Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard Rob Williams

PM Gillard takes Tony down a notch after tactless comment

TONY Abbott has denied his reference to the government "dying of shame" was intended to cause offence to Julia Gillard.

During a debate on Tuesday to have Peter Slipper removed as Speaker, the Opposition Leader said: "And every day the Prime Minister stands in this parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this parliament and another day of shame for a government which should have already died of shame."

Some people claimed Mr Abbott's comment was inappropriate as it came after broadcaster Alan Jones last month told a Sydney University Liberal Club function Ms Gillard's father had "died of shame".

But Mr Abbott said it was "absolutely obvious" he was referring to the government and nothing else.

He said he had used the "dying of shame" reference on at least 17 occasions prior to Tuesday in talking about the government.

"The last thing I want to do is cause offence to anyone, but I was absolutely oblivious ... to comments that other people may have made which were very different and which have been universally condemned, including by me," Mr Abbott said.

Ms Gillard reacted angrily during the debate to Mr Abbott's use of the words "dying of shame".

"I indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that the government is not dying of shame - and my father did not die of shame. What the Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of is his performance in this parliament and the sexism he brings with it," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard also used much of her speech painting Mr Abbott as a misogynist and sexist.

But Mr Abbott said on Wednesday it was "a bit rich" for the government to continue playing the sexism card.

"The Prime Minister should be prepared to accept fair criticism. And just because the Prime Minister had sometimes been the victim of unfair criticism, doesn't mean she can dismiss any criticism as sexism," he said.

"When she does wrong, as she did yesterday by leading the Peter Slipper defence team, she will be criticised."

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