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"Labor lite" Turnbull and "sad" Abbott in verbal brawl


Malcolm Turnbull and senior ministers have blasted Tony Abbott for his "sad" provocative outburst.

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Abbott, who was ousted by Turnbull in September 2015 and is now a Liberal backbencher, used a Sky News interview and a speech on Thursday to launch a scathing critique of the Coalition government’s direction.

The former prime minister said the Coalition had become “Labor lite” and politics should not be “just a contest of toxic egos or someone’s vanity project”.

Abbott also called for the renewable energy target to be cut, immigration rates to be reduced, the Human Rights Commission to be scrapped, an end to new government spending and reform of the Senate.

Turnbull, who visited a microphone factory in Sydney on Friday, said he was focused on jobs and investment.

“I don’t think Australians are impressed by that latest outburst and I’m not going to be distracted by it,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney today.

“It’s sad.”

A fired-up prime minister said he didn’t “just give speeches”, he delivered reform such as the Australian Building and Construction Commission and overhauling MPs’ entitlements – singling out two policies Abbott failed to deliver in government.

“We’re getting things which we couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t get done in the last parliament,” Turnbull said.

“Every member of the government has got to ask the question – are they contributing to the success of the government?”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, a former staunch supporter of Abbott’s leadership, blasted the former prime minister on Sky News.

“I’m just saddened by what is self-evidently his decision to provide more and more destructive commentary,” Cormann said.

“He is not helping our cause, he is not helping our country, he is not helping himself.

“Much of what he says is either wrong or inconsistent with what he did.”

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne has branded Abbott’s suggestion that the Federal Government curtail immigration as “catastrophic”.

Pyne noted the former prime minister was now a backbencher, although he was free to state his views.

“The worst thing we could do is get distracted,” he told Nine Network.

“We won’t be going down the track of putting a freeze on immigration, for example, which Tony wants to do because it would be catastrophic.”

Pyne said slashing spending, as Mr Abbott sought to do in the 2014 budget, brought about “whole lot of zombie legislation” now blocked by the Senate.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the government was a shambles and suffering from a policy vacuum.

“The government doesn’t have an agenda,” he told Nine.

“Tony Abbott’s solution is to say ‘take what I did in the 2014 budget and go more extreme, go harder’.

“Tony Abbott is delusional and the government is dysfunctional.”

In London, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop rejected suggestions Abbott was preparing for a leadership challenge.

“I don’t read it that way at all,” she told reporters.

There is talk within the NSW Liberals about mounting a challenge to Abbott’s preselection in Warringah ahead of the next federal election.


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