Tony Abbott And Women Of Calibre: What Did He Actually Say?

In the increasingly bizarre world online, there was a minor flurry yesterday over comments by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on paid parental leave.

I came to it late in the day, some hours after the comments were made. My initial impression was that Abbott must have said something highly offensive.

For example, the News Limited website,, told me Abbott defended his paid parental leave policy as a means of encouraging women of “calibre” to have children.


On Twitter, the article’s author, political writer Malcolm Farr, said the policy was all about getting women of calibre to “breed”:

Also on Twitter, the Finance Minister, Senator Penny Wong, was taking aim at Abbott:

Elsewhere, there was talk of Abbott’s new policy of eugenics.

Clearly, this was a major foot-in-mouth blunder by Abbott.

So I listened to what Abbott said. Here’s the full media conference and the specific question where Abbott made the “calibre” comment:


  • Tony Abbott’s media conference – May 7, 2013 (22m)
  • The ‘calibre’ question (3m)

I’m the first to admit that my command of English is pretty basic. But surely Abbott’s remark is innocuous?

There is a legitimate debate to be had over the merits of Abbott’s policy. Or do we prefer the warm inner glow of manufactured outrage?

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