Health secretary Matt Hancock has defended Tony Abbott following criticism of a government proposal to employ the former Australian prime minister as a UK trade envoy.
Abbott, who repeatedly denounced for making homophobic and misogynistic remarks over the years, is currently talks to become joint president of the Board of Trade to help the UK negotiate post-Brexit trade deals.
Mr Abbott, who served as leader of Australia between 2013-15, has previously said he feels "threatened" by homosexuality and that marriage equality will lead to "erosion of family."
He also once questioned in an interview whether men having more "power" than women was "a bad thing".
Speaking to Sky News host Kay Burley on Thursday morning (3 September), Matt Hancock defended the possibility of Abbott representing the UK on the international stage, saying he "a huge area of expertise".
'Is Tony Abbott the right person to represent us - even if he's a homophobic misogynist?' - @KayBurley— SkyNews (@SkyNews) September 3, 2020
Health Secretary @MattHancock says the former Australian PM is "also an expert in trade" and denies the claims.
Follow #KayBurley live: https://t.co/Qj88d3ncEp pic.twitter.com/ELhm8PzXAo
"I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love, whoever that is", Hancock added.
"But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia, obviously Mr Abbott has a huge amount of experience."
Asked by Burley whether he believed Abbott was a "homophobic misogynist", Hancock said: "I don't think that's true."
Reminded again of Abbott's past comments, Mr Hancock spluttered: "Well, he's also an expert in trade."
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he has "real concerns" about the potential appointment of Abbott.
"I don't think he's the right person for the job", he said. "If I was prime minister I wouldn't appoint him."