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Tony Abbott, the Australian opposition leader recently labeled a misogynist, has drawn fire again for suggesting the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard — who is childless — must lack child-rearing experience.
Tony Abbott, the Australian opposition leader recently labeled a misogynist, has been forced to apologize for suggesting that the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard — who is childless — must lack parental experience.
Abbott — a father of three — criticized the government's plans to reduce the country's "baby bonus" — a payment made to parents of newborns — from 5,000 Australian dollars ($5,160) to 3,000 dollars for second and subsequent children, the Associated Press reported.
Gillard's government attempted to justify the cuts by saying that parents bought new cribs, strollers and other baby equipment only once, reusing them for subsequent children.
However Abbott countered by saying:
"Often one child is still in the cot [crib] when the second one comes along, one child is still in the pram [stroller] when the second one comes along. I think if the government was a bit more experienced in this area they wouldn't come out with glib lines like that."
Gillard — who recently branded Abbott a misogynist in a widely reported speech to Australia's Parliament — immediately called on Abbott to clarify his comment, saying on ABC radio:
"Mr Abbott can explain what he meant by that line."
It is not the first time 51-year-old unmarried Gillard — Australia's first woman prime minister — has been personally targeted by Abbott's conservative Liberal Party.
The AP noted that five years ago Liberal Sen. Bill Heffernan said Gillard did not deserve a leadership role because she had decided not to have children, and claimed she was "deliberately barren."
According to Agence France-Presse, Trade Minister Craig Emerson, a member of Gillard's Labor party, responded to Abbott's assertions about parental experience by asking what he meant:
"If he's talking about the treasurer [Wayne Swan], well he's got several children; I've got several children. So what's he really on about to suggest that this government isn't experienced at having children and therefore with the costs of children?"
Abbott on Tuesday accused the government of "hyperventilating" over the comments, adding that while he meant no offense he would apologize.
"If she [Gillard] wants to take offense, of course I'm sorry about that. And if she would like me to say sorry, I'm sorry," Abbott told the Fairfax media, adding:
"Mate, I think a lot of people are very ready to read far too much into entirely innocent comments. This was as innocent as a comment can be."
But according to TVNZ, Abbott's fellow conservative MP Joe Hockey, who has three children under five, said Gillard's ruling Labor Party was being "pathetic":
"Anyone who had been through that experience would know that you have to have two cots, you have to have a double pram."