John Howard's recent comments have prompted Tony Abbott to dismiss his relevance. Photo: John Woudstra
The former prime minister John Howard has declared himself to be Tony Abbott's number one fan and endorsed what he sees as the Opposition Leader's return to the “sensible centre” on labour market reform.
Speaking from Tampa, where he is attending the Republican National Convention in his role as the chairman of the International Democratic Union, an association of conservative political parties, Mr Howard declined to comment further on the speech he recently gave calling on a return to the controversial industrial relations reforms that his government championed.
I think it is fair to say that I am just about Tony Abbott's biggest fan on the political scene. I think he has done a terrific job.
Those comments prompted Mr Abbott to distance himself from Mr Howard this week, saying: "Let's face it - John Howard is two prime ministers ago. John Howard is three Liberal leaders ago. That was then, this is now.”
But Mr Howard couldn't speak highly enough of Mr Abbott this morning.
“I think it is fair to say that I am just about Tony Abbott's biggest fan on the political scene. I think he has done a terrific job.
“Just understand one thing, the Coalition would not be [where] it is now were it not for Tony Abbott, because he really, by staring down Kevin Rudd on climate change, panicked the former prime minister, which in turn panicked the former prime minister's party, which in turn led to the installation of Julia Gillard and the near loss after only one term ... The man responsible for that is Tony Abbott, so I think he has done a pretty fabulous job.”
He said it was natural for parties to vary their positions as one leader replaced another and they moved from government to opposition, but he stood by the record of his own government.
“As I indicated in a speech I gave recently, I think the way in which the Coalition's policy for the present and the future should be articulated is in the hands of Tony Abbott and his colleagues and I will leave it to them to do that,” he said.