'Beer goggles' remark sparks new sexism row in Australia
Attitudes of male MPs under fire after Tony Abbott and Mark Latham rate sex appeal of female candidate
WHEN Julia Gillard railed against the sexism and misogyny she had been subjected to as Australia's first female PM, her speech made headlines around the world.
But her impassioned address to parliament appears to have made little impact at home if the conduct of several male politicians this week is any guide.
On Tuesday, Tony Abbott (above), leader of the conservative opposition party, enthused about the "sex appeal" of Fiona Scott, one of his party's western Sydney candidates in the 7 September general election.
Referring to Scott and her predecessor, Jackie Kelly, Abbott said: "They're young, feisty, I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal and they're just very connected with the local area."
The remark was branded "pathetic" by Kim Carr, a senior MP with the ruling Australian Labour Party, reports news.com.au. But it wasn't long before the ALP was forced onto the back foot after one of its former leaders, Mark Latham, said in a radio interview that Abbott must have been drunk to consider Scott attractive.
"I had a good look at Fiona Scott [in a newspaper] … and she doesn't have sex appeal at all," Latham told the Melbourne radio station 3AW. "She's not that good a sort."
Latham, who lead the ALP from 2003 to 2005, was told by 3AW host Tom Elliot that his comments were worse than Abbott's. But Latham warmed to his theme calling Scott a "rather plain ordinary-looking woman" before adding: "Tony [Abbott] had the beer goggles on and in politics they say it's showbiz for ugly people and I don't think she'll [Scott] be out of place."
To put this in perspective, Latham attracts controversy like a cattle drover attracts flies. His 2005 memoir poured acid on most of his former colleagues and in 2006 he narrowly escaped a conviction for malicious damage after smashing a newspaper photographer's camera.
He once called former PM John Howard an "arse-licker" and described Howard's cabinet as a "conga line of suckholes".