MALCOLM TURNBULL has portrayed himself as the antithesis of Tony Abbott's political mentor, B.A. Santamaria, the staunch protectionsist and founder of the Democratic Labor Party.
Launching a new book about the late Bert Kelly, the South Australian Liberal MP who championed free trade after entering Parliament in 1958, Mr Turnbull positioned himself squarely with the traditional economic dries and warned that enemies of the Liberal ideal still existed within the Coalition, just as they did in Mr Kelly's day.
''We should not delude ourselves with political humbug into imagining the opponents of freedom - economic, social, political - are only to be found on what we like to call the left,'' he said. ''Nor should we imagine that there are no advocates of big government to be found on what is called the right.''
Mr Turnbull did not name names but invoked Mr Santamaria, a central influence on Mr Abbott during his formative political years and somebody whom he still mentions.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Kelly, who hailed from a farm in South Australia, championed consumer sovereignty and open markets and ''his many intellectual successors inside the Liberal Party sit at the very core of what our side of politics should stand for''.
''While Liberals, and certainly small-L liberals, should be proud of Kelly's legacy, it must not be forgotten that his greatest opponents were on his own side of the chamber,'' he said.
''The strongest advocate of protectionists and tariffs in his time was the leader of the Country Party, John 'Black Jack' McEwen.''
Mr Turnbull said himself, John Howard and Labor's Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, who in government opened the Australian economy in the 1980s, had more in common with Mr Kelly than Mr Santamaria, ''who was as appalled by globalisation and free trade as he was suspicious of markets''.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Santamaria and Mr McEwen ''are often held up as champions of the Right'' but this was only true insofar as they opposed communism and were socially conservative.
Mr Abbott's detractors have often accused him of not being Liberal enough and of having DLP tendencies, an accusation at which Mr Abbott bristles and rejects. Last year the former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello made the accusation in a column for Fairfax Media, sparked by Mr Abbott's reluctance to embrace industrial relations deregulation.
While the DLP was ''good on defence and the Cold War'', it was ''not much on economic issues'', Mr Costello wrote.
Launching the book by Hal Colebatch, entitled The Modest Member: The Life & Times of Bert Kelly, Mr Turnbull took aim at current Labor policies of subsidising industry and the national broadband network. ''While high tariffs are a thing of the past, we still spend billions supporting Australian industries with little analysis or understanding of the costs,'' he said.
''Politicians save jobs without any debate about how many other jobs are lost because of the public resources diverted.''
The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has been advocating a similar tough line against industry assistance in the car industry.
Mr Turnbull said the national broadband network was ''a breathtakingly reckless example of big government at its most profligate''.
Today Mr Abbott will start a two-day journey driving a semi-trailer 875 kilometres along the Pacific Highway from Brisbane to Terrigal.