Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott did it again. He is "under fire" for allegedly sexist remarks delivered while defending his record of reforms and cuts. In the wake of a cabinet reshuffle to boost his flagging government (and low approval ratings), Abbott hailed the success of his controversial repeal of the country's carbon tax, a move that was panned by environmental campaigners and other critics of the conservative premier.
"As many of us know," Abbott told a local TV station, "women are particularly focused on the household budget, and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550-a-year benefit for the average family."
Abbott's comments came after the prime minister had been asked what his greatest contribution had been as Australia's minister for women, a portfolio he also holds.
The backlash was swift. "The problem isn't that Tony Abbott's stuck in the past," said Anthony Albanese, an opposition lawmaker. "It's that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company in a world where men do the big jobs and women do the ironing."
"He might as well have said that by abolishing the carbon price he’s been able to give women more money to buy a new iron and stay at home and do the ironing more often," said Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens. "It’s almost as if he’s [the minister for women] to make sure there are no strides ahead for women in Australia."
This is hardly the first time that Abbott has courted controversy for remarks that seemed misogynist or backward. The repeated reference to "ironing" stems from an argument Abbott made in 2010, clumsily addressing what "the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing." In 2012, Abbott, then the leader of the opposition, was the subject of a blistering 15-minute speech by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who accused him directly of sexism and misogyny.
Earlier this year, Abbott fanned the flames again when he winked and smirked during a radio call-in as an elderly woman described the adult hotline work she had to do to compensate for welfare cuts enacted by his government. My colleague Terrence McCoy put together a fuller round-up of Abbott's purported sexism for Morning Mix.
After Abbott's latest conspicuous comments, a host of sarcastic hashtags trended on social media, including #MinisterforWomen, #putyourironout, and #thankstony.
— Doc (@Doclach) December 22, 2014
— Dame ODyne (@AnnieOdyne) December 22, 2014