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Tony Abbott's ego as big as Phar Lap's heart

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There's a new addition to the line-up of key Australian icons such as Phar Lap's heart and Ned Kelly's death mask: Tony Abbott's ego.

Seldom has the country seen the likes of this former prime minister's stunning display of bravura chutzpah. Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd, both potential contenders for the prize of ex-PM with the Biggest Ego have been left in Abbott's dust.

Tony Abbott's ego is the size of Uluru.

It means he doesn't give a damn, which is why he has become so morbidly fascinating. It's hard to believe that he's still there, brazen and bald-faced, badgering us with his weird ideas, occupying too much political space.

His ego is like kryptonite. It protects him from all harm. It means he can disregard all criticism. He can overlook his own contradictions. And have no qualms about touching up taxpayers for his latest exercise in self-gratification.

His prime ministership now forever behind him, Abbott has declared he will remain the member for Warringah, his backbench status giving him "more time to be a very conscious local member", as he told the Manly Daily in July.

Yet in an exemplary display of massive ego-enhancement, he is totally unrepentant about taking the taxpayer for a ride.

Last week it was reported that in 2016 Abbott clocked up huge travel and expenses costs jetting round Australia.

Rather than be embarrassed about this, he attacked the Liberal Party colleagues who had leaked the information.

My calculations, based on the figures published by the Department of Finance for 2016, show that Mr Abbott spent $79,236.13 on "domestic scheduled fares" and received $37,471 in travel allowances, a total of $116,707.13.

The other five former prime ministers – Julia Gillard, Bob Hawke, John Howard, Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd – between them in 2016 spent a total $73,152.21 on "domestic scheduled fares".

(For the record, Abbott's predecessors claimed for domestic travel as follows: Gillard – $22,631.24; Hawke – $13,971.31; Howard – $30,837.91; Keating – $2,149.86; Rudd – $3,662.49.)

Abbott managed to outspend all of them by travelling around Australia for an incredible 65 days. This was in addition to the 51 sitting days of federal Parliament in 2016 that required him to be in Canberra. All up, the "very conscious local member" spent almost four months away........

© The Sydney Morning Herald