Former prime minister John Howard has called on supporters of Tony Abbott to support Malcolm Turnbull, warning the country needs stability.
He said that Mr Turnbull was better than Opposition Leader Bill Shorten when it comes to leading the country.
“As far as Tony Abbott is concerned, yes he was, is and will always be a good friend of mine but the party room made a decision and I accept that decision,” Mr Howard was quoted as saying on SMH.
“I encourage all Liberals, particularly people who were especially attached to Tony Abbott to… out of respect for his own wishes, to vote for the Turnbull Coalition.”
Mr Howard said he held no grudges over their previous battles and said Mr Turnbull was better placed to lead the country than Mr Shorten.
“I know Malcolm Turnbull well, I’ve known him for a long time, on a friendship basis not as close as I was to Tony, but there was never any real hostility between us.
“We get on very well. I think he’s highly capable and he’s clearly the better person able to guide this country through very difficult economic times.”
During the radio interview with 5AA, he also said that Australians had become “less tribal” in their voting habits.
“That process of de-tribalisation, if I can put it that way, started quite a long time ago. It probably began in the early 90s, after the end of the Cold War as some of the ideology started to ebb away from politics around the world.
“It has been accelerated and it’s a world-wide phenomenon. You see it in the United States, you see it in Britain, you see it in other countries.
Mr Howard also said the changes meant the proportion of “rock solid” voters for the major parties was lower.
“There are fewer of those rusted on people. There are still a lot, I don’t want to overstate it, but there are more people who float around in the middle and will think of voting in a different way perhaps several times between elections.”
And before the listeners thought he was done, Mr Howard also criticised independent senator Nick Xenophon where he likened Mr Xenophon’s free trade agreements to Pauline Hanson’s views.
“There are a lot of people who are normally of the conservative disposition in either Labor or Liberal who are attracted to an anti-gambling stance but he’s gone far beyond that now,” he said.
“He’s representing himself as having an attitude on everything. When you’re in that position you’ve really got to declare yourself.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have the purity of abstinent independence and have a view on everything.”