LEIGH SALES: The former Liberal prime Minister, John Howard, joined me in the studio earlier.
Mr Howard, good to see you. Thank you for coming in.
JOHN HOWARD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER (1996-2007): Thank you.
LEIGH SALES: Is the Liberal Party in danger of splitting into two parties?
JOHN HOWARD: No, that is absolutely not going to happen.
The Liberal Party is obviously going through a difficult time at the moment, but I am still convinced that we can win the next federal election and I think one of the things people have got to understand is that there is a long history in Australian politics of a disconnect between a heavy defeat at a state level and victory at a federal level....
LEIGH SALES: When you look at the Liberal Party broadly, though, the Victorian state election result is just one of a number of things that has gone on.
We've had centrist independence elected in a number of formally Coalition seats; Indi, Wentworth, Mayo among them. We've had today a federal Liberal MP defect to sit on the crossbench as an independent. We have had numerous Liberal MPs publicly share their concerns about the direction of party.
You have got ageing and declining membership, there were money troubles. Malcolm Turnbull had to chip in at the last election.
Why do all of those things, when you take them together, not signal a crisis in the state of the Liberal Party?
JOHN HOWARD: Well, one of the reasons why it doesn't suggest a crisis is that on all the fundamentals, the federal Liberal Government is doing well....
Sure, we are disappointed about what happened in Victoria, but one of the things that we have to do is not automatically extrapolate that into the federal scene. There are separately challenges federally, I accept that and they have to be addressed, but the last thing that we should do is to allow our political opponents to define us ideologically.
LEIGH SALES: Well, on the point of how the Liberal Party should be defined ideologically, we know that Australian society has changed quite a bit since you left politics 11 years ago.
It has changed an enormous amount since you became prime minister. Would you agree that the Liberal Party has to adapt to stay relevant and, if so, how should the party present itself in 2018?
JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think all political parties have got to remain relevant and they can't live in the past, of course but when I described the Liberal Party as a broad church, what I say is that it is the custodian of two liberal traditions.
One of them is the classical liberal one and the other is the conservative one.
It doesn't mean that the Liberal Party is made up of half of classical liberals and half of conservatives. I mean I am a mixture of the two. I am a classical liberal on economic issues. That is why I believed in labour market deregulation, that's why I believe in lower taxes and smaller government. That is why I am against tariff protection.
Adam Smith, if he were alive today, would agree with all of those positions but on other issues such as the monarchy and the attitude I took on same-sex marriage, which the public disagreed with, anyway that is behind us now, I am more conservative and that applies to most of us.
But the one thing we mustn't do is to allow our political enemies and commentators to start describing people specifically as a classical liberal or a conservative.
LEIGH SALES: But it is not, sorry to interrupt, Mr Howard, but it is not in this case your political enemies - it is people from within the parties.
JOHN HOWARD: My warning is for those people not to allow people who are not friendly to us, as a liberal collective, to define us.
I hear expressions like "hard right". What is meant by hard right? Someone who has got a conservative social position? That is not hard right. That is just being an ordinary conservative who sees value in preserving things from the past that are working well.
There is nothing hard right about that. That is just common sense.
LEIGH SALES: Let me put to you what the Senate President, Scott Ryan, said yesterday about his view that he wanted, like you say, the Liberal Party to be a broad church.
He said, "We don't want litmus tests that you've somehow got to adopt this position particularly on social issues and if you don't you are not a real Liberal."
Haven't we seen evidence of that taking hold? That people in one side of the party say that the other side, they are not real Liberals?
JOHN HOWARD: I think some people have fallen for that on both sides. I mean, some people are running around saying the only real Liberal is someone who agrees with this and this and you don't want any of that and people who foolishly say, "Oh, what Bob Menzies would have said..."
Now you talk about moving on, I mean, I admire, all Liberals do, Bob Menzies. He founded our party and governed for 16 brilliant years but the world in the 1950s and '60s was quite different from the world that I was prime minister in and the world that now operates.
But in the end the Liberal Party is a broad church. It is a broad church of people who hold classical liberal views and conservative views and most of us, my experience has been, that we are each a mixture of the two.
I certainly was and remain and I am sure that is the case with Scott Morrison and I am sure it was the case with his two predecessors as Liberal leaders....
I mean, I would never have achieved anything in politics without the Liberal Party. I owe the Liberal Party so much and I think it is always important for people who are elected to Parliament, whether it is on the Labor side or our side, to remember that they are overwhelmingly there because of their patronage from their own party and they should never forget that....
LEIGH SALES: On the point of loyalty to the party, what do you think of the way that Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have behaved post-leadership?
JOHN HOWARD: Look, I am not going to give a commentary on that. That doesn't help anybody.
When Tony Abbott was the prime minister, I supported him 100 per cent. When Malcolm Turnbull was the prime minister, I supported him and I believe I retain the friendship of both men, but now Scott Morrison is there, I am going the give him total support because I want him to win.
I believe it would be better for Australia if he does and I want all of the members of the Liberal Party to bear in mind the importance of working together.
Don't get too despairing about what happened in Victoria....
LEIGH SALES: Do you think the Australian embassy in Israel should be moved to Jerusalem?
JOHN HOWARD: Look, I am personally in favour and I have said this before, of our embassy being in Jerusalem because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
LEIGH SALES: You don't worry about the cost of the relationship say with Indonesia?
JOHN HOWARD: No, hang on, in the end, this is a matter between Australia and Israel and the idea that other countries should micromanage our foreign policy, I don't think people would find that acceptable.
Now, as to the priority or otherwise of when it should happen, that is another matter. That is a matter for the government to determine.
If you ask me as an issue of principle, I have said before on the public record, that I support it because I think it is logical to have it in the capital and also because I have enormous respect of the fact of what Israel has achieved and also the fact that it is the one true great democracy in the Middle East. [Emphasis added]
LEIGH SALES: Mr Howard, thanks for your time.
JOHN HOWARD: Pleasure. (Video here)
Meanwhile, Sydney medico Dr David Adler, president of the Australian Jewish Association, an undeservedly maligned (in certain Jewish circles) conservative organisation formed last year, talks frankly to a Sydney radio host about the Islamic terror threat in this country: