Apr 15, 2010

Canberra contest heats up over abortion claims

An old tactic is being used by a Labor faction in the ACT to thwart the preselection of an non-aligned candidate, with a prominent Left faction figure raising issues about the candidate's views on abortion.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Labor preselection battle in the ACT seat of Fraser is warming up, with a prominent Left faction figure raising issues about an unaligned candidate's views on abortion. On Monday, former ACT minister and Left faction heavyweight Wayne Berry sent an email to unaligned candidate Michael Pilbrow questioning his religious views and warning he would be reporting them to the party secretary.
From: Rhonda & Wayne Berry [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Monday, 12 April 2010 5:11 PM To: [email protected] Subject: Labor pre selection for the seat of Fraser Thank you for your preselection material however I am disappointed that you have not mentioned that you are active as part of the Canberra Christian Life Centre which is creationist and anti abortion -- and is affiliated, along with similar churches, with Hillsong in Sydney. To be more transparent you could have also mentioned that your church is the landlord of the West Belconnen Health Co-op Ltd, the Board of which you chair. These are facts that will not be well received by many in the ACT in an election contest and your pre selectors need to know these details before they make a decision on who they wish to represent Labor. I intend to forward this note to the Party Secretary for his attention and I would like to hear how you intend to deal with these issues. Wayne Berry
This is the second time Pilbrow has had his views on abortion questioned by the Left, and he has been repeatedly asked about it by Fraser preselectors. He responded to Berry and copied in all preselectors on Tuesday.
Dear Fraser preselectors Yesterday I received an email from Wayne Berry about my candidacy for preselection for the seat of Fraser. In the interests of transparency and avoiding misunderstanding, I have copied my response (immediately below) and Mr Berry’s original email (further below) to all Fraser preselectors. Kind regards Michael ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MY REPLY TO WAYNE BERRY ON 13 APRIL 2010 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear Mr Berry Thank you for your email. I am a Christian and with my family attend our local church, the Canberra Christian Life Centre. For a number of years my wife and I ran an activity program at the church for neighbourhood kids. Previously, I was an active member of the Anglican Church. I was not aware of other candidates including their religious beliefs or absence of belief in their material. Nor do I consider it necessary. For the record, I accept the modern science of big bang cosmology and evolution, and I am pro-choice. The selection of a wing of the Old Charnwood High School as the premises for the West Belconnen Health Cooperative was made by the then Committee following advice from an independent medical practice consultant, in the knowledge that the building was owned by the Canberra Christian Life Centre. This decision took into account space and cost issues to enable us to meet the community’s need for bulk-billing medical services, especially for the most disadvantaged people in West Belconnen. At the time of the decision, as you know, I declared my church attendance to the Committee, of which I was then Secretary/Treasurer. My faith is part of who I am, but it is not something I seek to impose on others.Further, I support and respect the separation of church and state. I revel in the way that the Labor Party brings together people from a whole range of backgrounds to be united around the common cause of improving the quality of life for working people and the most disadvantaged in our society and overseas. To avoid any further misunderstanding, I am copying your original email and this response to all Fraser preselectors. Yours sincerely Michael Pilbrow Preselection candidate for Fraser 13 April 2010
That's not the end of the story, though. As a local assembly member in Canberra, Wayne Berry was a vociferous opponent of right-to-lifers. He led the fightback against reactionary ex-footballer Michael correction Paul Osborne's deeply divisive attempt to impose anti-abortion legislation on Canberrans via the Carnell government in the 1990s. If anyone in ACT politics has earned the right to raise the issue of abortion, it's Berry. But the connection between the Canberra Christian Life Centre and the services provided by the West Belconnen Health Co-op has been raised before. Exactly that issue was raised in the ACT Labor Caucus in 2005 when the Stanhope government was considering funding the co-op, which has been established after years of effort by a small team headed by Pilbrow.  Caucus members were concerned that the ownership of the building in which the co-op would be located (an old high school) was in the hands of the Canberra Christian Life Centre and the latter might try to prevent the provision of reproductive health services. Crikey understands from senior ACT Labor sources that it was Berry who raised the issue in Caucus.  After it was demonstrated that the Church, and even the co-op board itself, had no input into clinical decisions made at the co-op, including on abortion, Caucus was satisfied about ACT government funding. This evidently didn't prevent Berry from raising the issue again. There's some long-term history to all this.  In 1997, the Left attempted to thwart the ACT Assembly candidacy of Jon Stanhope for the seat of Ginninderra, who like Pilbrow (and retiring Fraser MP Bob McMullan) was non-aligned. A Left faction figure claimed that Stanhope was a Catholic and a right-to-lifer. Apart from within the right-wing rump affiliated with the SDA, the charge of being anti-abortion is highly damaging in ACT Labor, and the claim is frequently used by the Left faction to damage its opponents. Stanhope, who was neither Catholic nor a right-to-lifer, survived the scare campaign and is now the longest-serving chief minister in the ACT's short history of self-government. It appears the Left is now trying to raise similar concerns about Pilbrow, knowing it will kill his candidacy if it sticks, regardless of whether it's true.  If nothing else, it suggests the Left is growing concerned about Pilbrow.  "Regardless of what you think of the Left, they can count," said one local Labor figure. Wayne Berry declined to comment when contacted by Crikey this morning.

