The Sydney Morning Herald thought this week’s Q and A was a significant cultural moment. They compared it with another one in 2008 where the shibboleth question for our culture , that of homosexuality, came up. It was indeed a revealing programme – telling us a great deal about where Australian culture, politics and religion are at – and where we are heading.
Hamish MacDonald, the host, was joined by Trent Zimmerman, Liberal Member (Homosexual) for North Sydney; Anika Wells, Labor Member for Lilley;; Antoinette Lattouf, Journalist, diversity advocate, and author; and Teela Reid, Wiradjuri/Wailwan, Lawyer; and Martyn Iles, Managing Director, Australian Christian Lobby.
It was the appearance of Martyn Iles that was too much for some people – even before he had been on the show. Those who believe in love and are opposed to hate speech were quick to share the love…
“Just saw the line up for #QandA and omg the creep from the Australian Christian Lobby is on? “
“Honestly, giving people like Martyn Iles a public platform is very unhealthy for society. The ACL is a hate group. I dearly wish we had laws against this”
“I’d rather hear from a Satanist or someone other than that man…”
The Church that believes in love, unity and diversity was also quick to show us just how loving, united and diverse they are:
“Just want to pre-emptively comment on tonight’s #qanda. This man is likely to slander and bear false witness against LGBTIQ+ people and communities. He does not represent the Church, nor the majority view of Christians in Australia.” Leichhardt Uniting Church.
And it’s not just liberals – mention Iles name in some evangelical circles and eyebrows are raised, knowing looks exchanged and a general impression is given that we don’t really want to be associated with that sort of thing.
What did we learn from the show? We learned a great deal about contemporary Australian society… Here are some of the lessons….
1. For some, ‘lived experience’ trumps everything.
Facts, truth, democracy, morality, religion – everything is subordinate to what is called ‘lived experience’. Martyn was asked “have you lived experiences, heard, shared and acted upon?” The implicit statement being that unless you have walked in their shoes then you cannot represent, speak about or disagree with. “I don’t think Martyn can walk in a gay man’s shoes”. All of this sounds so true. But in ABC culture that only applies to some groups. Nobody on the panel (which was largely hostile to Martyn) seemed to grasp that they did not have Martyn’s lived experience as a Christian – but that did not stop them commenting on it and condemning it.
One panellist spoke of Lil Naz X as being a hero because of his Satan’s shoes video. She declared that this shows that you cannot speak unless you feel the hate, it doesn’t matter what the intention of the speaker is. She has a point? I felt that her speech, and much of the rest was full of hate for people like Martyn and me – i.e., biblical Christians. By her own standard she was guilty of hate speech. Or does this not work both ways?
When Martyn mentioned the story of the Canadian man who went to jail because he misgendered his teenage daughter, he was told – “I think that’s a very specific example and we don’t know all the details…I’m not interested in speaking this specific example”. So, some stories are not worth telling and don’t count as evidence?
Within a few minutes of that we were listening to someone who identified as “an aboriginal queer non- binary person” who went on to tell the story of a relative who died in prison. That very specific example was of course not going to be questioned.
Just before the programme I saw an advert for another ABC show – You can’t say that – where we were told that everyone has a story and deserves to be heard! But is that true? Would the ABC allow my story to be told? Or that of a transgender detransitioner? Or someone who is ex-gay? Sadly, in our society today, your story only matters if it fits in with the pre-determined narrative?
1. Identity Politics is polarising and dividing Australia.
Martyn was told that ‘you don’t have skin in the game when it comes to women’s issues”. That assumes a narrow fundamentalist individualistic view of what a human being is. All of us were ‘born of a woman’ and most of us had a mum as did Martyn. Martyn is young and not married but he has colleagues and friends who are women. I would suggest as a Christian he has a lot of skin in the game. He cares about issues such as the sexual exploitation of women and the trans attack on the very notion of what a woman is.
2. Most Australians don’t have a clue about Christianity and are hostile to what they do not know.
This was exemplified by the tweets that ABC put up on the screen. In itself it was revealing that the only tweets that I saw them put up were hostile. I’m sure they received some supportive ones for Martyn but that did not fit their narrative. He was there to be mocked and abused.
3. Shallow superficial soundbites have largely replaced substantive discussion as the primary discourse in Australian politics and media.
