Abbott opens up on attacks that haunted his family
A BATTLE-weary but determined Tony Abbott has opened up about the toll personal attacks have taken on his family as he bids to retain the seat of Warringah.
Speaking from a small coffee shop near his office in Manly, the former prime minister slurped on a Acai smoothie as he explained the "depressing" reality of how the vile attacks spilt into his private life, affecting his wife Margaret and their three daughters.
"This is by far the most personal campaign that's ever been waged against me and I think the tone of political debate is deteriorating all the time," Mr Abbott said.
"Margie endures all that, as do the kids and I think all that is an inevitable and depressing element of public life. You can't really protect your family in a political campaign, which is there for all to see.
"Margie drives passed the Times Up Tony stuff and the Vote Tony Out stuff she hears on the radio about the cartoons with "C..." on them and all that.
"I've always had a very thick skin which helps and I think Margie and the kids have been very good at focusing on their own lives as well as what happens to me and just getting on with things otherwise they find them much more taxing."
To protect his family as best he can, Mr Abbott says he doesn't like to "drag them into photo opportunities" so they can instead retain their own identities.
He also credits his love of Game of Thrones and exercise as helping him clear his mind during a brutal campaign.
"You've gotta find some time to empty your head of all the vicious stuff and exercise is one way of doing it and I'm very neurotic about getting exercise and a bit of escapist TV is another way," he said.
But despite constant attacks from activist group Getup, which recently released an ad suggesting Mr Abbott would allow a swimmer to drown, he shows no sign of relinquishing his 25-year grip on Warringah.
At 61 years of age, Mr Abbott describes himself as being a "relatively young, highly energetic and conviction politician" who is ready to dedicate the next three years fighting to fast track the Beaches Link Tunnel for his electorate.
He would not be drawn into speculation about serving in a Morrison Government cabinet or whether he'd lead the party in the event of a defeat but admitted it was his "love of the game" that kept him motivated and he'd be happy to do that from the backbench.
And when asked how former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull handled his ousting from the top job, Mr Abbott said a true career politician could have kept playing the game of politics from the backbench.
"What he chooses to do is his business and I'm not going to get into the business of offering a critique of him suffice to say that when I got dropped as Prime Minister I went quietly on to the backbench and campaigned in a low key way for marginal seat colleagues at the last election," Mr Abbott said.
"I didn't quit and I didn't spit the dummy.
"I think that for me the public life has been more of a calling than a career.
"If you think you have a contribution to make to public life then why not make it from the parliament where there is added weight to what you say.
"If all that matters is your next promotion then almost by definition you are really in it for yourself rather than the cause, or the country or the party."
His proudest moment as a local member came from fighting the Keating Government to secure the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust he says will forever "preserve the last unspoilt headlands of Sydney Harbour".
And his proudest moment was the day he led the Coalition to victory in the 2013 election to become Prime Minister of Australia.
But with the highs there were also lows which Mr Abbott said came in the form of removing the country's debt ceiling in 2013.
"If we hadn't abolished the debt ceiling it would have forced the parliament to confront the reality of our overspending much more swiftly," he said.
"I assumed back then that the Senate that got elected in July, 2014 would prove to be an easier senate to manage that it was."
He denied he was a climate change denier, despite claims being widely reported to the contrary.
"I respect the sincerity of people who think climate change is the most important issue humanity faces but nothing we do in Australia can tackle that on our own even if the anthropogenic global warming theory entirely stacks up," he said.
"Climate change is a global issue where alone we can do next to nothing."
While Mr Abbott is staunchly proud of his convictions in the climate arena and politics in general, he also spoke about how his views had changed during his time as a politician.
"Before I got into parliament I was never a great fan of multiculturalism although my time working for the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy changed my view on that because I discovered that people from very different backgrounds had chosen Australia for our traditional strengths, including the crown, and that was a bit of an eye-opener for me," he said.
"It made turned me from begin a critic to a supporter of a mild version of multiculturalism."
