Tony Abbott has offered a report card on the Turnbull government as it marks 12 months in office and dismissed any personal pain he still feels after being ousted from the top job.
Malcolm Turnbull will have been Prime Minister for a year on Wednesday and Mr Abbott says “a lot of good things” happened in that time, including a Coalition election win that he attributed to his successor.
“There were a good two years (during the Abbott government) followed by a good 12 months (during the Turnbull government), an election win and now we’ve got three years to get on with governing,” Mr Abbott said on Nine’s Today program.
“We’ve maintained strong economic growth, strong jobs growth. We went to the election and got a mandate for a tough cop on the beat in the construction industry, for strong governance of unions similar to company governance, and obviously I was very pleased to see the end of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which was really damaging owner-drivers.”
Mr Abbott said he had reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of his government since he was deposed as prime minister in a partyroom ballot in September last year but now was determined to get behind the current leadership team.
Asked if he was still hurt by his dumping, Mr Abbott said: “It’s not about me. It never has been about me. It’s got to be about our country. The best thing for our country right now is to get behind the Turnbull government and help a good government to succeed.”
Now on the government’s backbench, Mr Abbott has been engaging in a host of media interviews of late and weighing into contentious political issues – even suggesting Mr Turnbull’s decision to hold a royal commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory was a “panicked” response to the ABC’s Four Corners program.
Mr Abbott failed to categorically rule out another tilt at the prime ministership but declared: “The Abbott era is over.
“I’m determined to be the best possible member for Warringah in this parliament. Obviously I am in my own way a standard bearer for Liberal conservative values but the important thing is to get behind the good government that we’ve got and help it to be as successful as it possibly could be.”
Mr Abbott had a volatile relationship with the Senate crossbench during the 44th parliament and conceded the upper house – with more independents – would be “difficult” to negotiate with during this term.
But he believes the Senate will give the government a “fair go” on its industrial relations agenda to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission, impose the same disclosure and transparency obligations on union officials as company directors and block the proposed Country Fire Authority deal.
“As a volunteer firefighter myself, obviously I very much hope that the Senate will do the right thing by the CFA volunteers in Victoria and ensure they can do their job and they’re not being dictated to by the union,” he said.
“The last thing we want is the operational requirements of firefighting being dictated by considerations of unionism.”
While he said he respected the 500,000 Australians who voted in four One Nation senators, he insisted the Liberal and National parties were the only ones proposing a “comprehensive program”.
“It’s all very well to articulate grievance, it’s sometimes very necessary to articulate grievance but in the end our country needs solutions, not just grievances,” he said.
Mr Abbott would not hand over an actual score on the Turnbull government, saying politicians who ranked themselves “usually end up striking a false note to the public”.