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Abbott’s troops not all in step

Cory Bernardi has once again made headlines with his views of gay marriage. AAP/Alan Porritt

Any troubles Tony Abbott has are tiddlers compared with Julia Gillard’s but, despite his repeated pleas for discipline, the opposition leader can’t stop a few cracks and breakouts.

Today there were three.

The first was over the referendum to recognise local government in the constitution.

In the Coalition party room, those who oppose the referendum – and they are quite a solid block - suddenly have new grist from the government’s decision to give $10 million to fund the “yes” case but only $500,000 for the “no” one.

The “no” allocation was based on the tally of MPs (two Liberals) who voted against the referendum in the lower House. There will be more in the Senate, where a number of Coalition senators plan to cross the floor or abstain in the vote due this week.

Abbott has written a sharp letter to the PM, declaring there should be equal funding.

He’s on a classic barb wire fence over the referendum. The opposition has given it formal but lukewarm backing, with Abbott making it clear he wouldn’t be campaigning actively for it.

The government’s foolish decision on lopsided funding may be providing Abbott with a rationale for stepping back further. He told the party room the issue was “unfolding”.

But if Abbott retreats, he will be repudiating his local government spokesman Barnaby Joyce, who told the national assembly of local government in Canberra today: “I’m passionately engaged with wanting to get this up”.

In a frank account of the opposition’s divisions Joyce, noting that the debate had started in the Senate, went on: “This is going to be tough. We will have people crossing the floor against this. … I’ve tried my best but these people are crossing the floor because at the primary level in their connection with local government officials they have not been talked to, not in numbers, not in a pestiferous, engaged and calculated way”. Others, he said, would not turn up for the vote.

Becoming even more confessional, Joyce said: “I am fighting on your behalf in the Leadership Group of the Coalition … To be honest with you, I’m burning up political capital doing it, trying to keep them on board to make sure we get this thing through”.

On another front, right wing senator Cory Bernardi was again being provocative about gay marriage.

Last year Bernardi lost his shadow parliamentary secretaryship over his comments suggesting legalising gay marriage could be a slippery slope to accepting polyamory and even unions between people and animals. Gay Marriage is again on MPs minds with debate this week on a Greens bill to recognise internationally sanctioned same sex marriages.

In an interview with Fairfax Media Bernardi claimed some vindication for last year’s comments. “There is actually now a petition been put together for the House of Representatives by Green activists to legally recognise multi-member unions”, he said, in a reference to a recent petition by the Polyamory Action Lobby.

“Now I said that would happen”, Bernardi said. Colleagues just wish he would bite his tongue. But that is not in Bernardi’s nature – he works on the principle that views are for the stating.

The third breakout came in the Senate tonight, where the government has introduced an amendment that would prohibit religious organisations that provide Commonwealth-funded aged care from discriminating on the basis of sexuality.

The Coalition opposes the amendment - which had not been produced in the earlier stages of considering the wider anti-discrimination legislation - but Queensland Liberal senator Sue Boyce strongly supported it.

She told the Senate that religious organisations could not have things both ways. They could not say they did not discriminate while also saying they did not want the anti-discrimination provision affecting them.

Boyce is expected to cross the floor on the issue when the vote comes. In addition, West Australian senator Dean Smith (who is gay) is expected to abstain.

A few hours before, Abbott had told his party room that it was never more important than in this last sitting fortnight to maintain discipline.

Join the conversation

50 Comments sorted by

  1. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

    Gillard's troubles just got a whole lot worse:

    http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2013/06/the-legal-services-board-of-victoria-confirms-that-police-are-investigating-the-actions-of-lawyers-a.html

    The Legal Services Board has confirmed that Gillard is the target of the Victoria Police investigation into the AWU fraud scandal. They have suspended an investigation into her conduct, citing the police investigation and indicating they will liaise with police rather than proceed with a parallel investigation.

    It will be interesting to see if Rudd and his supporters use this as a pretext to move on Gillard. The line from the PMO that the investigation relates only to Ralph Blewitt and/or Bruce Wilson won't hold water any more. Nor will her dismissal of questioning with a mere "I did nothing wrong". The media can and should run hard on this now and Rudd should make his move.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      A rare article on the opposition is immediately deflected to a legal quandary for the government?
      How's that "One Nation" case going, Leigh?

