Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is not backing away from his description of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as an “economic girly man”, accusing Labor of “confected outrage” over the issue.

Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used the “girly man” line on numerous occasions but most famously at the 2004 Republican National Convention when he blasted pessimists on the US economy as girly men.

Schwarzenegger was attacked by feminist groups and gay rights campaigners after his comments in 2004.

Senator Cormann claimed “Economic girly men has come to adopt its own meaning. It is not in any way intended as a reflection on girls, it is entirely intended as a reflection on Bill Shorten.”

Interviewed on Sky News on Sunday, Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said Senator Cormann’s language was not appropriate for a political leader.

“I just think, if we use ‘girl’ as an insult, what are we telling our sons and our daughters about being a girl? You are saying it is somehow less competent, weak, whatever, whatever the imputation. I just don’t think that is sensible. Imagine if we used any racial term in the way it was used? I think we would all be outraged for the same reasons.”

Also on Sky News, Education Minister Christopher Pyne declined to defend the language of his cabinet colleague.

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