JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Wink is no laughing matter for Prime Minister with a 'women problem'

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

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.

PT0M0S 620 349

Did the Prime Minister wink while talking to a sex line worker because he was happy to take a question from her?

Or because he found her occupation totes hilarious?

This is the question that has been dominating play in federal politics on Wednesday after Tony Abbott encountered (another) angry pensioner during an interview with ABC Radio to sell the budget.

As talkback caller Gloria from Warburton declared that she supplemented her pension with sex line work, video footage of Abbott in the studio appeared to show a Prime Ministerial wink, giving way to a smirk (or grin depending on your definition), before turning into a broader smile and then a more sombre face.

The condemnation has been quick and sharp.

Tweeters have described Abbott's facial expressions as "creepy" and "disgusting".

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young even called the PM a "grub".

Handily enough, after the footage was circulated, a prime ministerial press secretary was up in the Press Gallery in Canberra quick smart to explain that Abbott was certainly *not* winking at the sex worker thing. He simply did it to reassure interviewer Jon Faine that he was happy to proceed with the call.

The wink: Abbott's moment in a gif

But this has not assuaged the cynics - and wink memes and jibes continue to fill up Twitter feeds.

Perhaps because Wednesday's incident is not the first time Abbott's judgment around women and their issues has been called into question.

Most famously, there was Julia Gillard's "I will not be lectured about sexism ... by this man" speech in 2012.

There is also Abbott's comment during the 2013 election campaign when he asked to compare former MP Jackie Kelly with then-candidate Fiona Scott and came up with "sex appeal". As well as the "bit of body contact never hurt anyone" line when he posed with the Sydney Swifts netball team and his appeal to voters (via a video to the Big Brother house) on the basis of his "not bad looking" daughters.

Indeed, there is a whole canon of Abbott gaffes in the area, which provide a handy lens to view any new ones. Despite the PM's best efforts to promote his paid parental leave scheme, his female family members and his female chief-of-staff, his "women problem" remains a liability for him.

Notice that people seem to be more outraged at Abbott winking than at the idea of a pensioner having to work on a sex line. Or the concept of someone, like Gloria, with serious medical conditions suffering as a result of the budget.

Abbott's woman problem is not a made up media idea either.

As the Australian Financial Review reported earlier this week, women (and voters over 55) are leading the exodus away from the Coalition.

A breakdown of the last four Nielsen polls shows that the Coalition's primary vote among women has dropped from 45 per cent in February to 33 per cent this week. Support among men is currently at 38 per cent.

The wink video is also not the first time the Coalition has been caught up in a "footage issue" in recent days.

Last week, there was much controversy about whether Christopher Pyne said "grub" or something else in the House of Representatives chamber. And then again, when footage emerged of him apparently signalling Speaker Bronwyn Bishop to shut down applause for Bill Shorten's budget reply speech.

In this ultra mediated age, politicians are not just scrutinised by what they say or how they look when they are on duty, but by everything they do on the sidelines. The fact that voters can now play and replay footage or audio at their will means this scrutiny can happen en masse and in minute detail.

And when the government is as unpopular as it currently is, people will be less willing to give MPs the benefit of the doubt.

Follow us on Twitter

Related Coverage

Tony Abbott gets a grilling (Thumbnail) 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.

PM should not represent women: Greens (Thumbnail) PM should not represent women: Greens

The latest gender related gaffe by the Prime Minister suggests he is 'not a good Minister for Women' says Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

Tony Abbott's wink over sex worker call: a grubby response or a beat-up?

It's the wink that sparked a thousand tweets.

'Lying and fear-mongering': Tony Abbott cops a grilling on talkback

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has conceded a new deficit levy on high-income earners is a tax in heated exchanges with talkback radio callers in Melbourne who accused him of lying, fearmongering and endangering the health of pensioners.

Taryn Brumfitt's Body Image Movement

''What do you think you'll be thinking about when you take your last breath?''

Abbott's wink and smirk send cyberspace into a red-hot fury

''A wink,'' quipped the English lawyer Joseph Ritson in 1793, ''is as good as a nod to a blind horse.''

Tony Abbott admits wink was a mistake, defends daughter over scholarship controversy

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has admitted he should not have winked at a radio host when a sex hotline worker called to ask him about the budget.

Tony Abbott no misogynist, says his publisher Louise Adler

Tony Abbott is not a misogynist, according to his publisher and the woman chosen to judge the Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

Related Coverage

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo