As of this morning, Michael McCormack is our new Deputy Prime Minister after the Nationals appointed him leader and Barnaby Joyce stood down.
Joyce brought with him his own indiscretions. He and a former staffer are expecting a child together, the result of an affair hidden from both his party and his wife of 24 years.
But McCormack is under fire for comments that are more than poor taste – they are downright offensive.
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McCormack, 53, is a former journalist and – in 1991, at age 27 – became the youngest ever editor at Wagga Wagga newspaper The Daily Advertiser, the ABC reports.
Two years later, in May 1993 when he was 28, McCormack wrote an editor’s letter for the paper, in which he called homosexuals “sordid” and “unnatural”. He also blamed the gay community for AIDS.
His words, in part, are here, courtesy of The Daily Advertiser:
A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society.
Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay.
On Monday hundreds of thousands of homosexuals marched through Washington in a demonstration intended to show their demands for equal rights and an end to discrimination should no longer be ignored or denied.
How can these people call for rights when they’re responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome?
His article goes onto applaud the work of newspaper editors who had been criticised for “gay bashing”, saying they had shown “moral backbone” in “condemning homosexuality”.
McCormack, who grew up on family farms in rural New South Wales, has since apologised for these comments. He also says his views on homosexuality have evolved over time.
“I have grown and learnt not only to tolerate but to accept all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique,” he said in a statement last year, Junkee reports.
But his homophobic past is under intense public scrutiny as the 53-year-old steps into the role of the second most powerful person in Australian government.
— Kiera (@KieraGorden) February 21, 2018
Congrats to Michael McCormack, new deputy PM, who wrote this in 1993 when I was eleven. pic.twitter.com/mlhi80W73k
— Bec Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) February 25, 2018
— Ray Morrow (@Morrow84Morrow) February 25, 2018
The criticism is certainly called for. His words were, and still are, abhorrent.
But how much credit do we give him, when he says he’s changed?
“If you’re in public life you have to expect to be subjected to that kind of scrutiny,” Sydney City councillor Christine Forster told AAP. “He’s said he doesn’t hold those views anymore and you’ve got to take that at face value.”
Forster – whose brother, former PM Tony Abbott, opposes marriage equality – insists people can “evolve” over time.
“Happily homosexuality is not something that has to be closeted anymore and most Australians have family members, friends, colleagues or neighbours who are gay – and of course that interaction with other human beings can change people’s views.”
47,333 people (54.6%) within the electorate of #Riverina have returned a yes response to the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. As the Member of Parliament representing the people within the electorate of Riverina – I will be respecting and voting in support of this result.
— Michael McCormack MP (@M_McCormackMP) November 15, 2017
Perhaps the greatest indicator that McCormack has the potential to do right by the Australian LGBTIQ community, is the way he voted after the same sex marriage survey.
Despite his views, and the words he’s used previously, McCormack voted ‘yes’ when he heard the view of the Australian people.
He did right by the community he treated so horribly. So, while his previous words are unforgivable, his future actions could prove otherwise. One thing is for sure: we will be watching.