SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is "a sexist" rather than a misogynist, a retiring politician from his party said in an interview on Sunday, adding that he was just one of many in Parliament.
Liberal Senator Sue Boyce, who is leaving politics at the end of June, described former prime minister Julia Gillard's fiery misogyny speech in 2012 - which targeted Mr Abbott - as "powerful", and said it was "a brilliant speech" in building support for the country's first female leader.
But she told The Sydney Morning Herald Gillard should have labelled Mr Abbott sexist rather than misogynist.
"I think it would have been more accurate if she had called him a sexist," Boyce said.
"But singling (Abbott) out as a sexist was not reasonable either," she added, telling the newspaper the prime minister was one of many "subtle" sexists in parliament.
Ms Boyce said Mr Abbott was also more willing to listen to the views of women as compared to many of her other male colleagues.
The latest criticism of Mr Abbott came a month after he was slammed for winking during a testy radio chat about the tough May budget with a female pensioner who worked on a sex phone line.
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton wrote in her book Hard Choices, which was released earlier this month, that Ms Gillard faced "outrageous sexism" and that "women in public life still face an unfair double standard".
Ms Boyce, who represents the eastern state of Queensland, scored her and her conservative Liberal Party's success in lifting the number of women in politics as "one out of 10" in her valedictorian speech to the Senate on Wednesday.
"It is obvious that if we want more women in cabinet we need more women in parliament," she said.
"The current 22 per cent figure is just not good enough. Improving this pathetic figure must be the job of every party member and every party employee."
Ms Boyce said the debate over asylum-seekers in Australia was "fraught with dog whistling" and that she "would like to see us behaving more humanely".
Under Australia's tough offshore detention policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are now sent to camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing and permanent resettlement after a short turnaround period on Christmas Island.
The United Nations and refugee advocates have criticised the policy and said the conditions at the detention camps were too harsh.