Vote for woman with sex appeal, says Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott

Liberal leader lives up to his reputation for sexism during poll campaign


If you aspire to be Prime Minister and already have a reputation for sexism, deserved or not, it probably isn’t a wise idea to cite “sex appeal” as a leading attribute of one of your female candidates.

Australia’s opposition leader, Tony Abbott, probably already knew that – but he got carried away by “exuberance” while campaigning in a key marginal constituency with his Liberal Party candidate, Fiona Scott, he explained later.

Asked what Ms Scott had in common with Jackie Kelly, the former Liberal MP for the seat of Lindsay, in western Sydney, Mr Abbott replied: “They’re young, they’re feisty – I think I can probably say, [they] have a bit of sex appeal.”

The remark by the Liberal leader – who was accused of sexism and misogyny by the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in a celebrated speech to parliament last year – caused a predictable Twitter storm and was condemned by his rivals. “He really is pathetic,” said a Labor minister, Kim Carr. “Sometimes we should think he really hasn’t crawled out of the 1950s.”

Ms Scott laughed awkwardly at Mr Abbott’s comment, according to witnesses, while her daughter, Frances, who was also standing at his side, visibly squirmed. He said later: “I was a bit exuberant today… but we’re all working incredibly hard to get her [Ms Scott] elected.”

Ms Kelly, who was MP for Lindsay for 11 years, said that she was nearly 50 and had two children. “There’s not much sex appeal here,” she said.

On Monday, Mr Abbott, whose Liberal-National Party coalition is four points ahead of Labor in the polls, provoked derision –and a great deal of toilet humour – when he declared that “nobody is the suppository of all knowledge” while criticising Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Also with him was another Liberal candidate, Jaymes Diaz, who achieved unwanted notoriety last week when – during an excruciating television interview – he was unable to detail his own party’s six-point plan for cracking down on asylum-seekers, beyond repeating, haplessly, that “we have a plan to stop the boats”.

The interview, which had received more than 41,000 views on YouTube as of last night, drew sympathy even from Labor politicians. After being whisked away for “media training”, Mr Diaz – who is standing in another western Sydney marginal constituency, Greenway – reappeared in public for the first time today, but dodged questions.

“I’ve got to go out there and campaign,” he said, when asked again about the six-point plan.

Lindsay, home to a substantial number of Anglo-Australian voters, has always been held by the party of government. The sitting MP is David Bradbury, Mr Rudd’s assistant treasurer, who has a majority of just over one per cent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'