Tony Abbott scores UK trade role
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been appointed as an adviser to the UK board of trade despite backlash over comments he has made in the past.
The appointment was confirmed on Friday afternoon UK time.
It comes after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected claims he was unsuitable following his comments on women and LGBT people that made headlines in the UK this week.
Mr Johnson said he did "not agree with those sentiments", but he "can't be expected" to agree with everyone who works with the government.
He said Mr Abbott had been elected by the "great, liberal democratic nation of Australia," saying, "I think that speaks for itself."
Mr Abbott's role is said to be as an unpaid adviser with no direct role in future trade negotiations, instead advising ministers and officials as part of an expert panel.
The board of trade is designed to take a "collaborative approach" focussing on promoting the UK as regions to do business with.
Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, who is president of the board said: "The new board of trade will play an important role in helping Britain make the case for free and fair trade across the UK and around the world.
"At a time of increased protectionism and global insecurity, it's vital that the UK is a strong voice for open markets and that we play a meaningful role in reshaping global trading rules alongside like-minded countries.
"The new board will help us do that, bringing together a diverse group of people who share Britain's belief in free enterprise, democracy, and high standards and rules-based trade.
Oxford Economist, Dr Linda Yueh said: "I am honoured to advise on trade policy at this important time. Trade will play a key role in supporting the UK's economic growth."
The news appointments come as the board looks to negotiate free trade deals with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
On Friday morning Mr Abbot's former Chief of Staff Peta Credlin defended him on UK radio.
"He was in Parliament for 25 years. Every single one of his chiefs of staff were women. The guy's got three sisters, a very strong, independent wife and three daughters. He's not a misogynist," she said.
On Thursday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was forced to defend his record to Sky News host Kay Burley when she questioned if he was the "right sort of person to represent us".
Mr Hancock replied: "The proposal is that Mr Abbott supports the UK on trade policy which is an area in which he has a huge amount of expertise. We need to have the best experts in the world working in that field."
"Even if he's a homophobic misogynist?" Burley shot back.
"I don't think that's true," Mr Hancock squirmed in reply.
"I've just told you what he said. I'm sure you don't support some of his comments. He's a homophobe and he's a misogynist," she pressed.
"Well he's also an expert in trade," Mr Hancock replied.
"So one plays off against the other, is that really what you're saying Health Secretary, c'mon?" she asked.
Other MPs from the Conservative, Labour and Scottish National Party also lined up to condemn Mr Abbott, with Labour leader Keir Starmer and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying they would not have appointed him.
Mr Abbott is in the UK for 10 days after having been given permission to travel from Australia and will quarantine at his own expense upon returning home.
Originally published as Tony Abbott scores UK trade role