Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he was just reacting to his radio host when he winked and smiled in response to a talkback caller who said she resorted to phone sex work to make ends meet.
One of the calls Mr Abbott took on Melbourne radio on Wednesday was from a chronically ill grandmother and pensioner named Gloria, who said she worked on a phone sex line to pay her bills.
The prime minister immediately winked at ABC presenter Jon Faine following the admission from the woman, who said she would have to find at least $850 more a year following a federal budget including contentious Medicare co-payments.
A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott told Fairfax Media the wink was to assure the presenter he was happy to proceed with the call, but the Prime Minister later told Perth’s 6PR radio that he was simply reacting to Faine’s facial expression.
“It was a reaction to John, really,” Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio.
“Obviously it was an interesting call from someone who had an interesting story.
“John was smiling at me and I responded to him.”
He dismissed claims the Medicare co-payment for an individual’s first 10 visits to the GP each year was unfair.
“Is it fair and reasonable to charge people $5 or $6 even if they’re pensioners for their PBS drugs?
“Why is it somehow grievously wrong to ask people to make a similar contribution when they go to the doctor?”
Mr Abbott also rejected the suggestion the debt levy represented a broken election promise, given he admitted it was a tax and had promised voters there would be no new taxes or big surprises.
“I’m not saying it’s not a new tax – I’m saying we haven’t broken any of our fundamental commitments.
“I think we’re getting on with the job of keeping all of them.
“I appreciate there are a lot of people running around saying that we’ve broken commitments.
“These things are in the judgment of the commentariat.
“I’m very comfortable with this. I think it’s what this country needs now.”