Abbott 'consumed' by Turnbull defeat, should 'shut up': McGregor

Catherine McGregor
Catherine McGregor didn't hold back on her appraisal of Tony Abbott. Source: Q&A

Transgender broadcaster Catherine McGregor says former prime minister, and her close friend, Tony Abbott is “consumed” by his defeat at Malcolm Turnbull’s hands and that he needs to learn to “shut up”.

McGregor, who was an Australian of the Year finalist in 2016, told Q&A on Monday night that she had been friends with Abbott for 35 years, but admitted they had fallen out over his views on same-sex marriage.

“I would say two things in his defence,” she said of Abbott. “One — he’s a great person of great magnanimity. He doesn’t hold grudges. I do think he’s lost balance on Malcolm Turnbull. I think he’s consumed by that and, sometimes, he’s not the best self that he’s capable of.

“All I’ve said to him — I’m not breaking a confidence when I say this, because I’ve had this discussion with other people close to him and people in the media and the political process — that I believe he erred in not really, basically, letting last year run its course. I was a sympathiser of his, but I said two things to him … I sent him a text and I just nominated a couple of outlets I thought he should stay away from in the media -‘Don’t go down the Trump road if you want to retain the Menzian centre-right tradition in Australian politics’.”

McGregor added that she advised Abbott to keep his mouth shut and bide his time like Paul Keating did with Bob Hawke.

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“And I just said to him, ‘You should shut up. The guy who you should emulate is Keating. Keating tried to take Hawke down and, when it failed, he made the party come to him.’ I said, this bloke’s got a cloth ear, and that’s been revealed too.”

Abbott’s rencent calls for Australia to reduce its immigration rate have thrust him into the limelight once more and drawn the ire of his Liberal colleagues.

Last week, the former prime minister penned a scathing opinion piece for The Australian, in which he demanded respect from his ministerial colleagues and said he won’t cop criticism from people who only have jobs because he allowed it.

“One thing I am not going to cop is gratuitous criticism from ministers who are only in government because I led them there,” he wrote. “It is the prime minister’s right to choose his ministerial team and, given some of the policies of this government, I’m happy to serve on the backbench,” Abbott wrote.

He criticised Turnbull’s leadership and said if the government had its priorities right it would listen to him, a man “who knows more about winning elections than anyone in the parliament”.

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“You’d think a government that’s lost the past 27 Newspolls might be curious about how it could lift its game,” he wrote.

“You’d think a government that has too few ­policy differences with Labor might consider a change of ­emphasis that would make clearer the choice of who’s really on the voters’ side. But no, ministers have gone out of their way to attack a colleague who knows more about winning elections than anyone in the parliament.”

Do you agree with McGregor? Should Abbott stay quiet or is he right to speak out given his experience at the top?