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  2. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Wow! Imagine that. A party where the members can have differing views AND express them. Somewhat the opposite approach has been observed in the government camp. Who could forget Bill Shorten's "I agree with whatever the PM said" - Have you heard what she said? "No but I agree with it." (Shades of "Yes, Prime Minister")

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    1. Jon Holbrook

      Left wing tree hugging mad cyclist

      In reply to John Phillip

      This is the same party that wouldn't allow a conscience vote on a gay marriage bill last year? Yes, neither did the Labor Party, but my point is that neither of them are better than the other.

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Cracks and breakouts, John, cracks and breakouts.
      Conditioned by the former "hyperbole" commonly expressed, visions of the Grand Canyon appeared and catastrophic dam collapses, even mass prison escapes.
      It might take some time for the nervous system to acclimate to the new balance.

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    3. Rod Govers

      Retired IT administrator

      In reply to Jon Holbrook

      At the last parliamentary same sex marriage vote the ALP did have a conscience vote but they should not have as same sex marriage was voted in as ALP policy at the last national conference. The conscience vote was allowed simply as a face-saving exercise for the prime minister because because of her unconscionable stance on same sex marriage.

      Apart from that, the equal rights of minorities should never be the subject of a conscience vote.

      Where are our politicians like this NZ conservative:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfSGOK5jC9I

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Hard to say they're hiding too much Matthew when your so called extremists are prepared to be quite open in what their beliefs are and will even cross the parliamentary floor on voting where applicable to their beliefs.

      You do also get some government guys straying a bit in regard to their own insider brawls they are having but as for voting in parliament you do not see too much floor crossing and never too much said about topics the real extremists keep their mouths shut on.

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    2. Gordon Comisari

      Resort Manager

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Good to see that some reputable online websites finally start to focus on the real issue.

      DEMOCRACY, as the name implies, means we the people decide what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore voting for instance must be seen as a privilege, a duty and an obligation. This is imperative for a democracy to function properly.

      We find ourselves in an unprecedented attack on our way of life. Vested interests, driven by power and profit, have embarked on a “regime change” vendetta in order to preserve…

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    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gordon Comisari

      To bolster your arguments, Gordon, Moral Philosopher Adam Smith, more than two centuries ago, demonstrated by economic argument that those of whom you complain "had an interest to deceive and oppress the public, using all means at their disposal to have governments intervene in the market in their favour".
      Nothing much has changed, probably because Smith's works have tended to give too many commercial secrets away, and so have been marginalised to diminish their influence.
      Intriguing.
      Smith's objective was "To understand commercial society and better it."
      You could see why conservatives would oppose such a change.

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    4. Peter West

      CEO at Property

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      "extremists"? Where the middle was a few years ago! "Extreme" is handing over public policy to the UN, bankrupting the country, having open borders, and redefining "marriage". Marriage is between a man and a woman. If people want some sort of civil union, maybe, but not "marriage". It's just another sign of our moral and intellectual decay!

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    5. Peter West

      CEO at Property

      In reply to Gordon Comisari

      Some people just hate free speech! Particularly when they don't agree with it!
      1. Opinion pieces have a by-line, in other words it's the opinion of the writer. It is naive to think people cannot make up their own minds.
      2. Studies show that most journos tend towards the Left wing mindset (particularly the ABC).
      3. As an aside it's open season on Murdoch now. As an individual who took a small provincial entity to an enormous world-wide business, it just proves that he was one of the most talented businessmen this country has ever produced. Just another example of the tall poppy syndrome, and the still-existent cultural cringe.
      4. I agree free and fair elections are totally unacceptable to the totalitarian mindset! As is free speech!

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    6. Chris Reynolds

      Education Consultant

      In reply to Peter West

      I think Rupert is big enough to defend himself although would doubtless appreciate your voice in his support.

      My fear is that it is Rupert who is actually anti free speech by owning over 70% of the print media in this country while his mining friend owns a good chunk of the only major opposition. That's the kind of free speech you are supporting, my friend. It is also quite openly conceded that Murdoch uses his newspapers to run political campaigns. We are undoubtedly in the middle of one at the moment. He himself has stated that he has made and broken governments in the past. That is what his newspapers are currently attempting to do and lo0king pretty likely to achieve.

      I agree with free speech which is why I object to your blind support for Mr Murdoch. He is a monopolist and this in the area of media is profoundly anti free speech and fundamentally undemocratic. His notion of freedom isnot free speech but rather the notion that he should free to make lots of money.

