If this week's health debate wasn't enough to whet the conversational appetite on Tony Abbott's credentials, writes Angela Priestley, then surely his reinvigorated stance on same sex relationships will.
As will the company he keeps. Yesterday, when asked by Melbourne Radio station Joy 94.9 just who were the "very close" gay friends Abbott has referred to in defence of 60 Minutes comments in which he conceded he felt "threatened" by gay people, Abbott labeled former High Court Judge Michael Kirby as a mentor and friend.
For the legal community, Abbott's links to a much respected and revered Kirby will surely be seen as favourable, as will his comments offering "in principle" support for anti-discrimination legislation based on sexuality.
Abbott told Joy 94.9's Doug Pollard that should a push for a federal law outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexuality land on the table then "I would be very happy to look at it."
And even further on the surprise "in principle" support offered for such legislation, Abbott added: "We would want to be sure that in practice it would work out for the best because so many well intentioned laws can have obnoxious consequences... Having done all that, I can't see why we wouldn't support it".
However, Abbott made few concessions on legalising same-sex marriage during the interview, repeating his conservative stance that "marriage is, dare I say it, between a man and a woman". Instead, he said he would be open to alternate possibilities found elsewhere across the globe - such as civil union legislation and domestic partnership legislation.
Abbott also used his on-air time to express his disappointment at just how literally his conservative views are taken, declaring that it's a pity Catholicism "gets translated into dry legalism".
The comments appeared to have scored some political points, with prominent spokespeople of the gay and lesbian community offering some support for Abbott's on-air antics - and, in particular, Abbott's "in principle" support for federal legislation against sexuality-based discrimination.
If Abbott's willing (though he will certainly face some stern opposition within the ranks of his own party) then isn't it time we put something new on the table?
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