14:17 GMT23 September 2020
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    The former Australian prime minister, who was recently tapped to help the British government clinch trade deals following Brexit, is known in his native Australia for his criticism of political correctness, which he has suggested was destroying the country.

    Secretary of Health Matt Hancock mounted a defence of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott amid accusations that he is a ‘homophobe’ and ‘misogynist.’

    “As far as I understand it, the proposal is that Mr. Abbott supports the UK on trade policy, which is an area in which he has got a huge area of expertise,” Hancock said, speaking to Sky News.

    “I bow to nobody in my support for everyone 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,” the minister added.

    Hancock dismissed a characterization of Abbott by his interviewer as a “homophobic misogynist.”

    “I don’t think that’s true,” he said.

    Trade Minister Greg Hands also welcomed Abbott’s desire to “help this country out,” telling lawmakers that he welcomed his possible appointment to the Board of Trade, but that a final decision has yet to be made.

    Labour and Scottish National Party politicians have urged Boris Johnson’s conservative government not to appoint Abbott.

    Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry called Abbott “an offensive, leering, cantankerous, climate-change-denying, Trump-worshiping misogynist.”

    MP Marie Rimmer suggested that “surely there’s trade experts who aren’t homophobic and misogynists?” and added that “Britain deserves better than Tony Abbott representing us on the world stage.”

    Shadow Minister for Victims and Youth Justice Peter Kyle suggested that the government’s ministers “don’t even pretend not to embrace bigots anymore.”

    First Minister of Scotland and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon took offense over Abbott’s comments earlier this week about the need for governments to consider “uncomfortable questions about a level of death we might have to live with” amid the coronavirus pandemic, which he suggested was putting a strain on healthcare systems and collapsing economies.

    Branding Abbott’s coronavirus comments “disgraceful,” “deeply offensive and wrong,” Sturgeon said that he was “not the kind of person who should be a trade envoy for the UK.” She added that Abbott was a “misogynist, a sexist and climate change denier” who “shouldn’t be any kind of envoy” representing Britain on the world stage.

    Abbott served as Australia’s prime minister between 2013 and 2015, and is the former leader of the Liberal Party, Australia’s equivalent to the UK’s Conservatives. During that time, and his tenure as leader of the opposition between 2009 and 2013, Abbott received flak over controversial statements and stances, such has his opposition to same-sex marriage, and a remark that it’s not necessarily “a bad thing” that women are in fewer positions of political power because men may be “more adapted to exercise authority or to issue commands.”

    The politician was accused of “misogyny” by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a speech in 2012. He called it a “very unfair” and “completely invalid speech,” and an act of political theatre.

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