Mr Abbott believes he can win his seat and that the Coalition, while a longshot, is gaining ground on Labor every day.
He said he would spend the next three days hammering home his party's economic record in hopes of turning the tide.
"If I was Shorten I would be increasingly nervous because the longer the campaign lasts the less certain a Labor victory looks," he said.
"I am hoping and praying that we do get a majority Coalition Government and I think that looks more and more likely. It is looking more and more likely with each passing day."
SCOMO TO SHORTEN: GO TO HELL
Bill Shorten's bid to draw Scott Morrison into a "grubby" slanging match over religion and gay people has backfired with the Prime Minister declaring he is not running to become the Pope.
Mr Morrison was forced to clarify on Tuesday that he did not believe gay people would go to hell after Mr Shorten seized on the Prime Minister's decision to leave questions on religion "at the door" rather than directly address rugby union star Israel Folau's controversial comments.
The Prime Minister lashed Mr Shorten for attempting to "cynically exploit" the emotions around the issue for "personal political gain" after the Labor leader issued an unprompted condemnation of Mr Morrison's earlier reaction.
"People's faith are people's faith. I'm not running for Pope, I'm running for Prime Minister. So, you know, theological questions you can leave at the door," Mr Morrison said.
"The distraction that Mr Shorten tried to bring up on Tuesday, apart from being frankly a bit grubby and a bit beneath him and disappointing, the real issue is Labor is getting more desperate."
On Monday Mr Morrison said he did not mix his faith with politics when asked whether he agreed with Folau that gay people would go to hell.
Mr Shorten used the issue to attack the Prime Minister for what he called the "meanest commentary" in the election campaign.
When asked his views on Paul Keating labelling Peter Dutton one of the "meanest politicians" in Australian history, Mr Shorten deflected and instead condemned Mr Morrison for failing to "immediately" state that gay people "will not go to hell".
"I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia you have to be prime minister for all people," Mr Shorten said.
"I just don't believe it and the nation has got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity."
Mr Morrison clarified his position, declaring that he did not share Folau's views but that he had initially sought to avoid passing judgment on other people's faith.
"It is not my view that's the case. My faith is about … God's love is for everybody, he said.
"He (Mr Shorten) has sought to cynically exploit an issue that has nothing to do with this election, trying to confect religion and politics together for personal political gain. I found it very disappointing that without even prompting he sought to try to politicise this. And seek to exploit opportunity for it. I thought that was very disappointing. I don't think that should have a place in this election campaign."
Folau will learn his fate this week when Rugby Australia announces his penalty for a code of conduct breach.
RETIREES IRATE AT LOSING POT OF GOLD
Self-funded retirees say they are being unfairly treated by Labor.
Former solicitor Peter Costello, 71, who is now retired and the owner of a self-managed super fund, said his finances would take a hit if Bill Shorten were to win the federal election.
"I think (we're) being unfairly portrayed and I think (we're) been unfairly treated," Mr Costello said.
"I saw Bill Shorten on the TV saying why should the government give money - they think it's their money - why would the government not take these franking credits from retirees with their boats.
"Well a few of us are like that, but the majority are just average working people who have worked their guts out. "(Labor) use that as their argument because it suits them."
Now living in Mosman, Mr Costello said his plans for retirement were at risk.
"Many years ago I sat back and thought how much money do I need to live comfortably," he said. "I dived off the diving board and into the pool on the basis I'm going to make a certain amount (but that) has been reduced if Labor gets in.
"I don't think its fair because I can't go out and get job - I'm too bloody old."
Mr Costello said many people in his age bracket felt uneasy about the prospects of a Labor victory.
"I mix with a whole lot of old guys here in Mosman … they're all being ripped off on the franking credits that they were conned into or encouraged into (through) superannuation," he said.
Mr Costello said he and other self-funded retirees felt betrayed by previous federal governments which had encouraged the use of superannuation. "One of the biggest incentives was that in the long run you had a little nest egg," he said.
- Derrick Krusche