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Fri, 25 September 2020

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After Days Of Controversy Over "Sexist and Homophobic" Comments, Former Australian PM Tony Abbott Is a UK Board of Trade Adviser

After Days Of Controversy Over 'Sexist and Homophobic' Comments,  Former Australian PM Tony Abbott Is a UK Board of Trade Adviser

Boris Johnson said he "obviously" did not agree with Mr Abbott's previous comments (PA)

3 min read

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott has been made an adviser to the UK board of trade despite days of controversy over his comments on women and LGBT people.

Among the other individuals named by the government as advisers were the writer and former MEP Daniel Hannan, the British/American economist Linda Yueh, and the Labour politician Patricia Hewitt.

Earlier, the Prime Minister had said an announcement about the UK's new Board of Trade would be made in "due course" as he defended Mr Abbott as "the guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia".

Labour had already written to the Government urging them not to appoint the ex-Aussie PM because of his "offensive and outdated views", including "characterising women as housewives who did the ironing and suggesting that uppermost in two female politican's qualities for officer were their 'sex appeal'.

On Friday, a group of LGBT+ and environmental activists piled further pressure on Mr Johnson to block the appointment, citing Mr Abbott's description of abortion as "the easy way out" and for saying he was "threatened by homosexuality" during Austrialia's campaign for same-sex marriage.

And they hit out at his suggestion that climate change is "probably doing good" and comparing policies aimed at tackling the issue to "primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods".

But speaking to Sky News, Mr Johnson said he could not be expected to agree with everyone who serves the Government.

"There is going to be an announcement, I think, in due course about the composition of the board of trade," he said.

"I obviously don't agree with those sentiments at all, but then I don't agree with everyone who serves the Government in an unpaid capacity on hundreds of boards across the country, and I can't be expected to do so."

He added: "What I would say about Tony Abbott is that this was a guy who was elected by the great liberal, democratic, nation of Australia. You've been to Australia, it is an amazing country, a freedom loving country, it is a liberal country. There you go, I think that speaks for itself."

The revived Board will be overseen by International Trade Secretary Liz Truess with Conservative MP Marcus Fysh as its deputy, and will provide ministers with advice on the UK's post-Brexit trade policy.

In a statement announcing the appointments, the Department for International Trade, said: "The new advisers to the board are announced at an important time for UK trade policy and as negotiations with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand enter their crucial latter stages - although advisers to the Board will have no direct role in striking trade deals.

"The board will represent a range of views to help in its advisory function, promoting free and fair trade and advising on UK trade policy to the International Trade Secretary."

Mr Abbott's sister Christine Foster, who is married to a woman and who had campaigned against him during Australia's same-sex marriage vote, had hit out at claims he was "misogynistic" and "homphobic"  branding them as "nothing short of dishonesty".

"As a woman who has always been part of his life and who came out to gay in my early 40s, I know incontrovertibly that Tony is neither of those things,” she said.

"In reality, he is a man of great conviction and intellect: an unabashed conservative but with great compassion, respect for others, and an indelible sense of doing that is right."

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