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20 October 2021

Politicians love to kiss babies, so they say, but, according to naysayers this week, not all babies are good babies.

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.

First of all, let me be clear there is a bloke in NSW who will be an excellent Premier for that State, who won't slash and burn and fall for the old free-market siren song of privatisation (and won't come after WA's fair share of the GST).

But his name is not Dominic Perrottet. It is, of course, Chris Minns, leader of NSW Labor.

Minns is a rising Labor star, who has been constructive during the pandemic and would serve NSW in the spirit of a conscientious public servant.

To say Chris Minns would be a breath of fresh air after recent grubbiness, selfishness and cronyism in the Emerald City would be an understatement.

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.

So my response, a reasonable one I think, was one of instinctual and sincere congratulations and happiness for the Perrottet family.

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 duelling honour of being feted and hated in his first 15 days as Premier.

On the one hand he has been praised for leading NSW out of lockdown in an abrupt fashion not seen in this pandemic, and on the other he has copped a lot of flak for being a Catholic.

Most of it 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 hers.

What has disturbed me about the attacks on Perrottet have 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.

Let's not forget Australia is a pluralist society, where broad ideas and principles are championed and multiculturalism and diversity should be embraced.

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.

But, as I've noted before, Australia is also a remarkable country, full of decent and generous people of good conscience drawn from all faiths and none.

Progressive politics draws on great atheist thinkers, Christian social reformers and Catholic social action.

In history, these forces have destroyed abominations such as slavery and fascism and served as a bulwark against the worst totalitarians of the right and left.

I've always kept matters of faith private and I'm not ostentatiously religious. I was raised a Catholic. But my wife is an Anglican and I converted to the Anglican faith before we got married. So that makes me a Christian who believes in God. It may not be woke to say such a thing in 21st-century Australia, but there you have it.

But more importantly I'm a secularist, a believer in the fair go, a worker's representative, a Labor man, a family guy and a union man.

We rightly expect our national leaders to respect the constitutional separation of Church and State, the dynamo of great societies.

As America's first Catholic president John F. Kennedy famously said, as leaders we are ‘responsible to all faiths, but obligated to none’.

I believe that is the only test that applies to Australian leaders.

We do not just ‘tolerate’ difference, we celebrate it. That means every person in Australia is free to be proud of their faith.

The condemnation, discrimination, or vilification of anyone is a violation of our nation's shared values.

So don't fear and oppose Perrottet for being a Catholic or going to church on Sunday.

There is a different ideology Perrottet genuflects before that should cause real fear and opposition from people in NSW privatisation.

The NSW Premier has previously labelled privatisation the ‘golden key’ and pushed through toll roads and the privatisation of TAFEs and transport services.

Now that's something to really put the fear of God in your heart.

And now having defended Perrottet, here's a sermon from Bill's political pulpit. Dom, hands off WA's slice of the GST.