The Health Secretary struggled as he was challenged over Mr Abbott’s expected appointment to a post-Brexit role.
In a bruising interview on Sky News, Mr Hancock was told by presenter Kay Burley that Mr Abbott – who denies being homophobic or sexist – had previously said he was ‘threatened’ by homosexuality and men were better to exercise power.
Mr Hancock, who was wearing an NHS badge with the LGBTQ rainbow flag, said he ‘bowed to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love’.
‘As far as I understand it, the proposal is that Mr Abbott supports the UK on trade policy, which is an area which he has got a huge area of expertise,’ he said.
Matt Hancock (pictured on Sky news today) batted away criticism that former Australian PM Tony Abbott could get a job as a UK trade envoy despite concerns about his attitude to women and gay people
Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted a photo of herself with Mr Abbott last night
‘I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love, whoever that is.
‘But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia, he has a huge amount of experience.’
Pressed on whether he felt that way even if Mr Abbott was a homophobic misogynist, Mr Hancock said: ‘I don’t think that’s true.’
Burley said she had read some of Mr Abbott’s previous comments, adding: ‘He is homophobe, and he is a misogynist.’
Mr Hancock said: ‘He’s also an expert in trade.’
Mr Abbott opposed same-sex marriage, and was accused of misogyny by fellow former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
He was embroiled in controversy earlier this week, when he suggested nature should be allowed to ‘take its course’ for more elderly victims of Covid-19.
Mr Abbott told an event in London that ‘it’s a bad time for anyone with the virus, but it is also a bad time for people that would rather not be dictated to by officials’.
He said the current pandemic had forced governments to ask the question ‘how much is a life worth’.
But he argued that while ‘every death is sad’ that has ‘never stopped families sometimes electing to make relatives as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course’.
Mr Abbott railed against lockdown rules as he called for them to be eased and for people to make more of their own decisions about the risks posed by coronavirus.
He said ‘surely it is time to relax the rules so that individuals can take more personal responsibility’.
In a bruising interview on Sky News, Matt Hancock was told by presenter Kay Burley that Mr Abbott – who denies being homophobic or sexist – had previously said he was ‘threatened’ by homosexuality and men were better to exercise power