14 Aug 2013

Election candidate's 'sex appeal' highlighted

6:57 am on 14 August 2013

Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott drew flak on Tuesday for describing a female election candidate as having sex appeal.

The ABC reports Mr Abbott was campaigning in the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay when he was asked what Liberal candidate Fiona Scott had in common with the last Liberal MP Jackie Kelly.

"They're young, feisty, I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal and they're just very connected with the local area," he said.

Mr Abbott was standing between Ms Scott and his daughter, both of whom laughed at the sex appeal comment.

Ms Kelly told the ABC she had two children, was organising school art shows and was pushing 50 years of age.

"There's not much sex appeal here," she said.

Labor frontbencher Kim Carr seized on the remarks, labelling Mr Abbott "pathetic".

However, the ABC reports Mr Abbott said later on Tuesday that he was simply being "exuberant". Ms Scott is running for the seat held by Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury by a margin of 1.1%.

"She's a mate of mine, I was exuberant, she's a hard working candidate who knows the electorate inside and out and I'm really proud to be associated with her," he said.

Mr Carr said Mr Abbott is stuck in the past.

"He's pathetic, he really is pathetic," he said. "Sometimes we should think Tony Abbott really hasn't crawled out of the 1950s."

However, Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said people should not be "too precious" about the comments.

Mr Robb said the comment was made "largely in jest" and no offence was meant or taken.

"He's got three strong-minded daughters, he's got sisters, one of whom's gay, he's got a highly competent and strong wife ... a very pleasant wife in Margie," Mr Robb said.

"Look - he's an average sort of person as far as these sort of things go and we've just got to not start to get too precious about this."

The general election will be held on 7 September.