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When the Liberal Party voted in favour of ousting Tony Abbott as prime minister on September 15 last year, he promised “no sniping, no undermining”. But he never said anything about offering helpful advice. Herewith, a timeline of Abbott acting very much like a man who would like to be prime minister. 

September 26, 2015. Eleven days after being replaced by Malcolm Turnbull Abbott was interviewed by News Corp Australia and described his removal as PM as a “death by opinion poll”. Abbott criticised his own party for repeating the Labor Party’s actions in waging a political coup upon itself.

October 27, 2015. With the global refugee crisis intensifying after the photo of a drowned Syrian boy in the Mediterranean Sea, Abbott was in London delivering a speech to UK Tories about political conservatism. In his speech, Abbott criticised Europe’s response to the refugee crisis and suggested that an open-border policy of resettlement represented a “catastrophic error”. Abbott also used the speech to trumpet his self-avowed success through his stop the boats policy.

November 17, 2015. In the wake of the Paris terror attacks on November 13, Tony Abbott published an article in The Australian encouraging the West to do more to destroy Islamic State. Abbott called for increasing the West’s military presence in the Middle East through deploying special forces on the ground in Syria and reducing restrictions on airstrikes.

December 8/9, 2015. In an interview on Sky News followed up by an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph tabloid entitled ‘Islam Must Reform“, Abbott said that “all cultures are not equal”.  He also used the piece to suggest that Islam, having not had an Enlightenment or a Reformation, was not a modern religion.

February 22, 2016. Abbott wrote an article in The Australian titled “Why We Need to Beef up Defence“. The former PM suggested more federal government defence spending was required.

February 26, 2016. While speaking in Tokyo, Abbott denounced China in its territorial claims for the South China Sea. Abbott said that Australia’s position was that China not destabilise the region by interfering in the South China Sea.

March 26 2016. Abbott defended his government in Quadrant, saying: “I was right on national security.” He again celebrated his stop the boats policy and reiterated the need to retain a military presence in the Middle East.

May 2016. As Labor introduced a marriage eqaulity bill into Parliament, Abbott delivered a lecture in Brisbane urging Catholics to promote the Church’s view on marriage. In the same address, Abbott reaffirmed his position that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act be amended.

September 9, 2016. In the aftermath of the Sam Dastyari “cash for comment” scandal, Abbott told Fairfax Media that reform was needed on political donations from unions, companies and foreign entities.

September 30, 2016. While conducting a world speaking tour, Abbott used a speech in New York to warn of a potential war between China and the US due to increasing tensions over the former’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea.

October 15, 2016. Abbott spoke to Fairfax Media about factionalism within the Liberal Party and warned of potential corruption through lobbyists propping up candidates for preselection. 

October 20, 2016. With the Turnbull government looking likely to strike a deal with Senator David Leyonhjelm to overturn the ban on the Adler shotgun in exchange for Leyonhjelm’s vote on the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation, Abbott took to the ABC’s 7.30. He defended the gun laws introduced by the Howard government and went in to bat for his own cabinet to deny claims from Leyonhjelm that Abbott’s government had informed him the ban on the Adler shotgun would be lifted.

November 15, 2016. After Trump’s victory in the US election, Tony Abbott was interviewed by Andrew Bolt on Sky News and praised the result as “the revenge of the deplorables”. Abbott used the interview to repeat his past scepticism of climate change, telling Bolt that the “moral panic” over the issue had to cease. Abbott also took aim at the Human Rights Commission for failure to act on 18C reform.

November 27, 2016. Abbott again went on Sky News and called for Turnbull to push for budget repair, encouraging Turnbull to revisit some of his cabinet’s 2014 budget measures. Abbott expressed concern over the Turnbull government’s innovation rhetoric, saying that innovation and agility “loses people”. The prime minister in exile also praised Turnbull for what he saw as an “orthodox centre-right leader” after the July election.

Peter Fray

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