Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another day, another Abbott soundbite for the ages - Sydney Morning Herald

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'Young, feisty and with sex appeal'

Opposition leader Tony Abbott talks up Lindsay candidate Fiona Scott by likening her 'sex appeal' to former MP Jackie Kelly.

Perhaps liberated by the blokey surrounds of Penrith Stadium, Tony Abbott possibly went a little too far when describing the assets of Fiona Scott, the Coalition's candidate for Lindsay in western Sydney.

She has "sex appeal", apparently.

During his tour of western Sydney on Tuesday, a reporter asked Mr Abbott what he thought Lindsay candidate Ms Scott had in common with former Coalition MP for Lindsay Jackie Kelly.

"They're young, they're feisty, I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal," Mr Abbott said, before adding: "They're just very very connected with the local area".

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Journalists and minders laughed nervously. Since Julia Gillard's misogyny speech in Parliament last year, Mr Abbott's team has been trying to counter perceptions that he has a "woman problem".

They will not welcome these latest comments, which add to an archive that includes statements including that abortion was the "easy way out" and his suggestion that women may not have the right physiology for public life.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott greets Liberals candidate Fiona Scott.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott greets Liberals candidate Fiona Scott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Greens leader Christine Milne savaged Mr Abbott for his comments about Ms Scott, saying they were ''superficial and sexist''.

''Why didn't he talk about professionalism or policy or intellect?'' Senator Milne asked.

''What it demonstrates is that for the Coalition, female politicians are just accessories. They don't take them seriously and the fact that Tony Abbott in the midst of his totally stage-managed performances still refers to women in this way shows you what you would be getting with Tony Abbott as prime minister,'' Senator Milne said.

Labor refused to weigh in, issuing only a one-sentence statement. "Mr Abbott's comments are entirely a matter for Mr Abbott."

Challenged on Twitter on why Labor was not condemning the comments, Childcare Minister Kate Ellis said she was out speaking to voters who had told her ''loud and clear'' they wanted candidates to focus on their issues.

But the comments sparked debate on Twitter, with #sexappeal among the most discussed topics on the social media platform.

Liberal campaign spokesman Mathias Cormann defended the Opposition Leader.

''That was clearly a light-hearted comment by Tony Abbott today. I'm sure that he meant no offence.''

Mr Abbott's afternoon was supposed to be a cheery one. He was in Penrith for a sausage sizzle to introduce the Liberal Party's western Sydney candidates and to launch the Tony Abbott bus that will be campaigning in the region.

Besides that, he had $12 million to spend on a community sports centre in western Sydney.

It began well enough. When Mr Abbott arrived in the Penrith car park, Liberal Party members waving balloons whistled and chanted ''Tony! Tony!''.

Then Jaymes Diaz arrived. The candidate for Greenway caused Mr Abbott grief in the first week of the campaign when he could not remember basic details of the Coalition's asylum seeker policy.

Mr Abbott introduced the candidates. He waxed lyrical about local heroes who had given their lives to public service. But his description of Mr Diaz was more reserved: ''a professional from western Sydney''.


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