Everything a woman could want in a man ... Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and wife Margie. Photo: Glen McCurtayne
Tony Abbott's wife of 24 years, Margie, has been at the forefront of an extraordinary media blitz to counter claims by Labor that the Opposition Leader has a problem with women.
Mrs Abbott, in an opinion piece for News Ltd, an appearance on breakfast television and then in a campaign-style speech, repeatedly said her husband was a good man with a great heart and the allegations that he could not "deal" with capable women was "simply untrue".
Addressing a Liberal Party-sponsored business lunch in Western Sydney today, Mrs Abbott told the 80 guests "he hasn't let us down and he won't let you down".
Mrs Abbott's "debut speech" - a carefully scripted piece that touched on some of the Liberal Party's core policies, including paid parental leave and the need for Labor's taxes to be scrapped – was part of a publicity offensive sparked by opinion polls that persistently show Mr Abbott is unpopular with women voters.
"Do you want to know how God turns a man into a feminist? He gives him three daughters," Mrs Abbott said.
"I'm not a politician and I'm not political – but just don't ever try and tell me that my husband of 24 years and the father of three daughters is on some anti-women crusade. It's simply not true."
Mrs Abbott said she and their three daughters would feature heavily in next year's election campaign.
The children had been kept away from politics while growing up but at the last election they had wanted to support their father.
"So we all got involved, rolled up our sleeves," she said. "It was a real family effort and we want to do it again this time.
"We want to do so because Tony is a good man with a great heart - and we want all Australians to know that."
Mrs Abbott also joined her husband on television this morning, saying she understood that politics was a rough-and-tumble business and that to achieve success, a tough exterior was required.
Meanwhile, News Ltd tabloids ran features on the couple, heavy with family photos and personal disclosures.
"Seeing the real person is often very difficult and sitting in front of a camera is perhaps not the best opportunity to show that softer side," Mrs Abbott told Channel Nine.
She said her husband was everything she could want in a husband and their daughters were "in love with their father".
"Tony Abbott gets women and ... the women in Tony Abbott's life certainly get him," she said.
Mrs Abbott revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage after the birth of their first daughter and said that Mr Abbott weeps while watching sentimental movies.
Mr Abbott, introducing his wife's speech, praised her as a "remarkable woman in her own right" – a mother, community worker and Sydney childcare centre manager who had kept their family together during his two decades in politics.
"I want to say thank you, Margie, for everything you have done for me," Mr Abbott said.
The couple was joined by their 21-year-old daughter, Frances, and two of Mr Abbott's sisters, as well as his mother.
The Liberal leader made special mention of his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, "who does an extraordinary job as ... in some ways, the de facto deputy leader of the opposition".
When asked if his wife's public defence of him was a "diversionary tactic", Mr Abbott said his wife had expressed a desire to step out of the background for some time.
"Margie and I were sitting around the breakfast table a couple of Sundays ago and she said, 'look, this is just wrong and it's unfair, I want to say something'," he said.