Former Prime Minister John Howard praises Tony Abbott on ABC's 7.30
Former Prime Minister John Howard praises Tony Abbott on ABC's 7.30

John Howard praises Tony Abbott, doesn't mention Turnbull

FORMER prime minister John Howard says he admires Tony Abbott 'a lot' and thinks he did 'great things' ... but doesn't believe there is an appetite for leadership change.

Speaking to the ABC's 7.30 Report, Mr Howard was asked if Mr Abbott had a chance to return to the role of prime minister, given the Coalition's continued trailing of Labor in the opinion polls.

"I like and admire Tony a lot and I think he did a great thing leading the Coalition back into Government after years in Opposition," Mr Howard said. "I don't think there is an appetite for change.

"I just want to see everybody making their contribution and I'll be attending something tonight which will unite a lot of Liberals in pride about the tremendous legacy that Bob Menzies left us."

Mr Howard didn't mention current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's name once during the interview.


Former PM Tony Abbott has a plan.
Shucks Hamish Blair


Speaking ahead of a function marking the 75th anniversary of the famous Forgotten People broadcast by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Mr Howard dismissed suggestions the Coalition government under Prime Minister Turnbull had become 'Labor-lite' through increasing taxes rather than cutting spending.

"Well, it (the Turnbull Government) has patently tried very hard with expenditure reductions," he said.

"It has been forced, I'm sure, very reluctantly, to a number of revenue measures it would otherwise not have entertained. Bear in mind, the revenue measures it proposes are very different to those proposed by the Opposition."

Howard: 'I don't think there is any appetite for change in the Coalition'


Malcolm Turnbull with Treasurer Scott Morrison.
Malcolm Turnbull with Treasurer Scott Morrison. Kym Smith

He also denied the Coalition was following an agenda established by the Labor Party, with industrial relations and education.

"Well, Gonski, I think the biggest problem in education is what is taught and the quality of how it is taught," he said. "I think the rigorous of the curriculum and the relevance of it to the history and culture of this country is more important than money."

He also refused to be drawn on the debate surrounding the funding of Catholic schools.

"My own philosophy is passionately in freedom of choice and the education system should be underpinned by a very vibrant state education," he said.

"We have a very good state education system compared to the United States and other comparable countries."



Mr Howard said the political environment had changed dramatically since the era of his idol, Robert Menzies.
"We are living in a world where politics is less tribal," he told the 7.30 Report.

"There are fewer people who are permanently welded-on to either the Labor Party on the centre left or the Coalition on the centre right. It is the responsibility - I'm speaking as a former Coalition Prime Minister - of our side of politics to make sure that we always secure our natural base, which is now probably smaller than it was 30 years ago ..."

Mr Howard said this era's 'battlers' were different to then, but Australia's strength remained the same.

"One of the great things about this country is that there are more people in the middle proportionately than there are in countries like the United States and Great Britain," he said. "It is the hollowing of the middle class in the United States, the dramatic fall in their incomes, which helped bring about Donald Trump's election in November last year ... When you have a big middle class, you always have a more cohesive society.

"One of the things that Menzies set out to do and one of the things I tried to do, albeit in different circumstances, is to maintain the strength of the people in the middle."