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Bolger, a National MP for 26 years and New Zealand's prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said the party needs a visionary leader who can articulate new ideas.
He told Q+A he was appalled at the National Party's 2020 general election result and rancorous events in recent days, which included last week's leadership spill and the end of Judith Collins' leadership.
"Disappointing is a very gentle way of putting it," Bolger told the TV One show in a wide-ranging interview in which he voiced concerns about rising inequality and decried an obsession with GDP statistics.
Bolger said National's next leader must have in themselves the capacity to work with others, especially as coalitions are the norm in New Zealand.
"How do we measure societal progress?"
He told Jack Tame: "The first view the aspirant should be asked is what is your view of the society you want to create?"
Bolger said the dominant global economic model was dividing society.
"Some are getting obscenely rich and others are going to food kitchens."
Bolger said Labour was not seriously addressing social inequality and there was no reason National could not win the next election.
In his interview, Bolger referred to the book "Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire", by Harvard professor and economist Rebecca M Henderson.
"Free market capitalism is one of humanity's greatest inventions, and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen," the Penguin books website said.
"But it's also on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilising society in its single-minded pursuit of maximising shareholder value."
Since his tenure as PM ended, Bolger has only occasionally spoken out on political issues, although he has been active in various public service roles.
In 2017 he said New Zealand had to lift the minimum age for superannuation, telling The Dominion Post: "We seem incapable as a society on agreeing what is fair, reasonable and affordable."
According to a 2021 OECD report, inequality in New Zealand is higher than in most advanced economies.
"One of the main goals of this Government is to reduce inequality," Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Q+A this morning.