Scott Morrison has claimed his devastating election loss was simply Australians wanting to "change the curtains", and accused the teal independents of running "very vicious and very brutal" campaigns.
The former prime minister has also refused to be drawn on the future direction of the Liberal Party, facing a reckoning after its moderate wing was decimated at Saturday's poll.
Speaking to 2GB on Thursday, his first post-election interview, Mr Morrison claimed the "trauma" of two pandemic-ridden years explained the party's worst result in 70 years.
"It's been incredibly tough, and I can understand that. After all of that, as Barnaby [Joyce] said to me the other day, sometimes people like to change the curtains. They just like to change the curtains," he said.
The Liberals' moderate faction was decimated as teal independents won previously-blue ribbon seats, including that held by former treasurer and presumed future leadership contender Josh Frydenberg.
Dave Sharma, who lost Wentworth on Sydney's eastern suburbs, has claimed the leader's personal unpopularity had damaged his chances, a view relayed by other moderate MPs privately.
Morrison said whether his personal unpopularity had hurt the Liberals in inner-city seats was a matter for the party to work through, but attributed the teal movement's success to simply promising "to change everything".
"They were very vicious and very brutal campaigns, talking to my colleagues about them. They played things very hard on the ground," he said.
"Anyway, that's politics; it can be a tough and brutal business."
Mr Morrison said he was "devastated" by Mr Frydenberg's loss, describing the former treasurer as a "huge part of the party's future".
In Mr Frydenberg's absence, conservative Peter Dutton is expected to be elected Liberal leader unopposed on Monday.
Saturday's results included a surge for the Greens in both houses, and independents promising stronger action on climate action, a federal anti-corruption commission, and better treatment of women.
But with some Liberal MPs urging a shift further to the right, Mr Morrison would not be drawn on the future direction of the party.
"I'm going to support the new leadership and the direction they're taking. I think you've always got to be true to your values, and I've always sought to do that," he said.