Boris Johnson is apparently planning to appoint Tony Abbott, the former Australian prime minister, to a senior trade role.
He is being tipped to advise Britain – his birthplace – on how to seize trade opportunities after Brexit, with the Sun reporting that the socially conservative ex-PM is set to become the UK’s “new trade deal supremo”.
There has reportedly been speculation in Australia for some time that Abbott – who led the country for nearly two years before being toppled by a snap party vote in 2015 – was being lined up for an advisory role in Britain.
Critics were quick to jump on the appointment, with Emily Thornberry – the UK’s shadow trade secretary – labelling Abbott a “Trump-worshipping misogynist”.
Here are five reasons why his appointment could be bad for Britain…
Writing in the Spectator Australia in March 2017, Abbott boasted that his ability to get trade deals done was partly based on his committing “to ensure that we weren’t side-tracked by peripheral issues such as labour and environmental standards”.
While Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted that workers’ rights and environmental standards will be maintained after Brexit, the government has continually vetoed legislation to guarantee those rights
Shaun Spiers, chair of the Greener UK coalition, said: “Tony Abbott would be a perfect choice to advise the government on how to undermine environment, animal welfare and food standards. But if the government really is serious about not compromising these standards in trade negotiations, appointing him is bizarre.”
Abbott has questioned the existence of climate change, claiming in 2017 that global warming was “probably doing good” – and comparing green policies to “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods”.
In 2012, Abbott suggested that “men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command”.
The following year, he was taken to task in a barnstorming speech by then Australian PM Julia Gillard – who told Abbott that if he wanted to know what misogyny looked like he should pick up a mirror.
“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office,” she said. “Well I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and is writing out his resignation.”
Liz Truss, the UK’s trade secretary, has dismissed concerns over Abbott’s misogynistic views as “irrelevant”.
Abbott gave a speech to the rightwing Heritage Foundation in Washington DC earlier this year, in which he said Donald Trump’s presidency had been “quite a success” – and labelled his methods “crude but effective”.
“He’s not just your president. As the leader of the free world, in a sense he’s everyone’s president, and the world needs him to succeed almost as much as America does,” Abbott said.
Abbott strongly opposed same-sex marriage during Australia’s landmark vote on the issue in 2017, and was one of the most high-profile campaigners against marriage equality. Over the course of the campaign, he condemned “moral bullying” from the “gay lobby”.
Launching the campaign, he said: “If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”