Why Tony Abbott is a controversial choice for UK trade role
The former Australian PM is a keen Brexiteer - but comes with political baggage
The government has not yet confirmed that Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia, has been hired as a post-Brexit UK trade envoy, but already he is stirring up a furious reaction.
The decision to appoint the “right-wing Brexiteer” has been “blasted by critics”, reports the Daily Mail, which says he will travel to London next week.
Labour’s international trade spokeswoman Emily Thornberry questioned both his character and capabilities.
“On a personal level, it is shameful Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, aggressive, leering, gaffe-prone misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas,” she said.
“And on a professional level, this is someone with no hands-on experience of negotiating trade agreements, who denies the climate change we believe should be at the heart of our trade policy, and who clearly has no concept of the importance of Britain’s trade with the EU.”
Repeatedly accused of misogyny, Abbott was memorably confronted in the Australian parliament by his predecessor as prime minister, Julia Gillard. “If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives,” she said in 2012. “He needs a mirror.”
Abbott was ousted by his own MPs after two years in office, but has remained politically active - and divisive.
“He gave a speech to the rightwing Heritage Foundation in Washington DC in January, saying Donald Trump’s presidency had been ‘quite a success’ and his methods were ‘crude but effective’,” The Guardian says.
He is at least ideologically committed to the Brexit project, says the Daily Mail. “Mr Abbott is a staunch monarchist and friend of the PM who addressed last year’s Tory Party conference, warning that failing to leave the EU would be ‘defeat on an epic scale, hardly matched since the Norman invasion’,” it reports.
But his new job may have cost him a few friends in his home country.
“In Australia, Abbott’s critics have called on him to be stripped of his A$300,000 [£165,000]-a-year parliamentary pension while he is working for a foreign government that is negotiating a trade deal with Australia,” says The Sydney Morning Herald.