Tony Abbott has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “involve himself” in the Liberal Party preselection battle for Hughes in support of sitting member Craig Kelly.
Mr Turnbull has already written Mr Kelly a reference, which is understood to be a normal practice for all sitting MPs , but the former prime minister said his successor should do more.
Mr Kelly, who has held the seat since 2010, is being challenged for preselection by Sutherland Shire councillor and vice-president of the NSW division of the Liberal Party, Kent Johns.
Speaking on 2GB, Mr Abbott said there was a a "fundamental ethical issue" in Mr Kelly being challenged by a member of the party's state executive”.
“Senior office bearers have an absolute duty to support sitting members, not challenge them,” he said.
“I do think this is something that the PM needs to involve himself in ...I think there’s a few phone calls that need to be made.”
Mr Abbott also said in the interview he believed the Coalition’s election prospects had risen and it was now in a position to win.
A spokesman for Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Media the Prime Minister supported all sitting MPs.
Mr Johns declined to comment because of party rules.