Margie Abbott talks up Tony’s ‘sensitive’ side
How does God turn a man into a feminist? Answer: He gives him three daughters.That gag summed up Margie Abbott’s foray into the world of political spin.
HOW does God turn a man into a feminist? Answer: He gives him three daughters.
That gag summed up Margie Abbott’s foray into the world of political spin.
The opposition leader’s wife made a proud and defiant speech in Sydney on Friday, supporting her husband in the face of opinion polls showing he remains unpopular with women, and a Labor offensive to entrench that view.
The previously publicity-shy Mrs Abbott came out with guns blazing, telling a business lunch in Penrith: “Don’t ever try and tell me that my husband of 24 years and the father of three daughters is on some anti-women crusade. It’s simply not true.
“Next time you meet someone who says that Tony doesn’t get women, ask them when was the last time they cycled 1000 kilometres raising $148,000 for their local women’s shelter. Which is what Tony did this year for Manly.
“And in 2006 he ran non-stop up and down the stairs of Centrepoint Tower with Pat Farmer to raise much needed funds to help lift the profile of ovarian cancer.”
Mrs Abbott said the couple’s three daughters were educated, confident, grounded and happy, “living the life that feminists aspire for every young woman”.
She praised her husband as a “good man with a great heart” in front of an audience which included one of those daughters, Mr Abbott’s mother and two of his three sisters, including Chris, who recently joined “the family business” by winning a seat on the Sydney City Council.
“He hasn’t let us down and he won’t let you down,” Mrs Abbott said.
She said the couple’s daughters had been kept away from politics while they were growing up but at the last election they had wanted to support their father.
“It was a real family effort and we want to do it again this time,” she said.
New Zealand-born Mrs Abbott also “outed” herself as a NZ Labour Party member for a brief time before “experience taught me the error of my ways, well before I met Tony”.
She said her only problem with her husband was that he was too competitive.
Two years ago she came up with the idea of kayaks as a joint Christmas present that would help them spend more time together.
But she quickly decided that one kayak was better than two.
“Two kayaks meant that it would always end up in a race rather than a time to talk and share a romantic moment,” she said.
“So a single kayak was purchased, and, when we can, we paddle together without the hint of competition.”
Mrs Abbott’s debut speech as the alternative prime minister’s wife capped a full-scale charm offensive in which she appeared on morning television with her husband and was featured in a family-oriented newspaper interview.
She painted a picture of her husband as a man who cries in sad movies, is a “soft touch” with his daughters, phones home morning and night no matter where he is, sends flowers on their anniversary, cleans the kitchen, cooks barbecues and was “a wreck” after she once suffered a miscarriage.
Mr Abbott, introducing his wife’s speech, praised her as a remarkable woman in her own right, a mother, community worker and Sydney child care centre manager who had kept their family together during his two decades in politics.
“I want to say thank you Margie for everything you have done for me,” he said.
Mrs Abbott’s defence of her husband came after Labor figures stepped up their attack on Mr Abbott by claiming he has a problem with women in positions of power.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and backbencher Julie Collins have been especially vocal, leading the coalition to coin the phrase “handbag hit squad.”
The attacks may be having some impact, as the latest Newspoll shows just 29 per cent of female voters are satisfied with Mr Abbott’s performance, compared with 34 per cent of men.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell slammed Labor’s claims as “outrageous”.
“They believe that if they say it often enough, people will start to believe it,” Mr O’Farrell said.
Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said some voters will see Mrs Abbott’s public appearances as a “stunt”.
“I’d like to think that anyone who wants to be this country’s future prime minister is not a misogynist,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“But I’ve been in politics as a young woman, long enough to know there’s plenty of them around.” – AAP