Matt Hancock defends plan to hire 'homophobic' Tony Abbott

Matt Hancock has defended a plan to hire former Australian PM Tony Abbott in a senior trade role.

Mr Abbot 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.

Questioned on Sky News, the Health Secretary said he does not believe that Mr Abbott is homophobic or misogynistic.

However, some think he implied he was but that it could be overlooked when Kay Burley said ‘He’s a homophobe and he’s a misogynist’, to which Mr Hancock replied: ‘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.

Mr Hancock, wearing an NHS badge with the LGBTQ rainbow flag, was pressed over the suitability of Mr Abbott, who led his nation from 2013 until he was ousted by his own party in 2015.

‘I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love, whoever that is,’ he said.

‘But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and the former prime minister of Australia has a huge amount of experience.’

Opposition MPs were highly critical of the defence, with shadow minister Peter Kyle saying ministers ‘don’t even pretend not to embrace bigots anymore’.

Labour MP David Lammy said: ‘So the govenrment admits Tony Abbott is a homphobe and a misogynist, it just doesn’t care.’

Fellow 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.’

The NHS Rainbow Badge twitter account also called out Mr Hancock for wearing the badge if he would support Mr Abbott.

‘It’s your choice to wear the rainbow badge Matt Hancock,’ they said. ‘Please only continue to wear it if you actually believe in what it stands for.’

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