Liberal senator Eric Abetz has unleashed an attack on the Canberra press gallery, arguing it is hostile to Christian politicians while giving favourable treatment to left-leaning or Muslim MPs. Senator Abetz said the media had treated him and his conservative colleagues, in particular former prime minister Tony Abbott, “unfairly”. He said the media felt comfortable vilifying politicians like Mr Abbott because of their Christian faith, but would never dare speak the same way about people of other religions. “Journalists will need to explain why they do this, but it is very clear that if somebody swears their oath on the Koran, this is a wonderful expression of diversity and to be encouraged, whereas if you swear your oath on the Bible then you’re an old fart and not to be taken seriously. Well, what’s the difference?” he said. “There is a special negative sentiment override for those that profess the Christian faith.”


Senator Abetz referenced a description of Mr Abbott as the “mad monk” that often appeared in the media. “Just imagine making fun of somebody else’s religion of a different nature, as in if you are a Muslim, Buddhist or a Hindu,” he said. “There is the double standard that you can basically vilify anyone from the Christian side of the tracks but don’t you dare touch anyone else.” Senator Abetz, an employment minister under Mr Abbott who was dropped from cabinet by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, said Australian political reporters did not give fair treatment to conservative policies, such as stopping the boats, scrapping the carbon tax and opposing gay marriage, often mocking the conservative point of view. He indicated that compared with other prime ministers, the media had treated Mr Abbott and John Howard far more harshly.

“The public can make up their own mind as to the coverage and treatment by the media of John Howard and Tony Abbott as prime ministers in comparison to others,” he said. Members of the Canberra gallery gave more positive coverage to politicians and policies they agreed with, Senator Abetz said, arguing that journalists hardly ever referred to the far Left or the extreme Left when discussing the Greens or the Labor Party, but frequently referred to him, Cory Bernardi and other conservative politicians as being from the far, extreme or religious Right. “I’ve been referred to as from the religious Right a number of times in the media and when I’ve thrown out the challenge, when are you going to report on the godless Left? The answer is never,” he said.

The ABC was one of the worst offenders, he said, providing coverage that was markedly different for the politicians it supported. “I’m very loyal to my new leader but you might comment on the approach of Leigh Sales when she interviewed Turnbull. Did Leigh Sales ever apologise for interrupting Tony Abbott?” he said. “If you’re a conservative, you’re fair game to be interrupted.” Senator Abetz said that when ABC host Tony Jones interviewed Joe Hockey on Lateline, he interrupted him 33 times. However, when he had Wayne Swan on the previous night, there was barely an interruption. “They say Joe Hockey is unable to sell the message. Well, with 33 interruptions in one interview, one might understand why,” he said. Senator Abetz found the “groupthink” of political journalists had worsened since he entered federal parliament in 1994. And it was to the detriment of democracy, he said.

“If you promote conservative policies, you are immediately demonised and conservative policies are demonised,” he said. “If you have a Christian, conservative point of view to offer, the media will have this negative-sentiment override which will simply be critical of any views that you may seek to express and that has, regrettably, been the case now for many years in the media gallery.” The result, Senator Abetz said, was that some politicians were too intimidated to admit they agreed with conservative policies. “Parliamentarians are intimidated from stating their point of view because they know, no matter how sensibly they present it, it will somehow be misrepresented or a negative picture, negative commentary will be presented,” he said. “I think the groupthink of the media gallery has got worse as the years have gone by and the concept of a diverse range of opinions or interpretations is now lacking.”


When asked if journalists were reflecting the view of their audience, particularly when it came to issues such as gay marriage, Senator Abetz said he did not subscribe to the view that conservative Christian values were unpopular with the public. He said they were unpopular with the media, which was unrepresentative of the Australian people. “If you go to the footy, you’re a man or woman of the people, but if you go to church, what a strange individual you are. Yet around Australia, as I understand it, a lot more people go to church on a Sunday than go to football on a Saturday.” Senator Abetz said the press gallery tended to report on issues in the same way. “The genuine diversity of reporting just does not seem to be there as one would have hoped it might,” he said.


