Former prime minister Tony Abbott says Australia is not working as it should, and is letting itself down.
“It hasn’t been a great year for Australia,” Mr Abbott told the Institute of Public Affairs.
He gave his prescription for winning the next election and indicated he will be standing again when that poll is called.
“I can assure you I am in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong liberal conservative voices now more than ever,” Mr Abbott said.
“I will do my best to be a standard bearer for the values and the policies that we know have made us strong in the past and can do again in the future.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier played down suggestions there are tensions in the Coalition, describing the party room as very harmonious and united.
Mr Abbott’s speech included an apparent critique of Mr Turnbull’s communication style.
He said it was not the public’s fault they were “disillusioned with leaders, parties and even systems when the people in charge don’t face their pressures, don’t seem to share their values and often hardly even seem to speak their language”.
Abbott questions Turnbull’s policy formula
Mr Turnbull has sought to end some long-running problems for the Coalition Government, including announcing billions more in school funding.
But Mr Abbott has questioned that approach, saying compromise is necessary in politics but “conviction is the foundation of success”.
Malcolm Turnbull has downplayed potential disharmony within the Coalition. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
“The risk with compromises designed to end policy wars is that the war doesn’t actually end — the battleground just shifts, and in the mean time principles have become negotiable and the whole political spectrum has moved in the wrong direction,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Turnbull has also introduced a bank levy raising more than $6 billion over four years.
But Mr Abbott also appeared to take a swipe at that plan, saying “no country has ever taxed its way to prosperity”.
As Opposition leader, Mr Abbott was known for being on message. Today he repeatedly highlighted the need for straightforward communication.
“That is our challenge, identify problems and their potential solutions in ways that people can understand and eventually accept,” he said.
“We do need to make Australia work again because our country plainly is not working now as it should — we are letting ourselves down.
“We are not what we should be and we know it that is why most of the attempted pep talks sound so hollow.”
Energy wars continue within Coalition
Mr Abbott called on the Coalition to focus intently on cost of living pressures and renewed his attack on the renewable energy target, blaming it for making gas and coal unaffordable.
Mr Turnbull has previously rejected that criticism, pointing out that it was implemented in current form by Mr Abbott, who at the time said it would create investment certainty.
But Mr Abbott today made it clear he is strongly opposed to the chief scientist Alan Finkel’s proposal for a clean energy target.
“Trying to fix the problems caused by too much wind and solar power with yet more wind and solar power is perverse, and the last thing we need is a clean energy target grafted onto a renewable energy target,” he said.
Mr Abbott also called for bringing another big coal fired power station into action as soon as possible, potentially funded by the Government.
Abbott admits 2014 budget upset public
Mr Abbott pushed for immigration to be cut, without saying what the level should be, arguing that would take pressure off house prices and take the downward pressure off wages.
Tony Abbott believes the Coalition can not draw closer to Labor if it wants to win the next election. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
“It would reassure Australians that our country is in our hands and run in our best interests. It would provoke a fierce fight with Labor that again would just emphasise who is on Australia’s side and who is not,” he said.
He conceded his 2014 budget had upset the public, saying that even people who accept that the government is spending too much do not want it improve its position by hurting theirs.
Especially with the 2014 budget, the Abbott government probably exceeded the reform speed limit but there was never any confusion about the direction of travel.
Mr Abbott advised his colleagues that Coalition would not win the next election by drawing closer to Labor.
“The next election can only be won by drawing up new battlelines that give our people something to fight for and the public something to hope for,” he said.