Australia

Former top Obama adviser says Tony Abbott didn't 'really know what he was talking about'

President Barack Obama listens as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the G20 Summit in Brisbane. Source: POOL REUTERS

A former Obama adviser has recounted how the former US president's team watched Julia Gillard's misogyny speech to deal with frustrations with former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

A former Obama adviser has recalled how his team watched Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech whenever they became frustrated with Tony Abbott.

Ben Rhodes, who was deputy national security advisor to former US president Barack Obama, has described how it was it was “no secret” Mr Abbott was far from his boss's “favourite leader”.

He spoke about the two leaders' relationship on a comedy and politics podcast, A Rational Fear, revealing Mr Obama’s discontent with Mr Abbott as he tried to achieve a global consensus on climate change.

Former President Barack Obama is welcomed by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Former President Barack Obama is welcomed by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
REUTERS POOL

Mr Rhodes said members of the White House had regularly watched Julia Gillard’s famous "misogyny speech" when they were annoyed with the former Australian prime minister.

“I will tell you that whenever we were really annoyed with Tony Abbott, we would watch the video of that speech by Julia Gillard,” he told podcast hosts Dan Ilic and Lewis Hobba, but didn't say if the then president joined them. 

“That speech got watched a lot in the Obama White House, let me just put it that way,” 

In her speech in Parliament, Ms Gillard – then prime minister – had attacked then opposition leader Tony Abbott, insisting she would “not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man".

Mr Rhodes said he believed Mr Abbott had become “upset” by Mr Obama appearing to criticise the Abbott government's climate inaction during a speech at the G20 summit in Brisbane in 2014.

“It's no secret Obama …You know, Tony Abbott was far from his favourite leader to begin with,” Mr Rhodes said.

“What was frustrating with Abbott, you know, is he was kind of very sure of himself without really knowing what he was talking about.”

Tony Abbott and Barrack Obama give speeches at the G20 summit in Brisbane.
Tony Abbott and Barrack Obama give speeches at the G20 summit in Brisbane.
AAP

Mr Rhodes described how Mr Obama had been trying to encourage Australia to set a target to reduce emissions by 2030 and additional support for developing nations.

Mr Abbott – then prime minister had called for the focus of the G20 summit to remain on economic issues and not climate change.

He had defended his government’s target to reduce emissions to reduce emissions by five per cent by 2020.

“We are talking about the here and now, we are talking about what Australia is doing, in Australia, right now,” he said at the time.

Mr Rhodes said the Obama team had prepared a paragraph about climate change for a speech at the University of Queensland warning both nations had to “step up” against the threat.

But he said then President Obama went further.

“He just went way off the text, and was just basically blasting the Abbott government in ways that he almost never did on foreign soil and pointing out the Great Barrier Reef disappearing,” he said.

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