Australia's 'misogynist' politician puts his foot in it again
Abbott declared that Australia's government, which is led by the childless Prime Minister Gillard, has a lack of experience in raising children.
Gillard has no children, and in what has been interpreted by some as a thinly veiled reference to this, Abbott criticised the government's plans to reduce the "baby bonus", a payment made to Australian parents of newborns. The $5 000 (Australian dollar) handout will be cut back for second and subsequent children.
The government reasoned that parents bought most of their baby equipment such as cots and prams for the first child and didn't need so much money to buy new items for each subsequent baby. But Abbott responded: "Often one child is still in the cot when the second one comes along, one child is still in the pram when the second one comes along.
"I think if the government was a bit more experienced in this area they wouldn't come out with glib lines like that."
When asked in an ABC radio interview about Abbott's comments, Gillard said: "Mr Abbott can explain what he meant by that line." Other senior Labour government figures called for clarification.
The trade minister, Craig Emerson, told Sky News: "If he's talking about the treasurer [Wayne Swan], well he's got several children. I've got several children. So what's he [Abbott] really on about to suggest that this government isn't experienced at having children and therefore with the costs of children?"
Tony Abbott's office denied his comments were aimed at Gillard, instead saying he was criticising the government's general approach to families.
"Plainly what he meant was that this government and the senior ministers in it have absolutely no understanding of the pressures on ordinary families," the shadow attorney general, George Brandis, told Sky News. This is not the first time Gillard has been in the national spotlight over children. In 2007 the conservative senator, Bill Heffernan, accused the prime minister, then in opposition, of being unfit for leadership because she was "deliberately barren".
Gillard is not married – she has a long-term partner, Tim Mathieson. Abbott's comments come after two weeks of intense political debate over misogyny and sexism, following the prime minister's speech to Parliament in which she told him if he wanted to know what a misogynist in modern Australia looked like he should look in a mirror.
On Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio on Tuesday, Gillard said she stood by "every word of that speech". "I pointed to some very clear statements by Mr Abbott which I think indicated his attitudes to Australians and to Australian women in particular," she said.
Amongst other things, Gillard's "sexism" speech cited Abbott's past description of abortion as "the easy way out" and his characterisation of Australian women as housewives who did the ironing. The video has been watched more than two-million times on YouTube. On Monday the first major survey of public opinion since the speech showed her approval ratings had risen significantly, including amongst men, though her minority Labour government would still narrowly lose an election if it were held straight away. – © Guardian News and Media 2012