Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was appointed to the newly launched Board of Trade of the British government despite heavy backlash.
The Department of International Trade announced tonight that Mr. Abbott has been appointed as an adviser to the Board of Directors.
He was widely known for the role of trade ambassador, but Downing Street was under heavy pressure not to continue because of the comments he had made in the past.
Confirmation of his appointment came after Boris Johnson defended him, saying he was a "man elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia".
The Prime Minister said he disagrees with Mr. Abbott's views on some issues, "but then I do not agree with anyone who serves the government in unpaid capacity on hundreds of bodies across the country".
Mr Johnson's intervention came after Sir Ian McKellen made calls to the government from environmental and equality activists not to appoint Mr Abbott to the role.
An open letter signed by Sir Ian and Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T. Davies and 24 other activists urged ministers to reconsider the appointment, claiming Abbott was "not fit to represent the UK ".
A climate change skeptic, Mr Abbott recently said he believes coronavirus lockdown rules should be abolished, arguing that nature should "let go".
He has previously said that he feels "a bit threatened" by homosexuality and that he opposes same-sex marriage. In 2012 he was indicted by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the Australian Parliament for misogyny and sexism.
Mrs Gillard said this morning that she stood by every word she said about Mr Abbott eight years ago but did not rely on whether he should be appointed to the commercial role and said it was a "decision for." the British Government ".
Abbott's allies have jumped in his defense, however, and his sister said it was "nothing less than dishonesty" to refer to her brother as "homophobia and misogynist" while former colleagues refer to him as a "giant of Australian politics".
Boris Johnson today defended Tony Abbott as "a man elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia".
Mr Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister, has been asked to join the newly launched Board of Trade, but there is growing backlash to his previous comments
The Department of International Trade said the new Board of Trade would meet quarterly and use its influence to & # 39;Help the UK strengthen its commitment to free trade internationally. "
International Trade Minister Liz Truss said the board would be a & # 39;diverse group of people who share the UK's belief in free enterprise, democracy and high standards and rules-based trade. "
The decision to appoint Mr. Abbott as an advisor to the Board of Directors is likely to spark a political firestorm.
On a visit to Solihull this afternoon, asked about allegations that Mr. Abbott was a sexist, homophobic, misogynist climate change denier, Mr. Johnson said: “I will make an announcement in due course about the composition of the Board of Trade.
“Obviously I disagree with these views at all, but then I do not agree with anyone who serves the government unpaid on hundreds of bodies across the country.
“And I can't wait for that. What I would say about Tony Abbott is that this is a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia.
“It's an amazing country, it's a freedom-loving country, it's a liberal country. I think that speaks for itself. & # 39;
An open letter from activists said Abbott "fought vigorously against the ultimately successful referendum in Australia to allow same-sex couples to marry" and "suggested that climate change is" probably good for you "".
The letter reads: “For all these reasons and more, this man is unable to represent Britain as our trade ambassador.
"If the government is really committed to an outward-looking future for Britain, fighting climate change and creating an equal society for all, it should reconsider its proposed appointment to Tony Abbott."
Ms. Gillard's comments on Mr. Abbott in 2012 have resurfaced amid the ongoing controversy over his possible appointment to the UK trade role.
She told Sky News this morning, "I said everything I had to say about it in October 2012, and that speech is still making the rounds all these years later, and I stand by every word of it."
“But I don't think I have to add anything in order to record my views. Of course, it is not my job to find out who the UK trade ambassador or specialist should be.
"This is a decision for the UK Government and ultimately for the views of the British people, so I will leave all of that to you."
Mr Abbott's sister, Christine Forster, defended her brother in a statement posted on Twitter.
She said, "It is nothing less than dishonesty for commentators and politicians who do not know Tony to label him" homophobic and misogynist "in order to score cheap political points.
"As a woman who was always part of his life and came to him as gay in my early 40s, I know indisputably that Tony is none of those things."
Sir Ian McKellen has signed an open letter with other environmental and gender equality activists calling on the UK government not to appoint Mr Abbott as a trade ambassador
Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard accused Abbott of being a misogynist in a speech in 2012. She said today that she stood by what she said but did not rely on whether he should be named trade ambassador
Mathias Cormann, a senior coalition minister who served under Abbott, said the former prime minister was "clearly a long-term giant in Australian politics".
Mr Abbott was Prime Minister in Australia for just two years before being ousted by his own Liberal Party in 2015.
Number 10 had previously refused to comment on the "political debate" surrounding Mr Abbott, while ministers had insisted that appointments had not yet been made.
The Prime Minister's deputy official spokesman said at noon today that "no final decisions have been made on the Board of Trade" and he would not be called upon if an announcement could be made.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News this morning, "I hate taking us back to reality, but he was not appointed to anything and, as far as I know, no appointments have been made.
"There are a lot of people I strongly disagree with, but I am not interested in defending people who are not really part of the UK government."