In the final days of the federal election Bill Shorten has resorted to questioning the theology of the Prime Minister so as to avoid answering—somewhat predictably—an uncomfortable question. The Daily Telegraphreports that the Opposition Leader was asked about Paul Keating’s description of Peter Dutton as ‘mean’ and his response was a classic bait-and-switch:
I actually think the meanest commentary I’ve seen in the election is actually the propositions being advanced that gay people are going to go to Hell … I cannot believe in this election that there is a discussion even under way that gay people will go to Hell.
I cannot believe that the Prime Minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell. This country needs to really lift itself and the political debate … in the next four days …. The nation has got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity.
Wait a minute. Who said anything—besides Israel Folau—about homosexuals going to hell? Certainly, not Scott Morrison. The actual question was about an accusation made by a former Labor leader. Shorten’s answer had nothing whatsoever to do with the question he’d been asked.
But there is an even deeper issue at state. And that is, the Australian Constitution—section c116 to be precise—states:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
It’s that last part in particular which is the key. Because by asking the Prime Minister about his own personal position on a theological issue he is, in practice, proposing a de facto “religious test” in determining whether Mr Morrison is fit for public office.
But as Miranda Devine writes, it is more than a little hypocritical of Shorten to lecture Morrison on civility. As Devine rightly states:
And yet throughout the campaign he has belittled people who don’t share his views on climate change as “knuckle-draggers” and “cave dwellers”. During the same sex-marriage debate he pilloried those who didn’t want to change the definition of marriage as, “haters [who] come out from underneath the rock”.
This is not a man who respects dissent.
Only on Monday Shorten was claiming to be a champion of free speech: “People are allowed to express their opinions and they should be able to do so without fear or favour, full stop.”
Tell that to Folau. Or the Gladstone worker who lost his job after asking Shorten an inconvenient question.
What Devine writes here is spot on. If a Shorten Labor government is elected this weekend it will mark the beginning of the end for religious freedom and freedom of speech in this country. Because the establishment of an LGBTIQ watchdog—to the tune of $1.4 million—to monitor gay and lesbian rights, they will have created their own Ministry of Truth.
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