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  3. Terry Mills

    lawyer retired

    The recognition of Local Government was a bipartisan agreement in the lower house, now we are hearing Sen. Brandis & Abetz alleging that they only agreed to 'putting the question' not 'supporting the principle'. That has thrown Abbott into confusion as he actually agreed to support the principle of local government recognition.
    The funding should not be considered as promoting the 'Yes' or 'No' camps but going towards explaining the implications, the benefits and any downside of the proposal.

    With the coalition now reversing their support and muddying the waters the referendum is virtually dead.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Terry Mills

      Perhaps conservatives, by their very nature, are compelled to oppose change, by killing off any referenda.
      Their particular god, Jupiter, is in his heaven and his acolytes wish to keep him there?
      "Prometheus Chained" by Aeschylus puts some meat on the political religiosity of the latest batch of conservatism.
      Apparently Jupiter will die and his son release the inherent capacity for "forethought" to deliver humanity from its dependence from superstitious authority.
      Terrible, terrible stuff.
      Must be opposed, at all costs.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Terry Mills

      I'd agree with the no Yes or No funding and lets get the explanation out there Terry and as for different things being said by different guys at different times, perhaps it is because they do not have a manual from which to speak a la Joel whatshisname and the ex whip to boot, ruddy well booted one way or another.

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    3. Rod Govers

      Retired IT administrator

      In reply to Greg North

      I liked Fitzgibbon's on-air comment about the talking points manual.It was good to see a politician being human for once for whatever reason.

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    4. Peter West

      CEO at Property

      In reply to James Hill

      Goldilocks and the three bears may have some relevance? Food for thought!

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    5. Peter West

      CEO at Property

      In reply to Greg North

      On the issue of direct government funding: governments of all persuasions like to increase their powers.
      Why is it that this becomes an imperative at this time?
      Councils have got on well for 150+ years. If they have funding problems, they can cut their intrusive staff, as 95% of rates are staff costs.
      The seemingly innocuous constitutional change is actually very dangerous. Councils are going to be the enforcers for the evil and anti-human Agenda 21, enforcing "sustainability" and other draconian measures. Like a lot of government-mandated "reforms" we are treated like sheep and kept in the dark as to the true "agenda".

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    6. Chris Reynolds

      Education Consultant

      In reply to Peter West

      I wonder why we bother to make any policy changes at all if what you argue is the case. Your ant-reform agenda of course applies only if community control of affairs is to imposed not if regulations which protect community interests are to be abolished. Your libertarian free-for-all approach would release rampant individualism and self-interest into our society on a frightening scale. Sorry I forgot as you wold doubtless seek to remind me that "there is no such thing as society!"

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    7. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Peter West

      With "Reddylocks" stealing poor little Kevin's porridge?
      More evidence of the inherent evil of the "unfair" sex eh?
      All part of the Myth?
      Julia Athena?

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  4. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    The long, popularly demanded, and now editorially mandated, "balance" cuts in?
    A faint whiff of democracy begins to pervade the Politics and Society offerings?
    Most welcome, if true, and long past overdue, if I may be so bold as to offer an opinion?

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  5. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    One thing you can surely rely on much more with the LNP, a major coalition at that is to get a greater variety of views espoused in the open than what might ever be occurring with Labor.

    Cracks as they may be or even more confrontist speakeda your mind buffs like Bernardi, they will only ever be of any great significance if they were to affect any partys' stable government and the odd MP espousing a particular belief or different views between the HR and Senate can only be good for democracy and…

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    1. Chris Reynolds

      Education Consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      On the back foot a it here Greg. Instead of always shifting the blame to Labour you might actually try to address the real issues dividing the Liberal Party.

      Gillard has given this country greater stability and forward thinking policy making than the Howard-Costello saga of the eleven years of "asleep at the wheel" Coalition ever did.

      By the way before you use the rusted on/broad church lines out of the Party handbook, I do not Labour.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris Reynolds

      When you can look at what Gillard has done for Labor as stabilizing Chris, I have to doubt you would know what labouring really is.
      As for forward thinking policy, sometimes less is better when the thinking in high gear is retarded and in fact any good policies are just that when there is no revenue to fund implementation, further borrowings as is Labor's way just not being sustainable.