There were so many examples of this in the show. The lack of depth and thought was quite frightening. Take this one example. Anika Wells stated: “In the Bible there are 3,000 references to poverty and very few to homosexuality, so why can’t the ACL spend their money on that? “ This was retweeted as Gospel truth – but it’s just factually wrong. Clearly they had not bothered to read Mark Powell’s response to this oft made fake claim a couple of years ago – https://www.spectator.com.au/2017/11/abc-anything-but-biblical-christianity/
The point is that it sounds right, and they want it to be right, so the claim is made and left completely unchallenged.
Or take Trent Zimmermann’s claim that “any person should be able to decide what future they want from their own life and their body is part of that”. So if someone feels they are too fat they should be allowed to starve themselves? Or if people decide they want to change sexuality they should be allowed to seek conversion therapy? After all its their body!
Trent Zimmermann then went on: “we have to be careful about questioning whether transgenderism is a legitimate course for an individual to take…’ after pointing out that transgender people are much more likely to attempt suicide. Again, the host and other panellists, seemed to miss the rather obvious point that if being transgender does lead to such a high risk of suicide, perhaps we should question it a lot more?
But transgender is a very protected category on the ABC – the host gave out the Lifeline number after the discussion on trans….“if this conversation raises any issues…” which of course led to the inevitable tweet “If you have a guest on #qanda that makes you need to announce the LifeLine phone number that should tell you what sort of guest you have”.
4. The Cultural Elites don’t do diversity or equality.
At times this whole show felt like a put-up job. I think four of the questions were hostile to Martyn. The host questioned whether Martyn was just raising the Israel Folau issue (Israel was sacked from playing rugby after a Biblical post on Facebook that stated homosexuals were destined for Hell) as an attempt to increase the ACL’s membership, he also challenged Martyn’s figures on transgender. These are legitimate questions – the problem is that he made no similar challenges on the rest of the panel. He stated that Rugby Australia officials were not there to defend themselves – but permitted a series of attacks on Folau, who also wasn’t there to defend himself. He told Martyn ‘you’ve had plenty time, make it quick’ which again would have been fair enough if it were not for the fact that it was four (five?) against one and most of the questions were directed against him.
The audience seemed far more diverse than the panel (something noted by the Twitterati – some of whom objected that such people were even there). One young man made the telling statement “if you express your faith, then you will be met with severe career ending consequences”. This show was ample evidence of that.
Adapted from a report in The Australian Presbyterian by David Robertson
Another brilliant expose on Christianity by Prof. John Lennox titled The Logic of Christianity. He explains Christ’s birth and life as one of historical truth. Prof. John Lennox is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and an internationally renowned speaker and author of numerous books on the interface of science, philosophy, and religion.
A must watch for Christians and non-Christians alike. Both will be enlightened and hopefully as a result will be better people with hope for the future.
Atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins is on the crusade again with his latest book Outgrowing God1 to win more converts to his religion of atheism. His book was released in September, published by Random House Books.
CMI has produced an excellent review of this book. I suggest you go to their website http://www.creation.com to see it, in its entirety. The following is an abbreviated version.
As a teenager, Dawkins de-converted from (nominal) Christianity to atheism since he was unsure as to which god was the right god out of hundreds or even thousands of candidates.
Dawkins does not understand that to know God one has to be born again and receive the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can lead you into all truth. He is our counsellor, teacher and comforter. It is the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit of the Spirit in a believers life: love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness goodness, gentleness, kindness and self control. He is also the one that gives the gifts of the spirit for ministry.
In the first half of his book Dawkins raises eternal questions about good and evil. Is God really good? Is the Bible really true? Do we need the Bible and God to be good?
Dawkins obviously, like much of the world, does not like what God defines as sin and would much prefer to make up his own rules. Moreover, would like to change those rules as he sees fit.
Sin involves nothing less than flagrant rebellion against the will of Almighty God. Sin cuts us off from the living God entirely. This is no trifling matter. God, as our Creator, would be perfectly righteous in sending every one of us to death for our sins. It is only by God’s grace that He doesn’t do so. In fact, the problem of our eternal, sinful separation was so bad, that God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross (see also Dawkins’ dilemma: how God forgives sin).
A key element in Dawkins’ de-conversion experience is his belief in evolution, which convinced him that seemingly designed elements really evolved over long periods of time.