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18 thoughts on “Canberra contest heats up over abortion claims

  1. steverfprofit

    Shouldn’t that be ex-footballer PAUL Osborne (different code)?

  2. daveliberts

    All’s fair in love and pre-selections, and this case is no different. The issues raised were (at least somewhat) legitimate and the response is comprehensive. That Pilbrow has circulated his reply to all preselectors shows he’s not worried about his stand on these issues, and if Canberra’s demographics are much to go by then the Fraser preselectors will be some of the best educated ALP branches in the country. Undoubtedly, factional forces will come into play, but McMullin’s long career in federal politics indicates that they won’t be the be-all-and-end-all. So it’s all just a storm in a teacup at the end of the day.

  3. John james

    ‘..who was neither Catholic, nor a right to lifer, survived the scare campaign.”

    I love it, just love it. Yes, be afraid, very afraid, ’cause we’re coming for you!
    Seriously though, it highlights the moral depravity of the Left, championing the killing of the innocent and helpless, and appealing to the basest of motives, sectarianism, while all the while talking about equality and a fair go for all.
    What rank hypocrisy! Butchering unborn children while you plead for the dowtrodden, decrying discrimination while you enact the worst manifestations of it, appealing to reason while you attempt to engender fear and the most irrational loathing for those of different faith.
    And yes, it is Paul Osborne, currently CEO of the Parramatta Rugby League club in Sydney and former player with St George and then the Canberra Raiders.
    And what was Paul’s terrible initiative. He introduced a bill into the ACT legislature that imposed a ‘cooling off period’ before a baby was butchered and insisted that a woman be given accurate information about her son or daughter and their intrauterine development. The abortion industry opposed that. They like to keep women ignorant.
    And yes, Berry opposed this. Berry and his mates will tell you you can kill a baby up to the day before its born, even while being born, so long as its within the birth canal, because that child is a’ nothing’, a ‘no- one’, in the eyes of the Law.
    Well there is a reckoning coming, one way or the other. This appaling injustice will be overthrown this side of eternity, and on the other side? Well, to enter into Eternal Life, with the blood of the unborn dripping from your hands, unrepentant??
    As Jesus said, better for that person “if he had never been born”.

  4. daveliberts

    That’s right John, let’s place all of the guilt burden on women. Men have nothing at all to do with pregnancy, do they?

    By all means give 15 year old high school students information about intrauterine development. And heap on the ‘if it’s not on, it’s not on’ messages. Less abortions is a good thing for everyone. But put the blame where a good half of it actually belongs, namely with blokes who are after a good time as consequence-free as possible, and not with young women who are facing enough grief as it is.

    Of course, such a move doesn’t fit the Catholic Church’s key message that women who aren’t nuns are pure evil, does it? You’ve certainly done nothing to dispel this in your post.

  5. Venise Alstergren

    Perhaps the members of the Australian Taliban (Christian fundamentalist religionists) might care to reflect on Australia’s secularism. The ones who would enter parliament, indeed the ones who are in parliament could bring themselves to read the Australian constitution. Oz is a secular nation.

    All far right wing fundamentalists, and Catholics especially; people like Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, Steve Conroy, Maxine McKew, Joe Hockey, Kelly O’Dwyer, Steve Fielding, Peter Ryan, Barnaby Joyce, Christoper Pyne, David Clarke, Kevin Rudd, Julie Bishop, and all the other members of parliament claiming their devout belief that men in frocks, have the right to inform the electorate on how we should lead moral(?) lives.

    As an Atheist it is my belief my morality is superior to the people of religion. I seek not to threaten Australia, make war on other people, or propel the electorate to believe that what I say is right.

  6. Venise Alstergren

    Thank you JOHN JAMES: You have coincidentally sailed in to this Post at precisely the opportune time to be as a beacon shedding light on exactly the right place to illustrate the point of the evil of Australian Talibanism.

