Tony Abbott’s Back And He’s Causing Plenty Of Chaos For Malcolm Turnbull

He's still really mad.

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Tony Abbott’s back and he’s declared war on factional enemies within the Liberal Party. Just in case dealing with a hostile Senate wasn’t a hard enough challenge, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now has to contend with a vocal and angry Abbott, and a resurgent conservative wing of his own party.

On last night’s Four Corners Abbott emerged from whatever dark cave he hides in when he isn’t being bitter on TV in order to… be bitter on TV. He attacked a group of lobbyists aligned to the moderate wing of the NSW Liberal Party, describing them as “factional warlords” and accusing them of creating “a potential for corruption”.

Who doesn’t miss him?

It seems like Abbott isn’t very happy with one particular lobbyist — Michael Photios. Photios has been described as a “kingmaker” within the NSW Liberals and is responsible for helping take down Bronwyn Bishop in her preselection stoush and marginalising Abbott’s conservative faction. The moderate faction, which Photios belongs to, swung behind Malcolm Turnbull in last year’s leadership coup, delivering him the numbers to defeat Tony Abbott.

Abbott thinks that the power wielded by lobbyists like Photios could lead to corruption and conflicts of interest. But the President of the NSW Liberals hit back, accusing Abbott of “demonising” his internal opponents. “My experience of being involved in politics for a long period of time is that when you do have internal friction, there is a tendency to try and demonise those people that you’re disagreeing with,” said Trent Zimmerman, the NSW Liberal president.

It’s not just Abbott who’s throwing off hand grenades. On Four Corners conservative Senator Eric Abetz labelled Malcolm Turnbull’s refusal to appoint Abbott to the ministry a “strategic error”. He also suggested if Turnbull doesn’t pay enough attention to the demands of the party’s conservative wing, it could lead to someone crossing the floor. Given the Coalition only has a majority of one seat, if even one Liberal MP crosses the floor that could lead to the defeat of government legislation.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello said that the threat of crossing the floor or going independent would be tempting for a lot of Liberal MP’s. “It’s a very alluring prospect. ‘I’ll threaten to go independent, I’ll get a whole lot of lolly for my electorate’,” he said on Four Corners. 

Conservative Liberal MPs are sending a pretty clear signal to the Prime Minister: ‘Take us seriously or we’ll create chaos.’ Unfortunately for Turnbull, he doesn’t have much choice. With such a narrow majority and weakened authority in the Liberal party room due to a lacklustre election result, he has to pay attention when people like Abetz and Abbott speak up. Expect to hear more from them over coming months as they continue to put the screws on the PM.