The second half of Dawkins’ book deals with his attempt to undermine the concept of intelligent design, using natural selection and evolution as an alternative explanation. Not wanting to sound trite but as a scientist he should be aware of the Ockham’s Razor approach to science. For even Dawkins himself has previously stated “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”.14 So, even as an evolutionist, Dawkins is forced to acknowledge how certain structures in the animal kingdom appear to be designed. His examples include the color pigments of the octopus, the tongue of the chameleon, and the legs of the cheetah, or the feathers of birds (p. 36).
Dawkins does not explain how legs can turn into wings or leaves into thorns. Neither does he name a single gene which would be responsible for such mutations as a practical example. In short, Dawkins misrepresents the way natural selection happens in nature. Natural selection is efficient in explaining how anatomically different structures in organisms lead to differential survival. But it does not explain how the structures themselves arise. People readily recognise cases of intelligent design in automobiles, buildings, books, statues, or hieroglyphs. Therefore, DNA serves as a plan for the whole entire body of an organism. DNA is the information that controls all the machinery of the cells to function successfully, to reproduce and adapt to their environment. Information comes only from intelligence and in the case of the information to control living cells, a level of intelligence beyond our understanding..
Dawkins understands that the Earth is fine-tuned for life to exist on its surface. If the Earth were just a little too close to the Sun, then it would be too hot for life to exist. On the other hand, if it was just a little too far, then it would be too cold for life. Furthermore, if the gravitational constant, G were even just a little different, then life could not exist on Earth. This is something called the anthropic principle, namely that Earth, and even the universe seems to have been designed especially for human life.
In response, Dawkins posits the multiverse concept. This concept states there are millions or even billions of universes, parallel with our own, each defined by its own laws and physical constants. Therefore, according to the law of big numbers, even though the great majority of these universes may all be devoid of life, a very small percent of them may still be finely tuned to allow life to appear.
What physical evidence is there for billions of other universes? Is it even possible for us to know of other universes? As such, this is not a scientific concept. Even if there happened to be other universes out there, how do we know that there are billions of them? Also, how do we know that they come into being independently from one another to have differing parameters and physical laws? Nonsense.
Lastly, Dawkins and other evolutionists attack design as unscientific. However, we see intuitively, that design is scientific. For example, if engineers designed sonar systems from bats, what kind of supernatural intelligence created bats? Design can easily be inferred from simple observation of nature. Dawkins needs to use extra, convoluted arguments to explain that biological structures evolved as opposed to being simply designed. By applying the principle of Ockham’s Razor, we can reject Dawkins’ evolutionary arguments and accept the principle of design. Dawkins should not reject intelligent design but acknowledge it as a viable scientific argument for the origin of life.
Political commentator and Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro spoke April 25th, 2018 to 11,000 students at Liberty University about the profound biblical values that created America, and why they’re worth defending today.
“America was built on a fundamental idea… that human beings are made in the image of God,” Shapiro said.
“Judeo-Christian philosophy (based on Biblical truth) expects us to struggle, to strive,” he added. “Judeo-Christian philosophy demands that we do our best and that we act virtuously on the individual level so that we can feel secure without invading each other’s rights. The Judeo-Christian tradition says that with freedom comes responsibility.”
Shapiro argued that those values are under attack because Americans now value collectivism over virtue.
“Collectivist philosophy, however, thinks differently—they expect us to give our individual striving for truth,” he said. “All we have to do is trade our individual responsibility for the comfort of collective power. … We can avoid that (individual) struggle by handing over all power to a nanny state.”
Shapiro believes collectivism breeds death and pointed to the case of Alfie Evans, a toddler with an undiagnosed brain condition in the United Kingdom.
The British government has forbidden his parents from seeking medical care outside of the country even though an Italian hospital has offered to treat him. The British courts have ruled it is in Alfie’s best interest to die.
“Collectivists see the state as the source of our morals, and our families as obstacles standing between individuals and their master. That’s exactly what’s happening with Alfie Evans, where bureaucrats are standing between parents and their child, saying that they know best that a child has
Shapiro, a vocal pro-life advocate, explained that collectivism doesn’t just murder babies outside of the womb, it murders baby within the womb through abortion.
Ultimately, collectivism brings the death of family, community, and society, Shapiro argued.
