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Abbott seeks to trump Turnbull

AAP logoAAP 11/11/2016 Jennifer Rajca

All the talk about division in America has opened up old wounds for Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.

In separate radio interviews on Friday morning, the prime minister and his predecessor used the election of Donald Trump to offer thoughts about the other.

Mr Abbott acknowledged there are a lot of Australians feeling disenfranchised with the political system - just like in America - and one only had to look at the July federal election.

"Something like 40 per cent of the Australian population refused to support either of the two parties which have governed our country since federation," Mr Abbott told ABC radio.

"So we have a problem."

The former prime minister said Brexit and the Trump election also prove parties shouldn't be ruled by polls.

"If you don't have a strong and sensible centre-right party, people who are looking for what might broadly be described as conservative positions will find other voices to represent them," he said.

In a dig at his successor, he noted Malcolm Turnbull is now talking a lot less about innovation and agility and more about national security, union corruption and the cost of living.

"What you've seen from Malcolm Turnbull post-election is a much more orthodox centre-right leader."

But Mr Turnbull denied the independent vote at the last election was noticeably different to previous years.

The One Nation factor in Queensland filled the gap left by the Palmer United Party, he explained to Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio.

"There hasn't been a huge increase in votes for other than the two big parties," he said.

But Mr Turnbull did concede in this political climate it is important to provide steady, secure cabinet government.

And why have voters become frightened?

The prime minister pointed the finger at the Abbott government's 2014 budget measure to impose a GP co-payment.

"They felt they had been let down," he said, of the unpopular measure.

"It had come as a shock and what we have to do is rebuild the trust of the Australian people in our administration."

It played into a narrative that the coalition did not fully support public health.

"There is no point kidding ourselves. We've got to own up to that vulnerability," he said.

The comments follow Mr Abbott's close friend Catherine McGregor recently writing he wants a spot in the Turnbull cabinet.

But the man himself insisted on Friday he was very busy being a backbencher.

"I'm not asking to be promoted," Mr Abbott said.

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