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Abbott lauded as 'servant of our nation'

Tony Abbott has been lauded as "a servant of our nation" and political warrior who lived his life for others at a Sydney tribute dinner attended by some of the biggest names in Australian politics.

The former Liberal prime minister, who lost his Warringah seat to Independent MP Zali Steggall at the May federal election, was enthusiastically celebrated at the dinner hosted by radio shock jock Alan Jones in Sydney's north on Thursday night.

"What a night. I keep thinking: what if I had actually won," Mr Abbott joked after taking to the stage.

Guests included current and former prime ministers Scott Morrison and John Howard, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and federal frontbenchers Josh Frydenberg, Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor.

Malcolm Turnbull, who led a party coup to overthrow Mr Abbott, was not present.

Mr Abbott's wife, Margie, couldn't be there as she was recovering in hospital from a lumpectomy, the gathering was told.

"All of you, I think are quite rightly anxious but I just wanted you to know that within two days of being diagnosed, she walked 100 miles," Mr Abbott said.

"She is one tough woman and she will get through this."

Mr Howard said Mr Abbott was "a great political winner" who "effectively destroyed the Labor government in three years".

He paid tribute to his border protection work and the warmth he brought to issues such as indigenous policy.

"Tony and I didn't always agree on some issues, but you always knew that Tony's heart was in what he espoused and what he believed in," Mr Howard said.

The former prime minister told the crowd that fundamentally, they were honouring "a servant of our nation" who "has lived his life for others".

Mr Morrison opened his speech with "how good is Tony Abbott?", before telling the crowd: "Don't be too quiet tonight, quiet Australians".

In his time as prime minister, Mr Abbott claimed victory for scrapping Labor's carbon and mining taxes, and, in "one of his finest moments", bring back the Australians killed in the downing of flight MH17.

Mr Dutton, meanwhile, said Mr Abbott was "one of the most intelligent people in the life of our nation".

Mr Abbott took the opportunity to pay tribute to his loved ones and former colleagues including Mr Morrison, who he said had redeemed the government with his "near-miraculous" election victory.

"Had we lost this election, this government would have been judged an embarrassing failure," Mr Abbott said.

"So I might have started it - but frankly Scott, you have saved it.

"And for that, I do not normally bracket myself with Malcolm Turnbull, but Malcolm Turnbull and I both owe you a tremendous debt."

© AAP 2019