery.”
Abbott gave the media a bit of free advice.
“Refuse to print self-serving claims that the person making them won't put his or her name to. Refuse to connive at dishonour by acting as the assassin's knife, “he urged.
Abbott did not attend this morning’s joint government party room meeting, but Turnbull did, thanking the MPs and Senators for their discipline and team spirit.
He told the party room, not attended today by members of the Nationals, that “nobody was more committed to embracing the broad church of the Liberal Party than he was.”
The reconfirmed deputy leader, Julie Bishop said it was a “difficult and emotional time” for government members.
Changes to the Coalition ministry are expected over the next weekend.