Abbott pushes softer image
Change: Tony Abbott with his sister, Christine Forster. Photo: 60 Minutes
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has sought to further remake his public image by declaring his religious beliefs would never dominate his politics.
He said earlier comments he made condemning abortion were poorly stated, and admitted his opposition to homosexuals changed once he got to know gays.
Judge me by what the considered view today is, not by throwaway lines and offhand comments 35 years ago.
Supported by his lesbian sister, her partner, his wife Margie and his daughters, Mr Abbott said that when he claimed three years ago during a television interview that he felt ''a bit threatened'' by homosexuals, he had been trying to guard a family secret.
He had only just been told by his sister she was a lesbian.
''Now I couldn't talk about that then because it was deeply personal and deeply private,'' he said. ''But certainly they were very tough times for our family, hence my comment, because the cohesion of our family was threatened at that time. But I'm pleased to say we're all in a better space now than we were then.''
Interviewed at a family barbecue at his Sydney home, Mr Abbott's sister, Christine Forster, said he was ''completely unfazed'' when she told him she was in a lesbian relationship after 19 years of being married to a man. Her partner, Virginia Edwards, said Mr Abbott and his family had been ''fantastic''.
Asked if he could guarantee he would not invoke his Catholic faith in policy-making, Mr Abbott said, ''Yes I can.''
''Faith is important to me. It's important to millions of Australians. It helps to shape who I am. It helps to shape my values. But it must never, never dictate my politics. Judge me by what the considered view today is, not by throwaway lines and offhand comments 35 years ago.''
Mr Abbott, who has always insisted marriage is between a man and a woman, even appeared to hold open the possibility of a future policy change by his party on same-sex marriage.
When challenged over his sister's view that Liberal policy was discriminatory, Mr Abbott said: ''We've had quite a few discussions about this, obviously. And I'm pleased to say they've been good-humoured and respectful. She vigorously disagrees with me and she hopes that at some future point in time the Coalition partyroom might take a different position.''
Interviewed by Liz Hayes on the Nine Network's 60 Minutes program, Mr Abbott admitted he wore ''product'' in his hair. ''He wears facial moisturiser, too,'' one of his daughters chuckled.
Mr Abbott's decision to expose a softer, sensitive version of himself on a high-rating television show comes as his party, riding high in the polls, enters the last six months before the federal election.
He described the coming poll as ''the supreme challenge of my life'', but did not want to comment on predictions he would be the next prime minister ''because I don't want to jinx myself''.