Malcolm Turnbull confirmed on Thursday that he has contacted his former colleagues in the Coalition to urge them to vote for Interior Minister Peter Dutton to refer him to the High Court.
Mr. Turnbull made the comments via Twitter, revealing that he had pressured Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the matter.
"What I have done to Scott Morrison and other colleagues is that given the uncertainty about the eligibility of Peter Dutton, recognized by the Attorney General, he should be referred to the Supreme Court, as was Barnaby, to clarify the matter," he wrote. Mr. Turnbull. on Twitter from New York.
The tweet was Mr. Turnbull's first public intervention in politics since he was ousted from the prime minister at the end of August.
The tweet attracted the ire of former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who accused Mr. Turnbull of undermining the Coalition.
"It seems he has an active campaign to eliminate us as a government," the former deputy prime minister told reporters at the House of Parliament.
"Boy, that's bitterly disappointing."
SBS News asked if Mr. Turnbull was "destroying and attacking," terms that Mr. Abbott used to promise that he would not interfere from the back when he was overthrown as prime minister.
"I think it would be a fair comment," Mr. Joyce replied.
Scott Morrison confirmed that he had spoken with his predecessor last week, but said he would "not support a recommendation."
"Someone once told me in this paper, all contributions should be received with gratitude, they are," Morrison said.
"But as prime minister, I will obviously make the decisions in relation to our government about what I think is of national interest, based on the latest and most timely information that I have at my disposal."
He said he respected the contributions of the "previous leaders" and all their colleagues.
He motioned for a labor motion to recommend that Mr. Dutton had already been defeated in the Chamber of Representatives.
"I think people have had enough of the lawyers' picnics on these kinds of problems and they want us to focus completely on what the nation needs, here and now," he said.
Mr. Dutton faces questions about his participation in a fiduciary company that operates two child care centers.
The child care centers in question receive subsidies that were legislated by the Turnbull government, although the money is designed to pay for services for the children.
Labor is pressuring parliament to refer the matter to the High Court, so that the court can determine whether Mr. Dutton's participation in child care centers violates it against Article 44 of the Constitution.
But you will need a majority of parliamentarians in the House of Representatives to endorse a recommendation, which means that at least one member of the Coalition should cross the court.
The issue appeared for the first time in the run-up to the liberal leaders' spill that put an end to Malcolm Turnbull's prime minister. Mr. Dutton led a challenge for the leadership, but Scott Morrison emerged as the winner in the resulting three-way ballot.
Mr. Dutton and Labor have issued contradictory legal advice. The government's own attorney, the attorney general, said Mr. Dutton was probably fine, but said it was "impossible to establish the position with certainty."
Mr. Morrison has now said that he will check to see if Mr. Dutton left the cabinet room when the changes in child care funds were discussed.
Mr. Dutton has a family financial interest in two Brisbane child care centers, which now receive direct funds from the Commonwealth due to recent changes in the law.
Mr. Morrison is checking to see if Mr. Dutton left the cabinet when the changes in funding were decided.
"I have always complied with the rules of the cabinet, I have declared any interest I have had in any discussion," Dutton told parliament yesterday.
"I have left the discussions where it was considered appropriate.
"In a great deal of care, I make the declaration of my wife's interest in relation to these matters, and that has been my practice for a long period of time."