UK PM Johnson defends former Australian PM Abbott; no confirmation yet of trade job

Australia's former Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends Britain's annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to criticism of former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, reported to be in line for a job promoting British trade, by saying that Australia was a liberal country and had previously elected him.

Abbott, who led Australia from 2013-2015, has attracted criticism from some British opposition politicians and media outlets over his views on homosexuality and gender following reports he was due to be appointed to Britain’s Board of Trade.

The government has not confirmed any appointment, but said he would bring huge expertise to a role as a trade adviser.

“This is a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia,” Johnson told reporters when asked about the criticism, and whether he would be given a job.

“And Australia… it’s an amazing country it’s a freedom-loving country, it’s a liberal country. There you go, I think that speaks for itself.”

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.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison)

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