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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The Catholic Church has condemned the Victorian government over planned same-sex adoption reforms, accusing Labor of a fundamental attack on religious freedom and of failing basic human rights tests. Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart has raised the stakes over Labor’s support for same-sex couples gaining the legal right to adopt children, with the reforms containing no exemptions for faith-based adoption groups. Archbishop Hart has warned that Catholic workers at a key welfare agency would be forced into intolerable decisions if they opposed on faith grounds adopting out children to gay parents and he reiterated his threat to shut down the agency if the reforms passed the Victorian parliament. The row is the latest flashpoint in a national debate about respect for religious beliefs compared with the rights of minorities. The debate mirrors angst in some faiths about the push for same-sex marriage. 

Labor has picked a fight with religious groups by stating that there will be no exemptions for faith-based adoption groups to exclude same-sex couples from accessing adoption services. In uncharacteristically strong language, Archbishop Hart accused Victorian Equality Minister Martin Foley of failing to value freedom of religion and relying on an argument that backed individuals over organisations. “Regrettably, this type of reasoning shows the depths to which those who do not value freedom of religion are prepared to plumb in order to defeat it,’’ Archbishop Hart said. “Organisations, by definition, are made up of people. People have rights. If a worker at CatholicCare or any other religious adoption agency refuses to break their conscience by obeying this new legislation, they will feel the full weight of the law. Under Minister Foley’s analysis, their freedom of religion and conscience will mean nothing.’’


The stoush has been sparked by what has become an increasingly secular agenda by the Victorian government, whose leadership boasts of its Catholic roots but is prosecuting what its critics claim is an anti-Catholic agenda. Archbishop Hart said people of religion were being confronted with a climate in which faith was considered a second-class priority. “Right now, many people of faith are deeply concerned that freedom of religion is proving to be the weakling in these contests,’’ he said. “Faced with almost any competing right, it simply is disregarded. This is remarkable, as freedom of religion and conscience is recognised as a fundamental right in every human rights document from the UN covenants to the Victorian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.’’


The proposed changes will be the most contentious legislative debate since abortion reform in 2008. Mr Foley has stood by the reforms, saying Anglicare and Uniting Care supported the legislation. “Equality is not negotiable for the Andrews Labor government. I’m proud we’re removing discrimination from the Adoption Act … It’s love that defines a family, not sexuality or gender identity,” he said. The opposition plans to allow its MPs a free vote. Labor’s task will be trying to get the laws through the upper house, where it does not have the numbers.Liberal leader Matthew Guy said he supported “the premise of same-sex adoption”. “But I think that we should mirror other states rather than penalising the churches. You don’t end discrimination by creating new discrimination.’’ 


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Gambling income has corrupted successive Victorian State Governments because they rely heavily on gambling income and because the industry has “bought off” the political parties, the Melbourne Anglican synod has been told. State Gaming Minister Jane Garrett is a fine local member, but apparently uninterested in controlling gambling, according to the Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce, the Rev. Dr Gordon Preece said. Both parties’ loyalty had been bought by massive industry donations, said Dr Preece, chairman of the Melbourne church’s Social Responsibilities Committee. He commended the State Government for its inquiry into gaming machine arrangements but criticised not including problem gambling policies in the review. Dr Preece attacked the newly introduced Woolworths’ frequent gamblers’ loyalty card as “an addiction program dressed up as loyalty”.


Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier said there were “no clean hands” when it came to gambling revenue. “Every time we use a road or a hospital funded by the state, a large amount of that comes from the suffering of people who use pokies.” The synod passed a motion asking Archbishop Freier to write to Premier Daniel Andrews about its concerns. It also commended the near doubling of refugee intake with Syrians and Iraqis but called for this to be rounded to 27,000 by 2017 as recommended by the bipartisan 2012 Expert Panel. On family violence, the synod encouraged Anglican schools to deliver “respectful relationships training” and expressed its concern about Productivity Commission recommendations cutting Sunday penalty rates to Saturday levels. Such a cut would ignore not only Church worshippers but the community-wide sense of Sunday as a shared social day of rest.


Source: Press Release from Anglican Diocese of Melbourne

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