Tony Abbott has been appointed as a UK trade envoy, the government has announced.
The former Australian prime minister has been hired as an adviser to the relaunched Board of Trade to help the British government negotiate post-Brexit international trade deals.
Labour has said appointing Abbott would be “completely unacceptable” because of his “offensive and outdated” views.
Critics have raised numerous concerns, including over his past comments about gay people and women.
In a speech in London earlier this week, Abbott also said coronavirus restrictions should be lifted as there was “hysteria” around the pandemic.
Boris Johnson earlier today defended Abbott as “a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia”.
Asked about Abbott’s controversial views, Johnson said: “Obviously don’t agree with those sentiments at all.”
But he added: “I don’t agree with everyone who serves the government in an unpaid capacity on hundreds of boards across the country.”
While serving on the frontline of Australian politics, Abbott opposed same-sex marriage as “political correctness” and said he was “a bit threatened” by gay people.
In 2011 Abbott, the then opposition leader, appeared on stage in front of a sign that called prime minister Julia Gillard a “bitch”.
And in a 2017 speech, also in London, Abbott said climate change was “probably doing good” and policies designed to tackle it were like “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods”.
Trade secretary Liz Truss will head up the Board of Trade as president, while Tory Brexiteer MP Marcus Fysh will take up the role of deputy.
Truss said: “The new Board of Trade will play an important role in helping Britain make the case for free and fair trade across the UK and around the world.
“At a time of increased protectionism and global insecurity, it’s vital that the UK is a strong voice for open markets and that we play a meaningful role in reshaping global trading rules alongside like-minded countries.
“The new Board will help us do that, bringing together a diverse group of people who share Britain’s belief in free enterprise, democracy, and high standards and rules-based trade.”