Australia's ousted Abbott snipes at new government

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaking during a press conference in the Prime Ministerial courtyard at Parliament House in Canberra on Sept 15, 2015.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaking during a press conference in the Prime Ministerial courtyard at Parliament House in Canberra on Sept 15, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Toppled Australian leader Tony Abbott took potshots at the new government on Tuesday (Sept 29), saying it offered no new policies and that the nation should stop swapping prime ministers "like changing clothes".

Mr Abbott was ousted by conservative colleague Malcolm Turnbull in a vote among ruling Liberal party lawmakers earlier this month, as opinion polls plunged two years into office and with an election about a year away.

At the time, Mr Abbott he vowed there would be "no undermining and no sniping" as he moved to the backbenches, but the former leader could not hold back from defending his legacy in a radio interview.

"The interesting thing is no policy has changed since the change of the prime minister," he said.

"Climate change, the same. Border protection policy, the same. National security policy, the same," he said, referring to hot-button issues.

Abbott's demise is the latest in a brutal political tradition of dumping unpopular prime ministers in party coups - Labor leaders Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were similarly ousted mid-term.

"We've had five prime ministers in five years. That's bad. That puts us in the league of Italy and Greece," said Mr Abbott, the only Australian prime minister to come to power through a general election in the past half-decade.

"The difficulty... is that government can't do what is necessary for the long-term good of our country if you are subject to death by polls and then ultimately a party-room coup," he told 2GB radio. Australia had to "get right away from this concept of changing the leader like you might change your clothes to suit the fashion", he said.

He urged the party and voters to stick with the conservative coalition government, even reluctantly, as it prepares for elections in late 2016.

"Even if they have to do it through gritted teeth, support the coalition, support the prime minister, support the government," he said.

He reassured listeners that his mental state was okay despite being pushed from the job, saying he knew politics was "a pretty brutal business".

The 57-year-old stressed he was "too young to retire" and would remain in parliament.