“So, the question becomes how exactly do we go about restoring the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which the nation was built? How exactly do we bring back the philosophy of the Founders and restore their promise?” he continued.
“To do that, we have to go back to basics. We actually have to talk about morality in politics,” he explained. “It is our job to learn, as you are doing here at Liberty, about what made our civilisation great—and what can make our civilisation great still.”
Shapiro received a standing ovation for his remarks. The truth wins out.
I believe he lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins, and was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. I believe he is the King of the earth, who will come back for his church. As he has given his life for me, so I am willing to give my life for him. I will use every breath I possess to boldly proclaim his gospel. Whether in abundance or need, in safety or peril, in peace or distress, I will not—I cannot—keep quiet. His unfailing love is better than life, and his grace compels me to speak his name even if his name costs me everything. Even in the face of death, I will not deny him. And should shadow and darkness encroach upon me, I will not fear, for I know he is always with me. Though persecution may come, I know my battle is not against flesh but against the forces of evil. I will not hate those whom God has called me to love. Therefore, I will forgive when ridiculed, show mercy when struck, and love when hated. I will clothe myself with meekness and kindness so those around me may see the face of Jesus reflected in me, especially if they abuse me. I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come. Should I die for Jesus, I confess that my death is not to achieve salvation but in gratitude for the grace I’ve already received. I will not die to earn my reward in heaven, but because Jesus has already given me the ultimate reward in the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul. For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Love this article by Andrew Burrell about the Liberal member for Canning W.A., Andrew Hastie from The Weekend Australian Magazine, September 23rd, 2017. It is about a 15 min read.
“He’s been pilloried for his ‘natural law’ argument against gay marriage. But Andrew Hastie isn’t a man to be messed with.” says, Andrew Burrell.
“One of the things that is happening at the moment is that we are transitioning from a society that’s always had a Judaeo-Christian world view anchoring the social and moral consensus … to a society which has a progressive world view defined by little more than individual freedom,” he says.
Testimonies are powerful. It is interesting that Andrew’s father a Presbyterian Minister was a Creationist, believing in the Bible’s six day creation account. I agree, it is impossible to believe in evolution with death and suffering before Adam, and the Bible’s account of creation with a perfect creation prior to Adam and Eve’s SIN of disobeying God. However, Hastie has had to adopt a “cunning as serpents, innocent as doves” approach to the subject of Creation v Evolution.
“Andrew Hastie’s whole body was wracked with pain and his brain was addled. For three weeks, the young army officer had endured extreme physical agony and mental torture, with little food and no more than four hours of restless sleep a night. When he called his wife at the end of the ordeal, he couldn’t hold back the tears. “I was broken, I remember calling Ruth and just crying,” he recalls. “I had no emotional resources left.”
Andrew Hastie in Afghanistan. Pic: Conan Daley
Hastie — now a rising star of the Liberal Party and a conservative pin-up boy at the centre of an ideological firestorm over same-sex marriage — is recalling the brutal selection course he endured to gain entry into the Special Air Service Regiment, the Australian Army’s toughest fighting force. The SAS course, held in the remote West Australian bush in the middle of winter, is regarded as the most physically and psychologically challenging of its kind in the world. If you survive it, you can survive just about anything.
Of the 130 superbly fit men who began that course in July 2010, only 30 made it through. Another 15 dropped out during the subsequent 18-month reinforcement cycle — a boys’ own adventure-style program that included parachuting, climbing, diving, boating, combat shooting, high-speed driving and jungle training.
Hastie went on to become an SAS ground force commander, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and conducting anti-terrorism operations in the Middle East. The seeds of his ambition to serve were planted as a boy when his grandfather, Flight Lieutenant Norman Hastie, showed him the bullet wounds he received while rescuing two downed Australian airmen in the Pacific during World War II. Yet by 2015, at the age of 32, Hastie had had enough of the military. “I realised the limitations of nation-building at gunpoint,” he says of his experiences in Afghanistan, where he survived several roadside bombings. “I remember thinking, ‘This is crazy.’ I had real doubts about how much we could actually achieve there.”
