Tony Abbott says he's in no hurry to leave public life because Australia needs strong conservative voices and less compromise from government.
The former prime minister's comments came as his successor Malcolm Turnbull insisted the Liberal party was "harmonious".
Leaked comments by cabinet minister Christopher Pyne have re-opened old wounds from a leadership contest between Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott 21 months ago.
Mr Pyne, one of Mr Abbott's most senior lieutenants at the time, told moderate faction colleagues at a late-night function last week he had voted for Mr Turnbull in every Liberal leadership ballot.
That was news to Mr Abbott.
He accused Mr Pyne of not being fair dinkum, saying it was incredibly disappointing to discover his loyalty was never there.
Mr Turnbull on Tuesday was distancing himself from the spat, rejecting suggestions his party was a "tinderbox" about to erupt.
But the prime minister admitted people in politics could get "scratchy" with each other.
"The party room is very harmonious, very united," he told 3AW's Neil Mitchell, noting Mr Abbott was not a minister in his government.
"He's one member in the party room."
Mr Abbott told the Institute of Public Affairs in Brisbane it had not been a good year for Australia and "too many people feel let down and ripped off".
"We are letting ourselves down. We are not what we should be; and we know it. That's why most of the attempted pep talks sound so hollow."
Mr Turnbull said the coalition recently had been able deal with complex issues such as schools funding and energy policy.
However, Mr Abbott said in making compromises to get legislation through parliament "the war doesn't actually end".
"The battleground just shifts and in the meantime principles have become negotiable and the whole political spectrum has moved in the wrong direction," Mr Abbott said.
Former minister Eric Abetz said Mr Pyne's comments were regrettable and he should have resigned from the ministry at the time if he did not support Mr Abbott.
Mr Pyne insisted as a member of the leadership team he was loyal to Mr Abbott in the lead-up to the 2013 election which the coalition won.
"[We] were absolutely central to him becoming prime minister and defeating the Labor Party in 2013 and almost defeating them in 2010, so nobody could ever question my determination to see a coalition government in power," he told the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night.
Mr Abbott said it was important for conservative voices to be heard.
"I'm in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong liberal conservative voices now, more than ever," he said.