Turnbull Can't Shake Leadership Questions After Abbott Attack

Australian government ministers continued to face questions over the leadership of the ruling Liberal Party after inflammatory comments by former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott criticized the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, saying the Liberal Party needed to change course if it wants to win re-election. Abbott, who was ousted as leader by Turnbull in 2015, suggested policies that would cut immigration, scrap the Human Rights Commission and put a halt to all new spending as a way to win back voters.

Turnbull called the comments "sad" and said Abbott’s latest "outburst" would not distract the government. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, once a loyal Abbott supporter, told Sky News Friday the former prime minister’s comments were "deliberately destructive."

"I thought it was important to send a very clear message to essentially signal that enough is enough," Cormann told Sky News Agenda Sunday.

Cormann said "all of us in the Liberal Party" had a responsibility to "always ask ourselves the question" whether actions are "helping to promote our cause, or whether we are making it harder for ourselves to be successful for the Australian people."

Cormann said Turnbull had been "very clear" that it was unlikely Abbott would return to cabinet. "I can’t see any scenario in which Tony Abbott would return to the leadership," Cormann said.

Liberal frontbencher Angus Taylor told the Seven Network that the comments were a distraction, AAP reported Sunday. "The overwhelming thing you’ve heard from the party room in the last 24 hours is we’ve had enough, we want to get over the distractions and move on and focus on the agenda that Australians care about."