The new leader of the Australian Opposition Tony Abbott seems to have got into trouble by openly advocating against pre-marital sex.
His rivals are coming down on him like a ton of bricks for his comments in a magazine interview on family and sex, and Abbott is desperately attempting damage control by saying his comments were addressed to his daughters only and not society at large.
Since his election as the leader of the conservative coalition, Abbott has been reveling in his conservatism, whether it is immigration, environment or business. But sex is quite another cup of tea after in a very liberal society like Australia's. Incidentally he is heading the Liberal Party!
In the interview with The Australian Women's Weekly, Abbott was asked, "Sex before marriage?"
"It happens," Abbott replied and went on to add, "I would say to my daughters, if they were to ask me this question, I would say ... it is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don't give it to someone lightly that is what I would say."
The politician has undergone training in priesthood and projects himself as a devout Catholic. Sometimes commentators deride him as a Cardinal George Pell's representative on earth. The Cardinal is the Sydney Archbishop.
It is natural then that his critics should gleefully latch on to his 'moralising' tone.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said today he would not be offering any advice on the topic.
"You know something? I don't think my job as Prime Minister is to provide individual, personal, moral advice for the young people of Australia," he told Perth Radio 6PR.
"That's something for them themselves to sort out with their friends, with their families, with their mums and their dads."
Deputy Prime Minister Julia was more blunt. She said that Mr. Abbott's remarks "confirmed the worst fears" women had about Mr Abbott's conservative social views.
"I think Australian women will look at these comments from Tony Abbott and they will say they are not interested in Tony Abbott imposing his views. They will make their own decisions. Australian women are smart and capable they'll make their own person choices without Tony Abbott telling them what to do," she said.
Ms. Sharman Stone, a fellow Liberal MP, dubbed his notion of virginity as old-fashioned.
Even while attacking his adversaries for misrepresenting him, the Liberal leader insisted his comments were addressed to his daughters and not to larger audience.
"...I was asked what's the advice I would give to my own kids...the last thing I would want to do is to impose my views on the wider world, but in my position I think I've got to be honest and upfront about what my views are," he said.
Mr Abbott, a staunch Catholic, said that because his past included three years training as a priest, he gets "hit" with such criticism probably more than others, but defended his comments saying he simply aimed to be honest.
"I was trying to honestly answer a series of questions," he said.
But he is also understood to have suggested men and women should try and adhere to "the rules" when it comes to sex before marriage and when they can't he has conceded they should use contraception, The Australian reports.
The former Catholic seminarian, who famously struggled with the issue of sex before marriage as a young man, reveals he is ambivalent towards contraception.
He says it has been at least as liberating for men as for women, suggesting some women are being taken advantage of as a result.