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    3. Peter West

      CEO at Property

      In reply to Greg North

      Absolutely right, Greg. How about "he who governs least governs best"? Labor has been full of grandiose schemes with little thought towards implementation and unforeseen consequences.
      One Labor luminary was boasting about the number of pieces of legislation introduced under their rule! Sort of "look what we've done"!
      Business labours under 20,000 new regulations. For almost every new law introduced there is a cost, often forgotten by the populace who have been conditioned to "free stuff" since…

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  6. Tony Grant

    Student

    Thinks legal...Abbott and his deferred appointment with One Nation in court?

    Could this bring down a sitting MP?

    All things legal/media controlled are moving heaven and earth to get him in the lodge but "what if"?

    It's not like he doesn't have history in the courts but it won't be North Sydney Magistrates where "daddy Abbott" has connections!

    If it is good for Craig Thomson to get "a fair go" sorry not the case...why not Abbott with previous arrests?

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  7. Chris Reynolds

    Education Consultant

    The most galling thing about the current political situation is the hypocrisy with which this Opposition now turn round and blame the victim yet again. Having run the line that their termagant behaviour in the Parliament over three years has been because they are not the government but just being an effective Opposition holding the Government to account, they turn the table and hand on heart deplore the tone in which public debate is being conducted.

    Having flogged the horse to death Mr Abbott now asserts that animal rights is what he wants to see in future. Sorry Mr Abbott you cannot have it both ways. You have gone the biff and is likely to occur int he next Origin game the other side is likely to retaliate or at least defend itself. We sall recall the scurrilous attacks on the M by the front bench over weeks of sustained scandal-mongering and the mudbucket brought into the Chamber by the Opposition every day.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris Reynolds

      I suppose you can always soak up the termagant galling for as long as you mendaciously believe what your mind wants you to believe and in doing so may you be settled with cerebral balance.

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    2. Chris Reynolds

      Education Consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg your eloquent contempt is beneath my contempt. I suppose in these columns you can indulge in such insolence and feel free to do so. Mendacious is what I regard Mr Abbott's self-serving seizing of the high ground in the public debate after crawling around in the gutter for three beastly years. Moreover, given this, it is not only mendacious but barefacedly audacious. This has never stopped Abbott in his career before; so no surprises if it doesn't now.

      Whatever riposte you make to this remark i will by the way not respond to as i see the positions you consistently adopt in these columns to be based consistently on ideological partisansip to which you are entitle but the rest of us do not need to endure.

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  8. Greg Young

    Program Director

    I'm actually not convinced that Bernardi's statement constitutes a breakout. Has Abbott condemned it or taken action against him in any meaningful way sice he said it? Given Abbott's own social conservatism, I would not be surprised if he discreetly approved of this statement.

    Joyce is not part of Abbott's party and owes him no great allegiance, so his expressing a different view on a policy matter can't really be seen as a major breakout either.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Young

      Did you miss in the article Greg the following paragraph
      " Last year Bernardi lost his shadow parliamentary secretaryship over his comments suggesting legalising gay marriage could be a slippery slope to accepting polyamory and even unions between people and animals. Gay Marriage is again on MPs minds with debate this week on a Greens bill to recognise internationally sanctioned same sex marriages. "

      And now if you are referring to his most recent comment:
      " In an interview with Fairfax Media Bernardi claimed some vindication for last year’s comments. “There is actually now a petition been put together for the House of Representatives by Green activists to legally recognise multi-member unions”, he said, in a reference to a recent petition by the Polyamory Action Lobby. "

      Talking about a petition that has been prepared is hardly something that needs censure.

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    2. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Greg North

      I am talking about his most recent comments, as was the original article.

      Your conclusion seems to indicate that you also disagree with Michelle that Bernardi has departed from Abbott's disciplines.

      If Abbott found Bernardi's thinking repugnant then, he should still hold the same opinion now. Unless he reiterates his views vis-a-vis Bernardi's on this matter, it is reasonable to assume that he does not disagree with him, as I said.

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    3. Chris Reynolds

      Education Consultant

      In reply to Greg Young

      The truth is that it is the Coalition which is divided in many of several different ways and is the party which will bring unstable and arbitrary government. A combination of the Bush Socialists - farmers are doing it tough so help them out and the free-market Liberals is like mixing oil and water - an unholy amalgam at the expense of the urban lower middle and lower classes as the son of Workchoices doubtless ro come will surely demonstrate in short order upon their election to office.