    What possible right does he have to tell women what they may do in life? His immorality would have women still going to backyard abortionists. Places of infamy, despair and possible gangrene, and agony, because Catholic men believe women to be inferior to the male of the species. Worse, they set up a system whereby non-emasculated priests had to remain celibate.

    The word knows what that stupidity has brought upon thousands of hapless children.

    DAVE LIBERTS: I’ve just been reading an interesting hypothesis, that in America in the 1970s there was a correlation between the legalising of abortion and a dramatic decline in juvenile criminality. Try to hustle up a book called ‘Freakonomics’. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. New York 2005.

    There is another book they wrote called Super Freakonomics. IMHO ‘Freakonomics’ deals with their extensive research into this fascinating hypothesis more tellingly.



  7. John james

    Dave, you and Venise deserve each other, really!

    The question is not who is guilty regarding abortion. I’ve no doubt men are as involved in abortion as women, probably more so.
    The law presently, however, allows a father no say in the fate of his or her unborn son or daughter. So, if you accept, as I do, that the law is a great ‘educator’, then the message alot within the community draw from the present situation is that men have no rights in relation to their unborn children. And if you tell someone they have no rights, its very difficult to convince them that they do have responsibilities.
    And that brings us to what is the CENTRAL QUESTION at the heart of the debate. What responsibility does the community in general, and the parents in particular, ( yes, mum AND dad ) have to the baby?
    The baby, Dave, the one person in this triangle, if you like, who is most helpless, most innocent of anything, most in need of protection, most vulnerable.
    Yea,Dave, the baby, mate, the baby.
    Say it over and over again, until you remember that its the baby who is having his or her life taken away.
    Killing a helpless member of the human family is something everyone should feel guilty about, Dave.
    What’s so absurd about you and Venise is that you both keep shouting that there is nothing to feel guilty about.
    I can tell you, as a doctor, many women and men grieve for the rest of their lives after they’ve killed their unborn child.

  8. daveliberts

    John, neither I nor the law regard a 3 month foetus as a baby. The Catholic Church differs obviously – but then does nothing to ensure that the young mother is assisted by the partner unless the partner agrees to this, so once again it’s about bashing vulnerable young women. My initial email referred both to the grief of a young woman seeking an abortion and that less abortions is a good thing, so your claim that I am “shouting that there is nothing to fel guilty about” is clearly bollocks. My view that a 3 mont foetus is not a baby is of limited meaning to a young woman contemplating an abotion. It’s a terrible situation to be in and it’s best avoided. I would agree completely with your final sentence – but that’s the only statement you’ve made with which I agree.

    What is wrong with Paul Osborne’s proposal is that it seeks to double this grief for young women while the other half of the unwanted pregnancy equation get off scot-free. That’s absolutely disgusting. Once again, your posts do nothing to address this. The law as it currently stands (and would continue to stand under Paul Osborne’s disgusting proposal) lets men get off scot-free when it comes to parental responsibility. As does your precious Church, in reality. Until this changes, your position is deeply flawed because of this disparity, no matter how much you care for foetuses.

  9. John james

    You know Dave, you never hear a woman, no matter what stage of a pregnancy, talk about “my foetus”.
    Always, its “my baby”
    The only people who use that word ( foetus rather than baby ) are dills like yourself justifying their destruction and intent on dehumanising the victim.
    Its a common tactic for just about every thug.

  10. daveliberts

    John, sure that’s the standard Catholic position, and of course many women who aren’t Catholic refuse to have abortions for precisely the reasons you identify. And I have no problem with the choice those women make. My own teenage stepdaughter was of this exact view, and hence I am a grandparent of two wonderful kids despite being only in my mid-30’s. I have a wonderful, albeit sizeable, family and I love every moment I spend with them. Had my step-daughter made an alternative choice, I would have supported this as being what was best for her, and had she experienced grief as a consequence I would have supported her receiving therapy for this. I support women’s rights to make the choices they need to make to live their lives as best they and their families can. That’s the difference between me and a staunch Catholic. The subtext of the Paul Osborne model (which places no onus on males whatsoever) is that women are sluts who deserve to feel guilty whatever choice they make. That is a disgrace.

    Contrary to Osborne, by their own words, Wayne Berry, Michael Pilsbrow and a very substantial proportion of lawmakers throughout the western world recognise a woman’s right to choose. I further support education for girls AND BOYS to reduce unwanted pregnancies as far as possible. What’s thuggish, to again use your word, is for men to dictate to women what they must do. But there’s barely any point in mentioning this to you, given that the Catholic Church’s sexist attitudes are still based in the middle ages.

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