Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been forced to clarify that he doesn’t believe gay people are “going to hell” after he came under fire by Labor leader Bill Shorten for evading the question on Monday.
Initially asked about his opposition to same-sex marriage, Morrison would not clarify whether his personal view had shifted but said, “It’s law and I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about.”
On the topic of religious belief, Morrison was also asked about whether he believed gay people go to hell.
“I support the law of the country and I always don’t mix my religion with politics and my faith with politics,” he said.
“It’s always been something that has informed how I live my life and how I seek to care for and support others. None of us are perfect, none of us are saints in that respect.
“That’s how it’s always informed me and that’s what I always seek to do.”
— Tom Clift (@tom_clift) May 14, 2019
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the question was one of the “meanest” moments of the campaign and he “couldn’t believe” the discussion was even under way but slammed Morrison’s response as inadequate.
“I cannot believe that the prime minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell,” he said.
“I don’t believe gay people, because they’re gay, will go to hell. I don’t need a law to tell me that. I don’t believe it.
“And I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia, you have got to be prime minister for all people.
“I just don’t believe it, and the nation has got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity.
“This country needs to really lift itself and the political debate and coverage needs to lift itself in the next four days.”
Morrison clarified on Tuesday “No, I do not believe that,” and said Shorten’s comments were a “desperate, cheap shot”.
“God’s love is for everybody. That is what I have always believed,” he said.
“I found it very disappointing that without even prompting [Bill Shorten] sought to try and politicise this. And seek to exploit opportunity for it.
“I don’t think that should have a place in this election campaign. People’s faith is people’s faith.
“I’m not running for pope, I’m running for prime minister.”
The election will be held this Saturday, May 18.
Leaders quizzed about Israel Folau’s code of conduct breach
The comments from the party leaders come as Wallabies star Israel Folau awaits sanctions from Rugby Australia over his social media posts declaring “hell awaits” homosexuals and linking transgender law reform to the devil that were widely condemned.
Last week an independent panel has found Folau committed a “high-level” breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct, opening the door for the termination of Folau’s contract.
Asked about the issue at the leaders’ debate last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he supported freedom of speech and freedom of religion but also backed the right of employers to terminate contracts if they are breached.
“Freedom of speech is important, but we have to exercise it responsibly, and exercise it in a society such as ours with civility and due care and consideration to others,” he said.
“In relation to what happens in matters of contract law and employment law, well we’re all subject to those, if we enter into those contracts.”
Shorten said “at one level” the controversy was a contractual negotiation but he was “uneasy about where that debate’s gone.”
“On one hand, I think Israel Folau is entitled to his views, and he shouldn’t suffer an employment penalty for it,” he said.
But he said he also understood the “hurtful impact” of Folau’s social media commentary.
“People putting out on social media that if you’re gay you’re going to go to hell, you know, I get that’s what he genuinely believes. But when you’re a public figure, that has negative impact, a hurtful impact on other people,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a simple issue, I don’t think it’s a clear cut issue when the edges bump up against each other.”
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