When I was in year 5, I saw my teacher, Miss Hansford in the supermarket carpark. I was befuddled. She buys groceries? She DRIVES a CAR? She wears JEANS? It was so disconcerting to see her out of her natural habitat. I didn’t like it one bit.
I feel similarly discombobulated when I get a glimpse at the real life of politicians. The idea of them sitting around a dinner table with their family. Helping the kids with homework. Vacuuming.….It makes it harder to go back to seeing them as a two-dimensional talking head.
Tony Abbott is one of the clearest characters in politics. There’s no confusion about who he is or what he stands for. He’s the pugilistic conservative; brutally effective in destroying the government. He is traditional, religious and pragmatic.
Margie Abbott and the three lovely Abbott daughters are regulars at his side – part of the Tony package.
Christine Forster is Tony Abbott’s little sister. She is gay.
It turns “brand Abbott” upside down. The man who strongly stands against gay marriage, has a little sister who is living with a woman she’d very much, like to marry.
When Bob Katter’s gay brother Carl took his story to the media, it was an airing of very dirty family laundry. Carl’s rage at his brother’s condemnation of gay marriage has caused a very public split between the brothers.
The Abbott family has acted very differently. From what we know of the Opposition Leader, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he had (like so many families do) turned his back on his sister. But the would-be Priest has embraced his sister’s lifestyle. He loves her, no matter what.
In an interview over the weekend, Tony Abbott spoke about what happened when Christine decided to leave her husband for a woman.
“These things happen,” said Abbott. “The marriage ended. For Chris it was replaced by something else that is marvellous. She has regrets but she did something brave, authentic, something she felt had to be done. I can respect that even if I can’t in every sense understand it … I’ve come to the view over the years that the only side you can take is that which tries to maintain relationships. Getting judgmental in ways which damage relationships does no one any good.”
His sister Christine says she loves her brother and that he showed her sympathy and acceptance when she came out to him. He’s been, by all accounts, a really good brother.
“My brother and I have always had a strong relationship and he respects and supports me and my lifestyle choices,” she said.
“Tony, Margie and their daughters have warmly welcomed Virginia into their family.”
But she hasn’t been able to change his mind on the issue of gay marriage; it’s been a topic of heated conversation between them. Christine says she’ll keep working on him, and Tony says he’s not likely to change his mind. They are a (fairly) regular brother and sister. They’re allowed to disagree.