Tony Abbott will return as Australia’s prime minister after the looming federal election if a cunning stunt being hatched by Liberal Party heavyweights pays off.
The Bug has learnt that under the plan, Tony Abbott will recontest the Warringah seat he lost to Zali Steggall at the 2019 poll as “prime minister in waiting”, as one Liberal official explained.
The scheme was hatched after the Liberal Party of Australia’s national executive realised the LNP government faced an inevitable landslide defeat at the expected poll in late May if Scott Morrison remained as PM.
The executive made the decision midweek after the latest Roy Morgan poll of more than 2000 voters showed the Labor Party leading the Morrison government by 56.5 to 43.7 per cent two-party preferred.
“In the interests of the Liberal Party’s and the government’s electoral prospects, Scott has agreed to stand side provided Mr Abbott forsakes Catholicism and becomes Penetcoastal and while Scott’s happy to recontest his seat of Cook, Tony Abbott will campaign as defacto prime minister, if you like, until he’s returned to the Parliament.”
The Bug understands the scheme is almost a carbon copy of what happened in Queensland before the 2012 state election there, when former Lord Mayor Campbell Newman campaigned as the LNP’s leader from outside Parliament before actually winning a Legislative Assembly seat at that poll.
“Can-Do” Campbell Newman went on to win 78 out of 89 seats at that election and served as a much-loathed state leader for the next three years.
The reason for the Liberals’ confidence is snap internal polling taken in Warringah after former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian ruled out a tilt at the fomer safe Liberal seat.
The polling shows Mr Abbott has an excellent chance of unseating Ms Steggall.
“Put simply, the voters of Warringah have missed their local member of almost a quarter century,” the Liberal source said.
“They missed that little lizard thing he always did with his tongue and the way his lips pouted – and that’s exceptionally hard to do simultaneously – whether he thought he had done or said something clever, which in fact was all the time.
“And the death of the Duke of Edinburgh has clearly softened the widespread criticism of Mr Abbott when as PM he awarded the Queensland’s husband an Australian knighthood.
“That no longer looks anywhere near as silly as it did back then.
“Add to that the facts that Tony has always been a brilliant and uncompromising campaigner and he’s widely regarded as a man of integrity and honesty and our decision was a non-brainer really.”
Mr Morrison is expected to announce his decision to step aside at a media call later this morning.
AT TOP: A natural raconteur with a quick wit and reputation as an amazing dinner-party guest to die for, Tony Abbott made many friends during his quarter-decade of public service.