The party faithful
How much emphasis should we place on the new NSW premier’s faith?
Australia now has deeply conservative Christian men running both the nation and its most populous state, after the NSW Liberal Party elected Dominic Perrottet as leader. Perrottet, a member of the religious right, defeated Planning Minister Rob Stokes in this morning’s vote, 39–5, having struck a deal with moderates Matt Kean and Stuart Ayres. (Ayres was reportedly made deputy to appeal to western Sydney.) Speaking after the meeting, Perrottet promised to be an “infrastructure premier” and a “family premier”, and there were refreshing questions asked (usually reserved for women leaders) about how the father of six would manage to juggle his large family and his workload. “Ultimately, I think what I might lose in time I gain in perspective,” he said, adding that he hadn’t yet had the conversations about the family sacrifices he was going to have to make.
Questions quickly turned to his Catholic faith, with reporters asking how Perrottet’s deeply conservative views (he has opposed same-sex marriage, the decriminalisation of abortion and laws forcing priests to disclose child abuse, to name but a few) would affect how he runs the state. “Diversity should be celebrated, it shouldn’t be criticised,” said the man who has been known to attack the “pronoun police”, adding that he was incredibly proud of his faith – as if the issue is with his private religious practice, not with how it might influence his leadership. Many have claimed that scrutinising Perrottet’s faith is unfair, and suggested this is dangerous territory for Labor, having (supposedly) already alienated many individuals of faith. But how much emphasis should be placed on Perrottet’s religious views, especially those vastly out of step with the Australian community? The answer depends on how much emphasis he places on them himself.
Concerns over the new premier’s on-the-record views have continued to swirl in recent days, with an enlivened Labor gearing up to attack him over issues ranging from Trump to climate change. (The state opposition has reportedly been readying its Perrottet hit list ever since Gladys Berejiklian first appeared before ICAC in October last year.) As activist and interfaith minister Stephanie Dowrick wrote on Monday, Perrottet’s brand of Catholicism represents “the most extreme end of a rigidly male-dominated institutional church”, with strong views about identity, sexuality and gender politics. And NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman last night warned a conference call of moderate Liberals that Perrottet would be the “most conservative premier the state has had since World War Two”. (Outgoing Deputy Premier John Barilaro has since tried to clarify that “Dom” is no “extremist”, and that his views have “matured” over the past five years. Indeed, Perrottet is expected to tone down some of his most ideological views, as outlets from Crikey to The Australian note, in order for him to be successful as leader in the more moderate NSW.)
In the hours since Perrottet’s election, abortion advocates have sought assurance that recent hard-won rights will not be rolled back, and the new premier has reportedly promised to allow a conscience vote on forthcoming voluntary assisted dying laws, as part of his efforts to placate the moderates. Many in the Coalition have pushed back against scrutiny, implying that questions about the premier’s faith should be off-limits – something commentator Ronni Salt rightfully slammed as “male focused, privileged garbage” from those whose rights were not going to be affected.
It will be essential for Labor to tread carefully, and not be seen to be belittling Perrottet’s religiosity, even when raising very valid concerns. Perrottet, likewise, should not be underestimated by Labor, Guardian Australia’s Anne Davies writes, characterising the new premier as a “cutting, spiky character and not your everyman”.
Many are also wondering how Perrottet will get on with the prime minister, with whom he has had differences. Scott Morrison all but confirmed during this morning’s media interviews that he recently called the outgoing NSW treasurer a “fuckwit” during a dispute over JobKeeper, as first reported by Niki Savva. (“If anyone has had a go at Perrottet he probably deserved it,” a federal government source told news.com.au, labelling him “very painful to deal with”.) But both leaders have downplayed their issues today. “We have got an honest relationship,’’ Morrison told Sunrise. “When we disagree, we disagree. But the next day we get back to work.” After his election, Perrottet admitted he had not spoken to the PM yet today, but soon would, noting they had known each other for years. “Disagreement is good,” he added.
Someone tell that to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who the PM this morning accused of “extortion” over her calls for more hospital funding to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases, and her warning the border may have to remain shut without it. “I mean, to suggest that they’re not going to open the borders unless I send them cash, how else would you like me to call it?” Morrison said when questioned on his word choice. Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has since responded, reminding the PM that every jurisdiction wrote to him seeking extra funding for the health system. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has publicly called for the newly instated NSW premier to help lead the states push for funds, arguing that, as the largest state, NSW stands the most to gain. It’s not clear yet what role Perrottet intends to play in this dispute, or in national cabinet more broadly, but the politics of the pandemic make it likely that the “fuckwit” episode won’t be Perrottet’s last spat with the PM.
Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has attacked the federal government’s commitment of public funding to subsidise the production of “blue hydrogen”, which uses gas, coal and carbon capture to make hydrogen fuel.
Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker has described the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption as a “monster”, as the federal Coalition attempts to justify its draft proposal for a more toothless corruption watchdog.
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“[Zuckerberg’s] promises to build a better network – to counter misinformation, for example, in a veiled reference to the US election campaign, or filter out abuse – rely to some extent on our goodwill and credulity. We’re denied access to Facebook’s internal workings, and that’s as Zuckerberg intends it. Which is within his right as chairman and CEO of a business. But a network this large, this influential, this secretive is more than a business. In many ways, it’s a test of our belief in the market.”
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Australia now has deeply conservative Christian men running both the nation and its most populous state, after the NSW Liberal Party elected Dominic Perrottet as leader. Perrottet, a member of the religious right, defeated Planning Minister Rob Stokes in this morning’s vote, 39–5, having struck a deal with moderates Matt Kean and Stuart Ayres. (Ayres was reportedly made deputy to appeal to western Sydney.) Speaking after the meeting, Perrottet promised to be an “infrastructure premier” and a “family premier”, and there were...
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