Australian PM says wink and smile were a mistake

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Associated Press

Posted on May 21, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 1:04 AM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has conceded he made a mistake by winking with a smile in a talk radio studio while listening to a sex worker complain about welfare cutbacks.

The gesture on Wednesday captured by a television camera and broadcast in national news bulletins has proved an unwelcome distraction for Abbott who is selling unpopular budget cutbacks that are criticized as indicative of his conservative government's lack of empathy for the poor.

Abbott winked when a woman who identified herself as Gloria, a chronically-ill 67-year-old grandmother, told him she survived on a pension and worked for a phone sex service "to make ends meet."

He explained on Thursday that he had been reacting to a smile from broadcaster Jon Faine, and should have been focusing on the caller.

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