Presenters for next year’s Global Atheist Convention have reacted strongly to news of Tony Abbott’s election to the Liberal leadership.
Ian Robinson, president of the Rationalist Society of Australia, says, “The two major parties now have leaders who both use their positions to promote religion and who use religion to determine their policies. This is a major set-back for secularism in Australia.”
Former Australian Democrats leader, Lyn Allison, says, “Tony Abbott’s ascendency is a win for, to use his words, “the serious Catholics in [shadow] cabinet”.” Abbott’s leadership, says Allison, “is an alarming prospect for women who value their reproductive health rights and for those who fear for what’s left of our secular society.”
Sydney writer and The Gruen Transfer regular, Jane Caro, also doubts that female voters will warm to Abbott. “Tony Abbott may look great in speedos,” quips Caro, “but, given his Conservative religious beliefs about abortion, IVF, divorce, contraception and gay rights, that is probably all most Australian women will find attractive about him.”
In fact, there is widespread concern amongst the Global Atheist Convention organisers and presenters that Abbott is a political mouthpiece for the Vatican. Max Wallace, director of the Australia New Zealand Secular Association, recalls Tony Sowersby’s award-winning portrait depicting Cardinal George Pell as a ventriloquist and Tony Abbott as his dummy. “Now life is imitating art,” Wallace observes wryly.
Convention organiser, and president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls, spoke out earlier this week (National Times, 27 November) on religious bias within the Rudd and Brumby governments. “Abbott’s leadership is likely to divide, not only his party, but the whole nation, along sectarian lines,” warns Nicholls. “Religious zealots like Abbott are not content to follow their beliefs privately. They want to use their political power to force their religious doctrines on the rest of us – whether or not we share their religious views. We find that offensive and un-Australian.”
Nicholls continues, “The appointment of Tony Abbott confirms the need for Australia’s non-religious sector to align against the wealthy, power-hungry, highly politicised religious forces infiltrating our political parties. The Global Atheist Convention, to be held in Melbourne next March, provides a unique opportunity for freethinking Australians to stand together and say, “We’ve had a gutful of popular, progressive political policy being derailed by religious fanaticism.” The timing of the Convention could not be better.”
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