I would return to parliament if the Liberals asked me, says Tony Abbott - News48 (BST)

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I would return to parliament if the Liberals asked me, says Tony Abbott

Tony ­Abbott says he wished he had longer than two years as prime minister and hasn’t ruled out a ­return to parliament.

Tony Abbott concedes he made mistakes as prime minister but overwhelmingly blames Malcolm Turnbull’s overweening ambition for his government’s demise four years ago.

In his first long post-election interview to mark the Liberal Party’s 75th anniversary, Mr ­Abbott said he wished he had longer than two years as prime minister and did not rule out a ­return to parliament.

“It wasn’t that we had a divided government, it was more that there was one person who was ­determined to get to the top by hook or by crook,” Mr Abbott said. “Malcolm always thought it was his destiny to be prime minister and I happened to be the ­obstacle to that and so he dealt with me as best he could.”

While Mr Abbott said he had “mostly” forgiven those who had turned against him and had no “lasting enmities”, he would consider returning to parliament.

“If the Liberal Party ever wanted me to do that, I would be more than happy to consider it, but I find it difficult to imagine the circumstances that they would want me,” he said.

“I’m not ruling it out but I’m not expecting it to happen.”

Reflecting on his prime ministership (2013-15), Mr Abbott recognised there were things that caused him “a lot of grief” but he stood by his decision to reintroduce knights and dames into the Australian honours system, and suggested they be reintroduced.

“If we are going to have an honours system (then) I think that at the apex of the system we should have knights and dames,” he said.

“If you are a tradition-minded leader of a centre-right party, that’s exactly the kind of thing that you should do. At the heart of our centre-right tradition, it is not so much reform but restoration.

Malcolm Turnbull officially launches the Liberal 2016 federal campaign and greets ex-PMs Tony Abbott and John Howard and their wives Margie and Janette. Picture: Jason Edwards

“I should have found a way of doing in this country what they did in New Zealand when John Key brought it back (by) up­grading the ACs to AKs. And I shouldn’t have made it the prime minister’s personal pick, it should have been the Council of the Order of Australia which did it.”

With the Liberal Party having governed nationally for 48 of its 75 years, Mr Abbott said it could reasonably claim to be Australia’s natural party of government.

“No party can represent the country as wholeheartedly as we can,” he said. “First, because no particular section owns us the way the unions own the Labor Party. And, second, because we have not succumbed to the siren song of globalism to anything like the ­extent that the political left has.”

Mr Abbott said the Liberal Party was the custodian of three principal political traditions — liberalism, conservatism and patriotism — but the key to Scott Morrison’s election victory was being more pragmatic than ­ideological.

“There’s the liberal strand, there’s the conservative strand and, above all else, there’s the patriotic strand,” he said about the Liberal Party’s philosophy. “Yes, we are the freedom party, yes we are the tradition party but above all else we are the patriotic party.

“What we always need to do is to ask ourselves what are the ­issues that are troubling people at this time and come up with ­feasible, understandable ways ­forward. We certainly looked the more practical and the less ideological of the two parties at the last election, and that’s why we won.”

The former prime minister, who was a guest at the British Conservative Party conference in Manchester last week, praised US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for putting their nations first.

“There has been a much greater sense of the nation state and of good old-fashioned patriotism in the approach of Trump and Trump’s Republicans and in the approach of Johnson and Johnson’s Conservatives,” Mr Abbott said. “I also think that one of the reasons why we succeeded in 2013 was because we had a no-­nonsense approach to border protection which put Australia first.”

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