During those long deployments, something else had taken hold in the soldier’s mind: a greater appreciation of the conditions that led to the flourishing of Australian society and a desire to help preserve his own country’s institutions and cultural heritage. Hastie, who joined the Liberal Party in 2013, had long harboured ambitions for a political career and held little fear of the vicissitudes. “I’ve often said that warrior politics are much fiercer than federal politics,” he says. When Don Randall, the long-serving Liberal MP for the federal seat of Canning, died suddenly in July 2015, Hastie grasped his opportunity. He resigned from the Perth-based SAS, giving up his protected identity status, and won preselection — with the backing of West Australian Liberal powerbroker Mathias Cormann — for the poll in Canning, a largely working-class electorate south of Perth. Yet this was no ordinary by-election. In Canberra, it was seen as the contest that would decide the fate of Tony Abbott, who was under mounting threat of a leadership spill from Malcolm Turnbull.
Sniffing blood, the national media swarmed into Canning to get a glimpse of the hitherto unknown Hastie. And it became obvious that the Liberals had unearthed a unique candidate. Here was the conservative politician from central casting: a churchgoing, squeaky-clean ex-soldier who spoke about protecting Australian values and Western liberal democratic traditions. He also had a fearlessness uncommon in a political newbie.
Hastie didn’t impress everyone, of course. Where some saw a man of conviction, others typecast him as a Bible-bashing young fogey with antiquated views on topics such as homosexuality. He was ripe for ridicule on social media, where he was also depicted as a warmonger or a brainless beefcake. “The first tweet I ever looked at about myself said, ‘Gee, Hastie looks as dumb as batshit’,” he smiles. He did, however, prove he had substance, quoting chunks of Edmund Burke and William Shakespeare to journalists, some of whom were taken aback at the thought that a military man might also be a deep thinker. He looked good on television, too, quickly earning the sobriquet “Tasty Hastie” and being nominated for the Crikey website’s 2015 sexiest politician of the year. “It’s like a committee of gay men were asked to design a parody of a straight man — muscled, wavy hair, nice eyes, dimpled smile, family man, army uniform, son of a preacher man,” wrote one reader in endorsing Hastie for the title. “Is it wrong that the Christian fundie thing just makes him even hotter to me?”
This curiosity about Hastie only intensified after Fairfax newspapers ran front-page stories during the by-election campaign about a soldier under his tactical command in Afghanistan who’d cut the hands off dead Taliban soldiers in the heat of battle in order that they might later be identified through biometric screening. The headline in The Sydney Morning Herald read: “Star Abbott recruit probed for chopping off hands of dead Taliban”. Hastie, who remains vexed that he was accused of being a “war criminal”, had been cleared of any wrongdoing and was elsewhere on the battlefield when the incident took place in 2013. The soldier who cut off the hands was cleared this month after a two-year investigation by the Australian Federal Police.
The Fairfax story wasn’t the end of what Hastie regarded as unfair media treatment during the campaign. At a press conference a few days later he was grilled over revelations that his father, a Presbyterian pastor, was a Creationist who had dismissed evolutionary theory in his writings. When one reporter asked Hastie if he believed God made the world in six days, he could no longer contain himself: “You’re not hearing me, mate,” he responded, his eyes flashing. “People are sick of this crap. People are sick of trying to drag petty issues into public policy discussions.”
Two years later, Hastie remains touchy on the subject. He claims he has been depicted in the media as a “religious nut job” and he’d rather not discuss theology at length. “I don’t want to shy away from it, but in an era of identity politics and cultural Marxism people are looking for every reason to delegitimise someone. So every view I hold henceforth will be seen through the prism of, ‘Oh, he’s just whacking us with a Bible’.”
All he’ll say on Creationism is this: “There’s a range of different views about the origins of the Earth and my view is that God is the first mover. I believe God exists, and if He does exist, then why would it be beyond Him to be the creator?”
Andrew William Hastie was born in Wangaratta in 1982, the second of four children. His mother Sue was a schoolteacher in the northeast Victorian city and father Peter was the local pastor. When he was five the family moved to Sydney and his dad became the minister at Ashfield Presbyterian Church. Hastie attended Scots College where he recalls happy years dominated by sport and strong results in English and history. After school he enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts course at the University of NSW, where he nurtured his interest in the world’s great thinkers. “The philosophy department at UNSW was very rigorous, and taught me how to think,” he says.
