Tony Abbott says wink during granny's talk-show phone-sex confession was mistake | South China Morning Post
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  • Mar 30, 2015
  • Updated: 12:45am
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AUSTRALIA

Tony Abbott says wink during granny's talk-show phone-sex confession was mistake

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 10:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 10:36pm
 

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledged yesterday that he made a mistake when he smiled and winked in a talk radio studio while listening to an elderly woman pensioner say she had been forced to become a phone-sex worker because of her financial difficulties.

I should have been more focused on the caller and less focused on the interviewer
TONY ABBOTT

The gesture on Wednesday, captured by a television camera and broadcast prominently in national news bulletins, has proved an unwelcome distraction for Abbott, who is selling unpopular budget cutbacks that are criticised as betraying his conservative government's lack of empathy for the poor.

A woman who identified herself as Gloria, a chronically ill 67-year-old grandmother, called Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in Melbourne on Wednesday to ask Abbott how she was supposed to pay an extra A$850 (HK$6,100) a year in medical expenses that she estimated the budget measures would cost her.

Abbott winked and smiled after she told him that she survived on a pension and worked for a phone sex service "to make ends meet".

He later said he had been reacting to a smile from the show's host, Jon Faine, varying from the prime minister's office's explanation that he had been signalling to a producer that he was willing to answer rather than have the call cut short.

"Obviously it was an interesting call from someone who had an interesting story," Abbott said later on Wednesday.

But after a storm of criticism on social media and from political opponents, Abbott conceded that he made a mistake.

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have been more focused on the caller and less focused on the interviewer," Abbott told the Nine Network television. "Mistakes are always regrettable ... and I will do my best having made a mistake yesterday to make none today."

A woman identifying herself as Gloria called ABC again yesterday, condemning Abbott's wink as slimy and sleazy.

It was a sentiment shared by Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator for the Greens party, which has vowed to block some of the government's toughest budget measures.

"Rather than taking seriously her concerns of poverty and illness, he gave a wink and a smirk; … What a creep. What a total creep," Hanson-Young said.

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