Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has been described by critics as a “gaffe-prone misogynist” after it was revealed he will take up a plum post-Brexit job in Britain.
Mr Abbott has been appointed to a senior role on the relaunched UK Board of Trade.
Its website states: “The UK Board of Trade champions exports, inward investment and outward direct investment to deliver economic growth and prosperity across the whole of the United Kingdom.”
The Sun reported Mr Abbott was requested to join the trade team by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and will be joint president with Trade Secretary Liz Truss.
Mr Abbott had breakfast with Ms Truss this week and will return to London from Italy to give a speech to centre-right think tank Policy Exchange next week, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Mr Abbott said he is “travelling in strict accordance with the rules as administered by the Border Force Commissioner and will comply in full”.
“All travel, including the mandatory two weeks of hotel quarantine upon my return, will be paid for privately,” he said.
“I have not sought any exemption from quarantine requirements, nor will I.”
UK Labour Party shadow secretary of state for international trade, Emily Thornberry, described his appointment as “absolutely staggering”.
“On a personal level, it is shameful that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, aggressive, leering, gaffe-prone misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.
“And on a professional level, this is someone with no hands-on experience of negotiating trade agreements, who denies the climate change that we believe should be at the heart of our trade policy, and who clearly has no concept of the importance of Britain’s trade with the EU.
“He was ousted by his own colleagues after just two years in power, and rejected by his own constituents just last year. They are the people who know him best, and wanted rid of him, yet here we are now, hiring him to negotiate our trade deals around the world.
“It’s yet more breathtaking incompetence from a government that has turned it into an art-form.”
Leader of the UK House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “An excellent appointment to ensure that ‘cities shall with commerce shine’.”
Originally a “reluctant Remainer”, Mr Abbott last year told the Conservative Party conference it was “no big deal” if Britain exited without a deal from the European Union.
“Let me reassure anyone in Britain, anxious about the prospect of no deal, that Australia does one hundred billion dollars’ worth of trade with the EU every single year, on this very basis,” he said in his Policy Exchange keynote address.
“Sure, we have some trade facilitation arrangements. These arise from the mutual self-interest that exists between any two entities that wish to do business with each other regardless of whether they are in some form of political union.”
Mr Abbott is a staunch monarchist who was born in London but renounced his UK citizenship in the 1990s.
He served as prime minister from September 2013 to September 2015 when he was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull in a Liberal Party spill.
In 2011, he said “sometimes sh*t happens doesn’t it” when discussing the death of an Australian soldier with a US soldier in Afghanistan.
He later bizarrely stayed silent and stood staring at Seven journalist Mark Riley when he was asked to provide some context to his comments.
In 2012, former prime minister Julia Gillard delivered her famous misogyny speech towards the then-opposition leader.
“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man,” she said. “I will not.”
Ms Gillard said if Mr Abbott wanted to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, “he needs a mirror”.
In 2015, Mr Abbott famously chowed down on a raw brown onion.
He also crusaded against legalising same-sex marriage.
The 62-year-old lost his blue-ribbon Sydney seat of Warringah to independent candidate Zali Steggall in the federal election in May 2019.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday praised Mr Abbott’s appointment as a “good hire” by the UK government, ABC Radio reported.
Asked if Mr Abbott would now have to register as an agent of foreign influence under Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, Mr Morrison said he would “leave that for the Attorney-General to sort out”.
“If there’s paperwork for Tony to fill out, I’m sure he’ll get that done,” he said.
“But well done Boris (Johnson), good hire.”
The purpose of the scheme, which began in December 2018, “is to provide the public with visibility of the nature, level and extent of foreign influence on Australia’s government and politics”.
Australian Labor trade spokeswoman Madeleine King “literally thought news of Tony Abbott’s new job working for the UK was a hoax”.
“But I thought the same thing when he knighted Prince Philip. Nothing can surprise me anymore,” she said on Twitter.
Greens leader Adam Bandt called for Mr Abbott to be stripped of his $300,000 parliamentary pension.
“The Australian public should not be paying him to promote the interests of another country,” he said.
It is not clear whether Mr Abbott will have a salary and further details, including his exact title, are yet to be confirmed.