He made ends meet by working as a barista at Gloria Jean’s and selling treadmills at Rebel Sports. He recalls heavy drinking sessions with his mates on a Saturday night that were inevitably followed by a hangover in church the next morning — an anecdote he tells in response to questions about his wholesome reputation. He adds for effect: “Once, when I was 17, I was at Blueberries in North Sydney with a fake ID. I came out of the bar as an under-age and there were people from my father’s flock lining up to get in. That’s about as bad as I get. But I’m certainly not a teetotaller — it’s part of the Australian culture to have a beer.”
Hastie didn’t fit in at UNSW’s Kensington campus, where as a Liberal voter and a John Howard fan he encountered the political left for the first time. A crossroads came on the day after 9/11, when a horrified Hastie listened as students in his politics tutorial tried to pin the blame for the atrocity on the US. Almost immediately, he knew he had to serve his country. He transferred to the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, earning an honours degree in history, and later completed officer training at Duntroon before being posted to Darwin to serve in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
Steve Barton, a friend who served alongside Hastie on his first deployment to Afghanistan, recalls a man who seemed destined for bigger things. “He struck me as thoughtful and intelligent, curious in the world around him,” says Barton, who went on to be a Liberal Party staffer. “I think of myself as reasonably well-read but he sometimes puts me to shame with the breadth and the diligence with which he reads.”
Hastie’s questioning of the mission in Afghanistan was thrown into sharp relief one cloudless day in Oruzgan province in February 2013. It’s etched in his memory: the snow on the nearby mountains, the smell of firewood in the crisp air. The then 30-year-old SAS commander had called in US Apache helicopters to take out two Taliban fighters who, according to intercepts, were planning to fire rockets at the Australians. But the Apaches fired at the wrong target, killing two local Afghan boys — Toor Jan, seven, and his brother Odood, six — who were gathering firewood across the valley. Hastie and his men were cleared of any blame but he can’t forget the sight of those two small, broken bodies. “I still think about them,” he says. “I had a nightmare last night about it, so it stays with me personally. But I’m at peace with it. I had an opportunity to apologise to their brother and their uncle, and that was part of the healing process for me. War is a degrading process. There is always moral injury; the taking of human life takes its toll on people.”
Hastie has spoken to psychologists about the incident, and says the nightmares — which in the early days left him “shrouded in a black cloud” for several hours after waking — have become less frequent. At the hint of a tear, though, he changes tack and moves the conversation on. “Our society, in a way, we are too open with things. I don’t want to be another sob story in the media.”
Hastie is much happier talking about his life with Ruth, who he met on a study trip to the US in 2007. A whirlwind romance ensued between the churchgoers and Hastie knew “within a week” of meeting her that he wanted to get married. Two months later, he proposed on the steps of Sydney Opera House. “We have very similar world views,” says Ruth, who packed up her life in the US and moved to Australia to become a soldier’s wife. By 2010, the couple had moved to Perth for Hastie to begin the physical training for the SAS selection course. Keen to start a family, they had trouble conceiving and began considering adoption. It took them a year to be formally approved, only for Ruth to fall pregnant a month later with baby Jonathan. Hastie found out while serving overseas in 2014 — via a text message from Ruth containing a photo she’d snapped of her positive pregnancy test. It had taken them six and a half years to conceive. “It was difficult, but as Christians we trusted God’s timing,” says Ruth, who also gave birth to a daughter, Beatrice, in August this year.
The big question being asked of Andrew Hastie is: How far can he go? Canberra insiders rate him as ministerial material. Friends reckon he could go to the very top. “I absolutely think he can be PM,” says Craig Clark, a Perth plumber who became firm friends with Hastie after meeting him at church. “Most of the people who know him would agree. He wants to raise the discourse; he’s as far away from being a politician as you can be.” Others with a close eye on federal politics say the backbencher will have to play smarter in the corridors of power. “He’s not a creature of the party so he doesn’t really get all the machinations,” says a senior Liberal source.
In February, Hastie was thrilled to get a phone call from Malcolm Turnbull inviting him to become chairman of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security. It was the first tangible sign he is progressing up the food chain in Canberra. Yet while nobody doubts Hastie’s loyalty to the Turnbull Government, the fact is he also remains openly loyal to Tony Abbott, whom he first met on the Canning by-election campaign trail in 2015. The ideological warriors became friends. They are both monarchists and share similar views on big political issues such as climate change and asylum seekers — Hastie says he hates to see refugees in detention but it’s “necessary” to stop people smugglers and describes himself as a climate “realist” rather than a sceptic. He says he wants to protect the environment but believes people must always come first. “I approach the politics of climate change with this primary question: how do we secure reliable and affordable energy for all Australians?” he says. “Everything else is secondary to this duty of government.”
