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Malcolm Turnbull reignites feud with Tony Abbott by calling new UK trade advisor role a 'beat up'

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has lashed out at his predecessor Tony Abbott over his views on women and mocked his appointment to a UK trade advisory role as a ‘beat up’.

Mr Abbott was last week appointed to the unpaid role of trade envoy – a move sparking controversy in Britain with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling him a ‘misogynist’ and ‘sexist’.

Mr Turnbull on Monday said his long-term Liberal rival ‘has got to live with’ comments he has made in the past about women.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott pictured in 2013 with his daughters Bridget, Louise and Frances (from right) and wife Margaret (second from left).  He has been appointed to the unpaid role of trade envoy by the UK government

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott pictured in 2013 with his daughters Bridget, Louise and Frances (from right) and wife Margaret (second from left).  He has been appointed to the unpaid role of trade envoy by the UK government

Mr Abbott's successor as Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull pictured with his wife Lucy in January in Sydney. He said Mr Abbott 'has got to live with' comments he has made in the past about women

Mr Abbott’s successor as Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull pictured with his wife Lucy in January in Sydney. He said Mr Abbott ‘has got to live with’ comments he has made in the past about women

‘We don’t need to go through them – we all know what his publicly stated views are. He was probably the most vocal opponent of marriage equality,’ Mr Turnbull told ABC TV.

‘Tony has got very… what would I say? Reactionary views, I think, on women‘s role in the world.’

He added Mr Abbott would be more at home in the UK because of his ‘view of the Anglosphere’.

Mr Turnbull dumped Mr Abbott’s controversial policy of naming Knights and Dames after ousting him as prime minister in 2015, calling the concept ‘out of date’.

Mr Turnbull also slammed his Liberal rival’s treatment of Labor leader and former prime minister Julia Gillard.

In 2011, Mr Abbott memorably stood in front of a sign reading ‘ditch the witch’ at an anti-carbon tax rally – prompting Ms Gillard’s famous takedown of her political opponent in parliament.

‘He has got to live with the incredibly effective framing of him by Julia Gillard in that speech in the house which I was there for,’ Mr Turnbull said.

Tony Abbott pictured with UK leader Boris Johnson. Mr Turnbull said the idea of appointing a former Australian prime minister to the role was 'awkward to say the least'

Tony Abbott pictured with UK leader Boris Johnson. Mr Turnbull said the idea of appointing a former Australian prime minister to the role was ‘awkward to say the least’

The former Liberal leader – who was ousted by Scott Morrison as Australian prime minister in 2018 – said the idea Mr Abbott would be negotiating trade deals in his new role with the UK government was a ‘beat up’.

‘I’m not sure who was responsible for the beat up, whether it was Tony or the government or someone else,’ Mr Turnbull said.

‘Boris Johnson has appointed him to an unpaid advisory role to their board of trade, which is essentially the trade minister and a couple of other senior ministers. 

‘He is not going to be negotiating trade deals. Obviously a former Australian Prime Minister, if he was representing another country, that would be awkward to say the least.’ 

Mr Abbott has received widespread criticism from British politicians and commentators following his newly appointed role as a trade envoy for the United Kingdom

Mr Abbott has received widespread criticism from British politicians and commentators following his newly appointed role as a trade envoy for the United Kingdom

The Scottish first minister meanwhile had said if she had anything to do with the hiring process, then she would not have Mr Abbott as the UK’s trade envoy.  

‘The idea that anyone could take that view is deeply offensive and wrong,’ she told Sky News UK.

‘But Tony Abbott, even before these comments, is a misogynist, he’s a sexist, he’s a climate change denier.

‘In my view he’s not the kind of person who should be a trade envoy or any kind of envoy for the United Kingdom’. 

The former Australian prime minister was branded a 'misogynist' and 'sexist' by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on British television

The former Australian prime minister was branded a ‘misogynist’ and ‘sexist’ by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on British television

Mr Abbott released a statement on Twitter about his new role, in which he said he was ‘only too keen’ to help the UK.

‘A UK-Australia trade deal, maximising the movement of goods, services and people is clearly in the best interests of both our countries,’ he said.

‘It’s important for the wider world that Britain make the most of its post-Brexit opportunities and I am proud to be playing a part.

‘My government finalised trade deals between Australia and China, Japan and Korea. I’m looking forward to bringing that expertise to bear as Britain works towards mutually beneficial improvements with its major trading partners.’

Six controversial things Tony Abbott has said over the years 

1.) Homosexuality is ‘threatening’

In 2010, when asked about his views on homosexuality, Mr Abbott said: ‘I probably feel a bit threatened, as so many people do.’ 

He also campaigned against same-sex marriage. 

In his campaign against gay marriage 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.’ 

2.) Abortion ‘the easy way out’

When discussing abortion rates in Australia in 2004, he described a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy as ‘the easy way out’.

3.) Men are more suited for leadership roles

He said that men are suited to leadership roles as they are ‘by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command’.

4.) Climate change is ‘probably doing good’

Speaking in 2009 he said he is ‘hugely unconvinced’ by the science on climate change.

He previously said global warming is ‘probably doing good’ and likened environmental policies to ‘primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods’.

5.) ‘Nature should take its course’ with elderly COVID victims

Mr Abbott said people should be allowed to choose to ‘let nature take its course’ if their elderly relatives get COVID-19.

6.) Female candidate’s ‘sex appeal’

During the 2014 election campaign, he described a female opposition candidate as ‘feisty’ and said she had ‘a bit of sex appeal’.

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