Politics

Matt Hancock defends trade role for "homophobe" ex-Australian PM Tony Abbott


Matt Hancock has defended plans to hand a prominent trade role to former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott – despite criticism over his attitudes towards women and homosexuality.

Asked by Sky News why the Government was appointing a “homophobe and a misogynist”, Mr Hancock said: “He’s also an expert in trade.”

Mr Abbott, who was ousted by his own party, is in talks with ministers over becoming joint president of the UK’s Board of Trade.

But his appointment has triggered controversy due to his previous comments about women, the gay community and coronavirus.

Mr Hancock was challenged over whether the Australian politician was the right pick in an awkward exchange.

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott is in talks with ministers over a prominent role in the post-Brexit trade talks

Presenter Kay Burley quoted Mr Abbott’s former comments about how he was threatened by homosexuality and men were better suited to exercising authority than women.

The Health Secretary said: “As far as I understand it, the proposal is that Mr Abbott supports the UK on trade policy, which is an area which he has got a huge area of expertise.

“I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love, whoever that is.

“But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia, he has a huge amount of experience.”

Pressed whether he feels that way even if Mr Abbott was a “homophobe and a misogynist”, Mr Hancock said: “I don’t think that’s true.

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“He’s also an expert in trade.”

Asked if we should forgive his comments because he is a trade expert, Mr Hancock said: “I am totally focused on the coronavirus crisis and the future of the NHS and social care. That is my area.

“I do know Mr Abbott is very experienced in trade.”

Labour’s Rachel Reeves said he was an inappropriate choice for the role.

The Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “I don’t think he should be doing that job. I think your description of him as a misogynistic homophobe is an accurate one and I don’t think he should be in that role.”

She added: “If Labour were in power he would go, he would be out the door.”

The Board of Trade has traditionally been made up of British politicians and business executives – and will play a crucial role as the UK negotiates post-Brexit agreements with other countries.





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