Michael McCormack hadn’t even been sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and he was already being publicly eviscerated for his past comments attacking the LGBTIQ community.
Earlier this morning, McCormack – the Nationals Member for Riverina in NSW – successfully contested the Nationals leadership against Queensland MP, George Christensen. With the leadership of the Nationals comes the Deputy Prime Ministership of Australia, courtesy of a long-standing deal between the Liberals and Nationals.
McCormack was sworn in by Victorian Governor Linda Dessau (she’s standing in for Australian Governor General Peter Cosgrove) at 10:35am. But at 10:32 am, Just.Equal – a new LGBTIQ community group formed to ensure hard won gay rights protections secured in 2017 aren’t wound back by parliamentary legislation which aims to ‘protect religious liberties’ – took was is likely the first aim at the new leader, demanding McCormack atone for his quite substantial sins of the past. That includes a column McCormack wrote for the Daily Advertiser in Wagga in 1993, when he was the editor.
The piece opened with the line, “A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society.” Things pretty much went down hill from there (you can read the full text at the bottom of this article here).
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome – famed for his work on the marriage equality campaign – acknowledged McCormack had apologised for his “hateful views” but called on the new Deputy PM to actively engage with the LGBTIQ community to “heal the wounds caused by [his]past hate”.
“Many LGBTI Australians will be justifiably concerned about Michael McCormack being our Deputy Prime Minister given his hateful comments against us in the past,” Croome said.
“Many National Party voters will share our concern given the strong Yes vote in many parts of rural and regional Australia.
“The apologies Mr McCormack made in the past are welcome but given the hatefulness of what he said, and the high office he has stepped in to, he needs to walk the talk.
“He needs to get behind initiatives that will reduce the unacceptably high levels of LGBTI isolation, prejudice and suicide that still exist in some parts of rural Australia.
“He needs to heal the wounds caused by the kind of prejudices he publicly expressed in the past.”
McCormack was born in Wagga Wagga and took up a cadetship with the local paper after finishing high school. He was appointed editor in 1991, at the age of 27, but sacked from the paper in 2002, for which he reportedly sued and settled after an unfair dismissal claim.
McCormack won the seat of Riverina in 2010, and has progressively climbed the ranks of parliament. The seat has been held by the National Party since 1980. Prior to that it was briefly a Labor seat.
A deeply conservative electorate, Riverina takes in the towns of Parkes and Cowra to the north, and Wagga Wagga to the south, where McCormack is based. Wagga has a large defence presence (Kapooka, the Army training centre is located nearby) and is considered a deeply conservative town. At the 2016 election, McCormack won two thirds of the vote on a two-party preferred basis, making it one of the safest seats in the state.
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