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    4. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Chris Reynolds

      In her valedictory speech on Monday, Ms Moylan said she had on a number of occasions disagreed with the party (Liberal) and voted against the party. She was not censored because the Libs have since Menzies' time accepted that a sitting member may on concience or electorate grounds disagree and cross the floor.
      This, she stated correctly, is the difference between the conservatives and Labor.
      Labor is all about control, you go the party way or get out.
      Not my idea of democracy.

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    5. Greg Young

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      That's a clear misrepresentation. Labor allowed a conscience vote on gay marriage, even when supporting it was part of the platform they took to the election. And if they were really as ruthless as you claim, they would have turfed out Rudd and his dissenters years ago.

      There are plenty of differences between the conservatives and Labor, but the former being more democratic is not one of them.

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    6. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Greg Young

      You said it, "Labor ALLOWED a conscience vote on gay marriage".
      It's all about control, they allowed it.

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    7. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      Well that's just semantics and doesn't mean anything. You could just as easily say the Liberals "allow" votes against the party line so they are also all about control.

      The deposing of Malcolm Turnbull tells you all you need to know about the Liberal tolerance for significant departures from their orthodoxy.

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    8. Tony Grant

      Student

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      You do know what a "minority government is"?

      Your idea of democracy is that you are a coalition voter, that simple not stretch of the imagination.

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    9. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Tony Grant

      The Labor party and if you know their history you shouldnt need to be told, TELLS their members whether they can vote according to concience. The Libs allow their members to chose. There will always be angst in the party room afterwards but not sackings and recriminations such as are seen when a Labor minister doesn't toe the party line.

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    10. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      You may wish to research the number of paid up members of the Labor Party of Australia and then look at their ratio of votes to the unions. The Labor party is a puppet of the big unions who are controlled by a few powerful men. That is not democracy.

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    11. Tony Grant

      Student

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      Pal, I've been to federal labor conferences and boy do we have our say!

      What happened to Senator Humphries...Canberra ?

      Victoria Premier Ted?

      All coalition's move to the right by many of the "faceless men" more than supported by Abbott...they coalition MP's get moved on washer and Moylan couldn't stand the stench or your democracy!

      Your lot don't have much history name changes and selling our nation short especially in war time, just like theses times!

      Big unions, you out of your mind (15% membership) and dominated since Hawke by the right in Labor/Labour affairs, you better go back to prior to 1986 to complain about big unions (43% membership) you lot have Gina Reinhart etc the very few controlling coalition policy...ever wonder why there are so many country party independents? The Liberals are hated in the bush for their control over the Nationals Truss/Joyce are good reasons to vote independent in the bush...where I'm from pal!

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    12. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      I suggest you refer to the other post here today about Washer and Moylan. You are glossing over the truth; there are serious career consequences for anybody willing to take advantage of the freedom you allege that the Liberal Party gives its members. They are sidelined for their temerity; that is not democracy either, it's just window dressing.

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  9. Felix MacNeill

    Environmental Manager

    I'm not particularly troubled by the pettiness, ultra-conservatism or bigotry of Bernardi's comment - one simply expects this from him - but the screaming irrationality of it and the fact that that irrationality isn't challenged - in fact, laughed out of parliament - is what troubles me most.

    By Bernardi's own 'reasoning', the fact that we allow heterosexual marriage is a slippery-slope to heterosexual pedophilia, or bestiality (so long as it was a ewe not a ram!)...by the same 'reasoning', the…

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    1. Rod Govers

      Retired IT administrator

      In reply to John Phillip

      And signed by just 28 people I read today, John. Hardly worth even mentioning. If I can find the link from the dozens of sites I've visited today I'll post it.

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  10. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    In relation to the local government referendum, Tony Abbott will be looking to the opinion polls, because I fear he is pretty short on principles on this issue. It could prove to be another 'non-core' type issue if the votes are not with him, and discussion in the Senate today indicates the LNP will pull the carpet out.

    How Cory Bernardi has any credibility in this millennium astounds me, although his 'principles' seem more coherent than those of the current leader of the opposition, who seems to wave about in the wind of the opinion polls..

    Sue Boyce at least argues logically, and could be commended for courage in speaking up on discrimination.

    It would be nice to see a few more Liberals speak their minds, rather than hide behind their leader's imposed wall of silence.

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