Family and former colleagues have leapt to the defence of Tony Abbott after he was labelled a misogynistic, homophobic climate-denier.
The former prime minister has come under heavy scrutiny after it emerged he was being lined up for a senior trade role in the United Kingdom.
He has also been criticised for suggesting older people should be left to die from coronavirus, to spare younger generations from the economic burden.
Scott Morrison side-stepped questions about whether Mr Abbott was a misogynist, as suggested by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who described his coronavirus comments as disgraceful.
But the prime minister said Mr Abbott would be a "good hire" as trade envoy to the UK.
"He knows a lot about trade and he did a lot of great work for Australia on trade when it came to the China free trade agreement and Japan and Korea," Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday.
"He set Australia up very well.
"The fact we now have a current account surplus, that we've had trade surpluses now for record periods of time, I think speaks well to his trade credentials, so I wish Tony well."
Senior coalition minister Mathias Cormann, who like Mr Morrison also served under Mr Abbott, said he had a distinguished record.
"From where I sit, Tony Abbott is clearly a giant of Australian politics who has made a great contribution over a long time," Senator Cormann said.
"Not everyone will agree with him, but people are entitled to their views, and that's the way things work in a democracy."
Mr Abbott has previously said he felt threatened by homosexuality, opposed same-sex marriage, and was accused of misogyny by fellow former prime minister Julia Gillard.
His sister Christine Forster acknowledged Mr Abbott was an unabashed conservative, but said he possessed great compassion and respect for others.
"It is nothing short of dishonesty for commentators and politicians who do not know Tony to label him a 'homophobe and a misogynist' for the purposes of scoring cheap political points," she said in a statement.
"As a woman who has always been part of his life and who came out to him as gay in my early 40s, I know incontrovertibly that Tony is neither of those things."
Australian Associated Press