The company you keep matters in politics.

It certainly mattered when Tony Abbott took to the stage at anti-carbon tax rallies, with a background of “ditch the witch” and “Bob Brown’s bitch” signs for the TV news. He repudiated the sentiment but didn’t stop attending, and was rightly pilloried by his opponents as a result.

Julia Gillard was due to speak at the Australian Christian Lobby’s Canberra conference next month. Yesterday, ACL evangelist Jim Wallace seemed to suggest we should ward against homos-xuality like we tell kids not to smoke. The Prime Minister slapped him yesterday, slept on it, then decided today to cancel her RSVP for the conference.

It shouldn’t have taken 24 hours to do it.

Gillard ramped up the rhetoric today, calling Wallace’s comments “heartless” and “inappropriate”. They’re also mostly bollocks, as our Get Fact exercise today proves.

Depression, drug abuse, self-harm and suicide rates are higher in the gay community not because of who they like but who picks on them. Wallace feeds the homophobia that harms. Leaders should stand up and say so.

And not get within cooee of the people who say it.