Boris Johnson defended his appointment on Friday, saying: “I obviously disagree at all with those sentiments, but I do not agree with anyone who serves the government unpaid on hundreds of boards of directors. administration across the country.
“What I would say about Tony Abbott is he’s a guy who got elected by the great liberal democratic nation of Australia.But in Australia, parliamentarians questioned whether Abbott’s inside knowledge of the Liberal Party – which is part of the ruling coalition government and which he led as Prime Minister from 2013 to 2015 – presented a conflict of interest. interests in his new role.
Mark Dreyfus, the shadow public prosecutor for the opposition Labor Party, said on Saturday: “It is up to the Morrison government to explain how a former Liberal prime minister can now work for a foreign power by giving advice on potentially matters. in direct conflict with the commercial interests of Australia.
“And how conflicts arising from Mr. Abbott’s intimate knowledge of Australia’s interests and business strategies, gained during his years as Minister and Prime Minister, will be handled.”
Other parliamentarians have gone further. Rex Patrick, an independent senator from South Australia, called Abbott’s appointment “a shame” and called on the former prime minister to be forced to register as a foreign agent under the Australian program transparency from foreign influences.
He said Abbott should be deprived of “most” of his travel and office expenses. “Australian taxpayers should not subsidize a foreign agent,” Patrick said on social media.
But the Attorney General of Australia, Christian Porter, congratulated Abbott on his appointment and wished him “every success” in securing a new free trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom.
“Mr. Abbott will undoubtedly be aware of the routine demands of former cabinet ministers as part of the foreign influence transparency program,” he said. “In the first place, it is up to each individual to determine whether or not their situation meets the registration requirements.”
In the run-up to his appointment to the unpaid post, Abbott drew criticism from Tory MPs, charities and LGBT and environmental activists, having been one of nine outside advisers appointed to the Board of Trade. The advice, relaunched by Theresa May, is intended to help shape UK trade policy post-Brexit.
Abbott was a controversial Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 until his ousting by fellow Liberal Party colleagues in 2015. He described abortion as “the easy way” and suggested that men are better suited than women to exercise their authority. A former opponent of equal marriage, Abbott also suggested that climate change was “probably doing good,” and compared policies aimed at combating it to “primitive people who once killed goats to appease the volcano gods.”
Indeed, Abbott, who gave a controversial speech against Covid’s ‘health dictatorships’ in the UK this week, appears to have caused divisions even among his Board of Trade-appointed colleagues.
Anne Boden, founder of the exclusively online bank Starling, tweeted to say she was “happy to advise the chamber of commerce” and said it was “important that we have empowering voices” when speaking to ministers.
Happy to advise the Chamber of Commerce – it is important that we have empowering voices in such an important body. I support diversity and this woman too
But the financial technology expert added: “I support diversity and this woman too,” in connection with a famous 2012 speech by another former Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, in which she accused Abbott of being a misogynist in the country’s parliament.