TONY ABBOTT’S sister has fiercely defended her brother against criticism over his past comments on women after he was branded a “misogynist” by politicians and commentators following his appointment as a British trade envoy.
Christine Forster, the younger sister of the former Australian prime minister, said it was “nothing short of dishonesty” for people to make assumptions about her brother and label him a “homophobe and misogynist”. The defence from Ms Forster, who is gay, comes after Mr Abbott was called out for saying he felt “threatened” by the concept of homosexuality.
And in 2010 Mr Abbott caused a stir among women while commenting on an emissions trading scheme which he said would damage small businesses through increased power costs.
Addressing Australian women directly, he said: “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price, and their own power bills, when they switch the iron on, are going to go up.”
Mr Forster took to Twitter to release a lengthy statement in support of her brother, who served as Australia’s leader from 2013 to 2015.
She said: “It is nothing short of dishonesty for commentators and politicians who do not know Tony to label him a ‘homophobe and a misogynist’ for the purposes of scoring cheap political points.
“As a woman who has always been part of his life and who came out to him as gay in my early 40s, I know incontrovertibly that Tony is neither of those things.”
She called her brother “a man of great conviction and intellect”.
Ms Forster also praised Mr Abbott for having “great compassion” and “respect for others”.
She said he would be an “outstanding trade envoy for the UK” following the announcement on Friday.
Mr Abbott negotiated free trade deals with Japan, China and South Korea on behalf of Australia.
He said he is looking forward to contributing his “expertise” in global commerce to help Britain in his new role as adviser to the UK Board of Trade.
During an interview with Sky News, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would not have handed him the top role.
Presenter Kay Burley said to Ms Sturgeon: “Tony Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister, said it might have been better if elderly people were left to die from the effects of Covid.
“He may well be a trade ambassador or a trade envoy for the United Kingdom after Brexit. What do you think?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “Well if I had anything to do with that decision he wouldn’t be a trade envoy for the United Kingdom, it’s not, unfortunately, my decision.
“The comments you just quoted there from Tony Abbott I think are disgraceful.”
She added that Ms Abbott’s take on the coronavirus crisis was “deeply offensive”.
In the midst of the storm of criticism, Boris Johnson has come out in support of Mr Abbott.
The Prime Minister heralded his status as a former leader of “freedom-loving” and “liberal” Australia.
Mr Abbott has said he was “only too keen” to help the UK and looked forward to helping facilitate trade deals “between Britain and other countries, including Australia”.