Former Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said Tony Abbott was a “good and generous man” who had worked “tirelessly” for Australia. His vote of confidence comes amid controversy surrounding plans for the UK Government to hand a senior trade role to Mr Abbott despite concerns about his attitude towards women and homosexuality.
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.
Labour MPs have said comments made by Mr Abbott in the past make him a “misogynist” – claims the former prime mInister denies.
A socially conservative Catholic who was born in England, Mr Abbott is opposed to gay marriage.
Amid the barrage of criticism at plans for his new role, Mr Hannan has defended Mr Abbott, who led his nation from 2013 until he was ousted by his own party in 2015.
He posted on Twitter: “Wokies who call @HonTonyAbbott ‘misogynist’ or “homophobic” really mean that he is a practising Catholic.
“Tony is a good and generous man who still works tirelessly for Australia’s indigenous communities.
“He knows how to get ambitious trade deals done. We are lucky to have him.”
Mr Abbott has previously said that he feels “a bit threatened” by homosexuality and is opposed same-sex marriage
He has also been accused of misogyny by fellow former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
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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”.
Opposition MPs have been highly critical of the defence, with shadow minister Peter Kyle saying ministers “don’t even pretend not to embrace bigots anymore”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said in an interview: “I have real concerns about Tony Abbott and I don’t think he’s the right person for the job. If I was prime minister I wouldn’t appoint him.”
Labour MP Marie Rimmer added: “Surely there’s trade experts who aren’t homophobic and misogynists? Britain deserves better than Tony Abbott representing us on the world stage.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Abbott’s coronavirus views are “deeply offensive and wrong” and he is not fit to be a trade envoy.
Mr Abbott has railed against what he calls “health dictatorships”, saying states across the world are ordering people about during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that every life was precious but that families sometimes had to elect to allow elderly relatives to die as nature took its course.
Ms Sturgeon said: ”But Tony Abbott, before these comments, is a misogynist, he’s a sexist, he’s a climate change denier,” she told Sky News.
“Trade, in many respects, should reflect our values – there should be ethics attached to any country’s trading profile.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss was later grilled by opposition MPs in the House of Commons about the planned appointment.
Ms Truss said: “I think it’s absolute hypocrisy to hear this type of argument from the Labour Party.
“The reality is they’d rather virtue-signal and indulge in tokenism rather than take real action to improve the lives of women.”
Britain has not yet confirmed Mr Abbott, who supported Britain’s exit from the EU, will help advise the government on its post-Brexit trade policy as a member of Britain’s Board of Trade.