Fiona Scott: Tony Abbott's comments about my sex appeal were "damaging"

Fiona Scott: Tony Abbott’s comments about my sex appeal were “damaging”

It is unlikely that the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott will pay any attention to Fiona Scott’s recent comments about his famous remark during the 2013 election campaign that she had “sex appeal”. He isn’t exactly known for his capacity to reflect.

At the time Scott, who was running for a seat in Western Sydney, described Abbott’s comments  as a  “charming compliment”. Her dismissal of the commentary was used by some to justify its innocence.

She doesn’t care so why does it matter? It was said in jest. It was light-hearted. Why can’t a man just express his admiration for a colleague’s physical qualities? 

Fast forward three and a bit years, she has answered that question. In an interview with the Financial Review she has admitted that the line was neither charming or complimentary: it damaged her.

It propelled her into prominence and undermined her credibility in the eyes of her male colleagues. It offended her mother.


There were plenty of people who said that at the time. There are some people now saying she should have said that at the time.

Predictably there are some saying her comments are merely a grab for attention.

If you are contemplating why the number of women in politics remains dismal, look no further. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t springs to mind.

What could Fiona Scott have done when it was the leader of her party, who made the remarks? When he was supported by several other of the party’s statesmen who argued that the backlash was misguided?

What reception would she have faced had she spoken out? Politics is tough enough as it is for women without having an all out war with your own party in the middle of an election campaign.

Anyone who attempted to minimise Abbott’s comments or justify them on the basis that Scott herself was unfazed ought to engage in a little reflection.  She was fazed but she was muzzled.

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