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Shorten fires back at anti-religious trolls

The shadow minister for government services, Bill Shorten, published an opinion piece in The West Australian newspaper on Wednesday in which he criticised social media trolls, who attacked religious beliefs of people in public office. He was particularly concerned at recent attacks on NSW premier Dominic Perrotet, who just announced that his wife was expecting a seventh child.

Mr Shorten didn’t pull his punches:

“When NSW's new Premier Dominic Perrottet announced he and his wife Helen were expecting their seventh child this week, there was a mixed response. “
Just when I thought politics couldn't surprise me, some of the negative reactions to this just appalled me, especially the attacks on Helen Perrottet. It was just wrong.
“Much of it was disturbing and sad, and the worst of it came from the usual sociopaths who reign supreme in the gutters of social media.”

On the Flow Morning Show, Wayne Phillips reflects on Mr Shorten's track record on religious discrimination:

Shorten said that although he was no fan of the NSW government and he would much prefer Labor’s Chris Minns to be premier, he was appalled at the attacks on the Perrotets. He made the point that the arrival of a new child was a very positive experience for most people.

“When news of Perrottet's new arrival emerged this week, I couldn't help but think of my own experiences of the golden years of helping Chloe raise our children and being a dad.
“It's a mad, churning, insanely busy time that, in a kind of cruel cosmic joke, tends to collide with when mums and dads are also at their busiest in work and endeavours outside of the family.
“But, provided there's still coffee in the cupboard, it's a time of great hope, great love and a feeling of progress.”

Mr Shorten contrasted this with the appalling behaviour of the social media trolls.

“But apparently my view was not a universal one. Many responses to the family's private joy in welcoming a new daughter were downright horrible. One Twitter user said it was ‘Gross environmental vandalism. Yuck.’ Others posted ‘That poor woman’, ‘It's tantamount to child abuse’ and there were many anti-Catholic slurs.”
“Dominic Perrottet has had the dual honour of being feted and hated in his first 15 days as Premier.”

Mr Shorten said that attacking Mr Perrottet for his Catholicism was also unacceptable. He said that the fact that the premier voted in line with his beliefs was not something that should be used to attack him.

“Most of it [the attacks] has been angled at his previous conscience votes on abortion and same-sex marriage. While I hold a different stance, I also believe the best society is non-bigoted, tolerant and diverse.
“Vilifying Perrottet for his Catholicism is no better than vilifying a Muslim MP for his or her [belief in Islam].
“What has disturbed me about the attacks on Perrottet has been the dog whistling, the overt slurs and the sneering commentary that have been reminiscent of the worst of the bigoted sectarianism that we should have outgrown.”

The shadow minister made the point that at the last census Most Australians identified as religious believers.

“Australia is still, at least by the last census count, a faith-based society, with 60 per cent of us identifying with a religion, mostly Christians.”

Mr Shorten said that when it came to politics there should be separation of church and state, asserting that the faith of modern leaders should have no impact on the way they govern.:

“As America's first Catholic president John F. Kennedy famously said, as leaders we are ‘responsible to all faiths, but obligated to none’.” “The condemnation, discrimination, or vilification of anyone is a violation of our nation's shared values.”


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