Abbott's gals steal election limelight

Abbott's gals steal election limelight
Mr Kevin Rudd with granddaughter Josephine and daughter Jessica after his swearing-in event in June.

SYDNEY - The two prime ministerial candidates, both 55, have unveiled a weapon not seen in past Australian elections - their children, who are playing a prominent role in their campaign for the Sept 7 election.

The two younger daughters of opposition leader and election favourite Tony Abbott seem to have made the most impact so far.

Frances, 22, studies design and Bridget, 20, is a radiology student. They have been helping to soften his image - he was a boxer - and ease public concerns about his attitude towards women.

Most recently, they went to his rescue after he said people should vote for Liberal party candidate Fiona Scott because she had "a bit of sex appeal".

The comment caused a public outcry and revived concerns about Mr Abbott's alleged sexism and misogyny - a claim made against him last year by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Frances, who was with her father when he made the comment at a campaign event in Sydney, visibly cringed. But the sisters later put it down to their father being "daggy", or uncool.

Mr Abbott ran with the line. "As the kids suggested to me, I had a dad moment," he told a press conference the next day. "A daggy dad moment."

His oldest daughter, Louise, 24, is working in Switzerland and is not involved in his campaign.

In Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's family, he has strong support from his daughter Jessica, 30, an author who has written magazine columns and regular tweets promoting her father.

His son Nicholas, 24, a lawyer, is a paid adviser and has gone on the campaign trail with him. Younger son Marcus, 20, is a campaign volunteer.

Jessica, married with a baby daughter, has travelled around the country to muster support for Mr Rudd in recent weeks. Like the Abbott girls, she has had to go to his defence at times.

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