Radio Interview – ABC AM – Wednesday, 11 January 2017

ABC AM with Tom Iggulden 
WEDNESDAY, 11 JANUARY 2017                      

SUBJECT: Tony Abbott undermining Malcolm Turnbull, Trade, Sussan Ley.

HOST: Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has delivered a stirring defence of Brexit and questioned the future of the European Union in what the Opposition is describing as a deliberate attempt to undermine current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Abbott’s views are contained in a foreword to a report produced for a Conservative British think tank. Political reporter Tom Iggulden has more.

TOM IGGULDEN: Mr Abbott’s words could almost have been written by the hardest of Euro-sceptics:

“Brexit means that Britain is back. The country that gave the world the English language, common law and the mother of parliaments is to once more seize its destiny as a global leader.”

IGGULDEN: Calling for a one page trade deal to be negotiated as quickly as possible between Britain and Australia he applauds the rising tide of anti EU sentiment among Britain’s European neighbours:

“The remaining members of the European Union will now have to rethink how much of their sovereignty they wish to surrender.”

IGGULDEN: Mr Abbott refused AM’s request for an interview but it’s understood he wrote the foreword in November.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: It looks like a pretty deliberate strategy by Tony Abbott. Malcolm Turnbull’s on holidays and so Tony Abbott’s filing the gap.

IGGULDEN: That’s Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare who’s accusing Mr Abbott of setting unrealistic expectations for how quickly and how easily a trade deal could be concluded with the UK.

CLARE: Tony Abbott is giving gratuitous advice to people all around the world but also to the Australian Government and to Malcolm Turnbull in particular about what he should be doing. It creates the impression of a weak and divided government and he’s doing it deliberately. It’s very, very cunning, he’s as cunning as an outhouse rat, Tony Abbott. He knows what he’s doing here and it’s bad news for Malcolm Turnbull.

IGGULDEN: But as he has said he is a backbencher, backbenchers aren’t bound by the same rules of having to stick to the government line if you like and there is a long tradition of speaking out on particular subjects in the Liberal Party. He’s not actually doing anything wrong here is he?

CLARE: No that’s true, and in defence of Tony Abbott he said last year to the Daily Telegraph that he doesn’t feel constrained at the moment and if the government and Malcolm Turnbull wants him to shut up and start preaching the party line they’ll have to promote him and put him into the Cabinet.

IGGULDEN: And he says a Cabinet vacancy may soon need filling.

CLARE: You’d expect at some point Malcolm Turnbull is going to have to come back from holidays and do the right thing and sack Sussan Ley.

IGGULDEN: The report was written for the Free Enterprise Group, an influential Conservative Party think tank. It urges a strengthening of Britain’s historical colonial ties over links to continental Europe. Tim Hewish co-wrote the report and helped convince Mr Abbott to write the foreword.

TIM HEWISH: Well we wanted to get someone from the Commonwealth of significant stature and we felt that a former Prime Minister or a former Foreign Minister would be ideal. And we looked at the options and we though given Tony Abbott has a commitment to free markets and was the former Prime Minister that he would be the prime candidate.

IGGULDEN: And so you didn’t have to do any arm twisting? He didn’t say, I’m not sure how this might go down at home I don’t want to be seen as someone freelancing or anything like that?

HEWISH: No not at all, that never came up at all.

HOST: The Director of the Free Enterprise Group, Tim Hewish in London ending Tom Iggulden’s report.