UK host’s excruciating Abbott exchange


Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been labelled a "sexist" and "misogynist" in the UK, raising doubts about his potential role as a British trade envoy.

Mr Abbott had been widely tipped to be named President of the Board of Trade in a role that could see him negotiate trade deals on a the UK's behalf post-Brexit.

Earlier this week Mr Abbott described the role as "not yet official."

However his beliefs on climate change, gay marriage and famous "misogyny" clash with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard have come back to haunt him, with UK MPs from across the political spectrum condemning his record.

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Mr Abbott cultivated a macho image as PM. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images.
Mr Abbott cultivated a macho image as PM. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images.


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On Thursday morning a particularly awkward exchange played out on Sky News when host Kay Burley grilled UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on whether Mr Abbott was the "right sort of person to represent us".

Mr Hancock replied: "The proposal is that Mr Abbott supports the UK on trade policy which is an area in which he has a huge amount of expertise. We need to have the best experts in the world working in that field."

"Even if he's a homophobic misogynist?" Burley shot back.

"I don't think that's true," Mr Hancock squirmed in reply.

"I've just told you what he said. I'm sure you don't support some of his comments. He's a homophobe and he's a misogynist," she pressed.

"Well he's also an expert in trade," Mr Hancock replied.

"So one plays off against the other, is that really what you're saying Health Secretary, c'mon?" she asked.

"What I'm saying is that we need experts in different areas and the former PM of Australia is obviously and enormous expert in trade," he replied.




Mr Abbott with Russian President Putin in 2014. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Mr Abbott with Russian President Putin in 2014. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images



Mr Abbott's uncomfortable appearance in the spotlight has been compounded by a controversial speech he gave earlier this week at the Policy Exchange think tank where he suggested governments had acted more like "trauma doctors" than "health economists" in trying to save "almost every life at almost any cost" during the pandemic.

He called for an end to national lockdowns and said in some cases nature should be allowed to take its course, given the estimated $200,000 cost per "quality life year" that had been effectively spent on saving COVID-19 patients in Australia.

UK Labour MP Rachel Reeves said she didn't think Mr Abbott "should be in that job".

"I think that Matt Hancock sounded incredibly uncomfortable," she said.

"If Labour were in power he would go, he'd be out the door. We wouldn't back him in that role. I don't think it's appropriate."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said if she had "anything to do with that decision he wouldn't be a trade envoy for the UK.

"He's a misogynist, he's a sexist, he's a climate change denier. In my view he's not the kind of person who should be a trade envoy or any kind of envoy for the UK."

"Trade is not separate from the values and the reputation that a country wants to project internationally," she said.


Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he also had "real concerns" about Mr Abbott and "I don't think he's the right person for the job."

Conservative former Minister Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities select committee, also said hiring Mr Abbott would be "such a bad idea".

"I am not sure I can come up with words for how awful I think it is," she told the BBC.

"He has very poor views on LGBTQ rights, and I just don't think this is a man who should be anywhere near our board of trade."



Meanwhile another former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, also appeared on Good Morning Britain to talk about the role of women in leadership, but declined to comment on her political clashes with Mr Abbott, saying she had moved on from that part of her life.



Downing Street said no final decision on the Board of Trade role had been made.

Mr Abbott is in the UK for 10 days after having been given permission to travel from Australia and will quarantine at his own expense upon returning home. | @Victoria_Craw


Originally published as UK host's excruciating Abbott exchange