Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer issues warning to Liberal Party about Tony Abbott's 'dumb' comments

WARNING: Long-serving Riverina politician and former Howard government Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer says Labor is ready to capitalise on government infighting.
WARNING: Long-serving Riverina politician and former Howard government Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer says Labor is ready to capitalise on government infighting.

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Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer warns Labor is ready to pounce if “dumb” attempts to destabilise the government continue.

The retired Riverina politician said the National Party was now the “Rock of Gibraltar” compared to the Liberal Party, which was tearing itself apart.

The comments came after a fortnight of critical speeches and media appearances by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, which led some political commentators to speculate about a repeat of the “Rudd-Gillard-Rudd” debacle.

“You can have fair dinkum policy debates but the trouble is it’s reaching something far more than that with attempts (to) destabilise the leadership… it’s very dumb,” Mr Fischer said.

“(They) need to be very conscious that Bill Shorten is coming at 100km/h and be aware of that and deal with it.”

Charles Sturt University politics lecturer Troy Whitford said he didn’t think Mr Abbott had the numbers to reclaim the top job, but perhaps the criticism was part of a broader game.

“What’s Abbott’s doing, galvanising the support of the rank and file, the conservatives… in some ways that’s not a bad thing,” Mr Whitford said.

“Many conservatives see Malcolm Turnbull as too progressive, so having Tony Abbott articulate conservative values shows the Liberal party is a broad church.

“But a lot of it is media-driven and looking for a story that misinterprets what Abbott is doing.”

According to Mr Fischer, the “sheer volume” of political media coverage meant “every Peta, Dick and Harry, even a Mark, can get air space and often with a touch of bile attached”. 

“There’s a huge increase in the volume of static in the media… and also a change in the degree of acidic comments made on issues,” he said. “The dynamic has changed the burden on political parties.”

Government minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said the Liberals could have their own internal discussions, but he wouldn’t be drawn on what other members did or did not say.

“Quite frankly I wish the media would stop talking about it,” he said.

“I just want to talk about my electorate, the issues that concern the people I represent and issues affecting small businesses.”

Former Liberal senator Bill Heffernan told The Daily Advertiser he would rather “stay out of it”.