It's the wink that sparked a thousand tweets.
Tony Abbott gets a grilling
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is castigated by callers on talkback radio, including a struggling pensioner who works on an adult sex line, as he defends the Coalition budget.
Appearing on ABC Radio this morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was confronted by something not even the canniest spin doctor could have predicted: a call from a pissed-off pensioner who works on an adult sex line.
Gloria, from Warburton, was concerned about a new $7 fee on GP visits and the increased cost of medication.
"I would like to ask you if you'd like your mother or your grandmother to be in my situation," she said.
"I'm a 67-year-old pensioner with three chronic incurable medical conditions – two life-threatening. I just survive on around $400 a fortnight once 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.
"What do you suggest I cut out Mr Abbott? Food, electricity, firewood, Christmas and birthday presents to my grandchildren? Or should I just die and get out of your way?"
What those listening at home didn't know – and Mr Abbott apparently forgot – was that the interview was being filmed.
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Footage of Mr Abbott winking at radio host Jon Faine when Gloria mentioned her occupation went viral as soon as it was uploaded online. Some detected a smirk as well.
The wink: Abbott's moment in a gif
Reactions split, predictably, along partisan lines.
"Gloria tells her story of poverty and illness and the PM responds with a wink and a smirk. What a grub," tweeted Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young.
"Talk about a beat-up," tweeted @unami22, a self-described Coalition voter. "Left going crazy over a 'wink'. And yet same people were silent about Slipper & Thomson."
The Prime Minister's office, aware this was a bad look, quickly tried to hose the story down.
A spokeswoman moved through the parliamentary press gallery assuring reporters Mr Abbott did not wink to pass judgment on the caller. He was assuring Faine he was happy to proceed with the call.
The ABC, like Mr Abbott, was not aware Gloria was a sex line worker before putting her call to air.
A different explanation emerged later, however, with the Prime Minister telling Perth’s 6PR radio that he was simply reacting to Faine’s facial expression.
‘‘It was a reaction to Jon, really,’’ Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio.
‘‘Obviously it was an interesting call from someone who had an interesting story.
‘‘Jon was smiling at me and I responded to him.’’
Those who know Mr Abbott – and have seen him operate up close over many years – also note he is a prolific winker. It's a technique he uses to draw others in and put them at ease – a part of his communications tool box.
On this occasion though, he may be wishing that's where he left it.