LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott would bring huge expertise to a role as a trade adviser, despite socially conservative views about women and gay people that opponents say make him unfit for the job.
Abbott, who led Australia from 2013-2015, has so far refused to deny or confirm that he will become a trade adviser for Britain. But some British lawmakers have taken issue with comments attributed to Abbott that they cast as “misogynist”.
A socially conservative Catholic who was born in England, Abbott has denied accusations of misogyny. Abbott, a monarchist who once wrote editorials for Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper, opposed gay marriage.
“I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love whoever that is, as you know,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky when asked if he supported the appointment of a man cast by the reporter as a misogynist and homophobe.
“But you know we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia, obviously Mr Abbott has a huge amount of experience,” Hancock said.
Britain has not yet confirmed that Abbott, who supported Britain’s exit from the European Union, will help advise the government on its post-Brexit trade policy as a member of Britain’s Board of Trade.
Abbott has railed against what he calls “health dictatorships”, saying states across the world are ordering people about during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that every life was precious but that families sometimes had to elect to allow elderly relatives to die as nature took its course.
“The idea that anybody would take that view I think is deeply offensive and wrong,” Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon told Sky.
“He’s a misogynist, he’s a sexist, he’s a climate change denier,” she said. “In my view he’s not the kind of person who should be a trade envoy or any kind of envoy for the United Kingdom.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Heinrich)