Australia row over PM Gillard 'small breasts' menu

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the menu followed a pattern of opposition behaviour

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said a menu for an opposition party fundraiser that made crude comments about her body was "grossly sexist".

It offered up "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box".

The menu was for a dinner for Liberal National Party candidate Mal Brough - the restaurateur later said it had been "a joke" and was not used at the meal.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott condemned the incident, calling the menu "tacky".

"I condemn it, as Mal Brough has. We should all be bigger and better than that," he said. "We should be appealing to every Australian's best self as we go into this election."

But he rejected the suggestion he should withdraw support for Mr Brough, a Liberal lawmaker who served as a minister under John Howard and is seeking a return to office in a Queensland safe seat.

Start Quote

It is so unfortunate that an in-house joke between myself and my son has caused you great problems and embarrassment”

End Quote Restaurateur Joe Richards

Ms Gillard called for Mr Brough to be disendorsed, saying the menu followed a "pattern of behaviour" from the opposition.

"Mr Abbott's solution to this pattern of behaviour is not to show any leadership. I mean, he's effectively stood by Mr Brough," she said.

The fundraising dinner, in late March, was attended by about 20 people, with shadow treasurer Joe Hockey as the guest of honour. The menu card in question also mocked former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and two other Labor party lawmakers, as well as the Greens.

Both Mr Hockey and Mr Brough told local media they did not recall having seen the menu. Mr Brough - who has apologised - said the text was drawn up by a non-party member who was "deeply apologetic", the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

But later on Wednesday an apologetic restaurant owner, Joe Richards, wrote to Mr Brough, and told him he had mocked up the menu but it had never been produced for public distribution.

"Unfortunately a staff member saw the mock menu, and unbeknownst to myself, posted it on their Facebook," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the letter as saying.

Mr Richards went on to claim that a third party appeared to have distributed the menu "for political reasons".

"It is so unfortunate that an in-house joke between myself and my son has caused you great problems and embarrassment."

'Banished'

Ms Gillard is Australia's first female prime minister, a role she has held since ousting Kevin Rudd in 2010.

October 2012: Julia Gillard accuses Tony Abbott of a long history of misogyny and sexism

The country is to hold a general election on 14 September, with an opposition win widely expected.

Ms Gillard says she will lead the Labor Party into the polls, despite ongoing speculation that some party lawmakers wish to replace her with Mr Rudd.

On Tuesday she warned of the possible erosion of women's rights under an Abbott-led government, prompting a fierce rebuttal from the opposition.

The prime minister had suggested in a speech at a fundraising function that an Abbott win would see women's voices "banished" from political life and abortion become "the political plaything of men who think they know better".

The deputy opposition leader later called her comments a "crude political ploy", accusing her of trying to divide votes through a "false gender war".

Mr Abbott - a Catholic - has in recent years distanced himself from comments he made in 2004 calling Australia's abortion rate a "national tragedy".

Last year, Ms Gillard sparked headlines around the world with a fiery speech in parliament accusing Mr Abbott of misogyny - a move that prompted Australia's leading dictionary to redefine the word.

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