Matt Hancock has defended a plan to hand a senior trade role to former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott despite concerns about his attitude towards women and homosexuality.
Questioned on Sky News, the Health Secretary said he does not believe that Mr Abbott is homophobic or misogynistic, and, when pressed, added: “He’s also an expert in trade.”
Mr Abbott is in talks to become joint president of the relaunched Board of Trade but critics have raised numerous concerns, including over his belief that coronavirus restrictions should be lifted.
He has previously said that he feels “a bit threatened” by homosexuality, opposed same-sex marriage, and was accused of misogyny by fellow former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
But Sky’s Kay Burley said “he’s a homophobe and he’s a misogynist”, to which Mr Hancock replied: “He’s also an expert in trade.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott would not be the “right” person to conduct post-Brexit trade deals on behalf of the UK.
Mr Abbott is in talks to join Britain’s relaunched Board of Trade, but the leader of the opposition said he had “concerns” about him taking up any senior role.
“I have real concerns about Tony Abbott and I don’t think he’s the right person for the job,” said Sir Keir. “And if I was prime minister I wouldn’t appoint him.”
Here are some of the best reactions to Hancock’s comments