Australian PM on Winking at Phone Sex Worker Grandma: 'A Mistake'

Australian PM on Winking at Phone Sex Worker Grandma: 'A Mistake'

“I shouldn’t have done it. I should have been more focused on the caller and less focused on the interviewer,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said of his controversial wink and smile at a grandmother named Gloria who called into a radio Q&A with Abbott and claimed to work as a phone sex operator to make ends meet.

“I just survive on around Aus $400 a fortnight after I pay my rent, and I work on an adult sex line to make ends meet. That’s the only way I can do it,” Gloria said to the Prime Minister on a radio phone-in show in Melbourne. She asked the Prime Minister “if you would like your mother or your grandmother to be in my situation?” Gloria called in to protest the across-the-board budget cuts Abbott’s conservative government is proposing.

In response, Abbott can be seen on camera winking and smiling, in a manner Gloria later called in to the same show to describe as “sleazy” and “slimy.”

In a different program, Abbott was approached about the controversy and expressed regret at behaving in such a way. He explained that he was not reacting to the caller but to Jon Faine, the host of the program, who he claims was smiling at him. The Prime Minister’s office had previously claimed that Abbott was smiling at a producer to indicate that he would take the call rather than signaling to cut the call short and move on to a different question.

“Obviously it was an interesting call from someone who had an interesting story,” Abbott later explained. “Mistakes are always regrettable… and I will do my best having made a mistake yesterday to make none today.”

Political opponents on the left have used the incident to attack Abbott and call into question his appreciation for the economic struggles of Australian women. In a column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Judith Ireland writes that the wink joins “a whole canon of Abbott gaffes in the area, which provide a handy lens to view any new ones. Despite the PM’s best efforts to promote his paid parental leave scheme, his female family members and his female chief-of-staff, his ‘women problem’ remains a liability for him.” Greens Party senator Sarah Hanson-Young, meanwhile, called the Prime Minister a “total creep.”

Supporters, meanwhile, are claiming the incident a distraction and “an attempt to seize the limelight with a rallying cry based on personal hatred.”

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