FOR a man who lost the prime ministership because his poll numbers were so dire, Tony Abbott seems to know a lot about keeping the electorate happy.
The former PM was in the headlines (again) this week when he emerged with a plan to help the Coalition win the next federal election and keep Labor’s Bill Shorten out of The Lodge.
Surprisingly, the plan did not include getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull, the man who overthrew Mr Abbott in September 2015 – and whether this is recognition from Mr Abbott that his chances of regaining the top job have now passed, or recognition that voters have sickened of leadership coups and challenges, is not clear.
But the plan does include reforming the Senate to get rid of legislative gridlock, ending renewable energy subsidies to take the pressure off power prices and celebrating Australia, rather than apologising for it.
It’s an intervention that Mr Turnbull is unlikely to welcome.
When Mr Abbott made a short speech to the media in the prime minister’s courtyard the day after he was defeated in a leadership challenge by Mr Turnbull, he vowed to make the change “as easy as I can”.
“There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping. I've never leaked or backgrounded against anyone. And I certainly won't start now," he said.
But in the 18 months since, Mr Abbott has shown no hesitation in advising Mr Turnbull and his government on how they can lift their game.
Mr Abbott will say that as a humble backbencher, and one who recently spent a number of days among the people while he took part in the Pollie Pedal, he has an insight into the public’s concerns that many of those in federal parliament do not.
But his criticisms of the government, delivered publicly, do not strengthen the government’s cause.
Even if it can be argued that he is not indulging in undermining or sniping, the effect is the same: he contributes to the image of a government divided and a government that cannot settle on the correct path.
He’s not helping, even if he might argue that’s what he’s trying to do.
From Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard to Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull, Australians have had a surplus of prime ministers in recent years.
But the political stage can only accommodate one at a time. That's the problem.