Many in the Turnbull camp still view Hastie with suspicion. “If Abbott was PM Hastie would be progressing up the ladder a lot faster,” says a senior Liberal. Hastie admits he was disappointed that Abbott was removed as prime minister a week before he won Canning in 2015 and he believes the electorate remains unhappy that a first-term prime minister was dumped by his own party. But he reveals that he has privately counselled Abbott to desist from making the sorts of public comments that are widely viewed as destabilising to Turnbull’s leadership. “It’s a sacred office, so creating mischief in the background to cause havoc for the elected leader of our country is against what I stand for. I’ve had conversations with [Abbott] and I’ve given fairly frank advice. We’ve had discussions where I’ve said, ‘You’ve overstepped the mark here.’ But I say that as a friend. He’s been a good friend of mine and that’s what you do.”
When asked about his own ambitions, Hastie is circumspect: “The best way to make a difference is as a minister. But the worst thing you can do is jump ahead of yourself. I always put myself in a position where I can be called upon to do a job. But I don’t wake up every morning, putting on my tie, thinking, ‘How am I going to be prime minister of this country?’”
In recent months, it’s been difficult to miss the backbencher in the media as he emerged as one of the most strident opponents of same-sex marriage. Hastie is regularly pilloried over his views on the subject. When he appeared on national television recently to argue that traditional marriage “is a meeting of body and mind, it begins with consent and is sealed by sexual intercourse”, he was met with a barrage of anger — some of it vulgar and intensely personal. “F..king hell, Andrew Hastie is legit the dumbest c..t I have ever come across,” wrote one Twitter user.
Hastie’s opponents say he’s seeking to impose his Christian moral code on society. But he insists he has never used religion to argue against same-sex marriage; his reasoning is based on “natural law” and his belief that marriage is linked to the welfare of children. “I ask the question: what is the character of marriage over time and across cultures?” he says. “It’s a union between a man and a woman — that’s the normative practice throughout history and culture. I make no mention of sexuality and no appeal to religious authority in making my arguments. Marriage has always been an institution that’s inherently ordered towards family life. Ruth and I struggled for six years with infertility before we had Jonathan, but just because a marriage doesn’t bear children doesn’t mean it’s any less of a marriage.” But surely same-sex couples can also be good parents? “I don’t for a second suggest they’d be bad parents,” Hastie says, adding that he and Labor frontbencher Penny Wong, who is gay, have shared photos of their children. “What I’m saying is that we all have a natural right to know our biological mother and father. And once we legislate marriage to make it genderless, we institutionalise motherlessness and fatherlessness.”’
At the centre of Hastie’s world view is the theological concept of Imago dei, which asserts that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. His belief in this doctrine led him to publicly attack cartoonist Larry Pickering over homophobic comments he made earlier this year. Hastie says gay people must be treated with respect, and he sees no inconsistency between this view and his stance on same-sex marriage.
As the voting process ramps up, Hastie finds himself at the cutting edge of the culture wars. He aims to tread carefully, hoping not to offend anyone — an impossible task in such a fraught debate. As the postal ballots were being sent out in mid-September he became involved in a war of words with gay rights advocate and writer Benjamin Law, who had tweeted: “Sometimes find myself wondering if I’d hate-f..k all the anti-gay MPs in parliament if it meant they got the homophobia out of their system.” One of Law’s followers responded: “Start with Hastie.” In retort, Hastie was quoted in The Australian: “Noting my skills acquired in my previous career, I’d like to see him try.”
Despite this, Hastie implores both sides of the debate to be respectful. “Everyone could benefit from working to understand where the other person is coming from,” he says. “A lot of people who are advocating for Yes, especially those who are gay themselves, feel like the No case is almost an attack on their identity, or a denial of their human rights — and I get that. I understand why there’s so much emotion involved.”
Hastie sees the marriage debate as tied up in the broader clash of “fundamental visions of the social order”. And he knows he may well be on the losing side of this particular battle.