Eric Abetz was born in Germany in 1958 and he and his parents emigrated to Australia when he was about 3. He is a member of the Christian Reformed Church, which styles itself as a ‘church reforming to reach the lost for Christ’, but apart from that, their website is particularly uninformative.
Abetz is by training, a lawyer, having obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at the University of Tasmania. He is part of the hard ‘religious nutter’ right (aka Religious Right Wing Nut Jobs; RRWNJs) of the Liberal Party, he has many antediluvian views about sex and associated topics.
Asked by Mia Freedman (on ‘The Project’) if he believed the factually incorrect statement that abortion leads to breast cancer, he stated “I think the studies, and I think they date back from the 1950s, assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer”. When his comment was questioned, he stated “There are other organisations [other than the Australian Medical Association] that have differing views”. Of course, he didn’t name these organisations. On the following day, he backtracked, and like a true conservative, blamed the television show for ‘cutting him off’. Mia Freedman stated on Twitter that this was not true that he was cut off. Even Tony Abbott, the past master of stupid comments, distanced himself from Abetz’s comments1,2.
Abetz also is against using embryonic stem cells in research, where they are used in the hope of developing techniques to treat or cure genetic illnesses. Presumably, this view originates from his belief that life begins at conception. He also criticised the decision not to extend a moratorium on embryonic stem cell research, because scientists were supposedly ignoring advances in the use of adult stem cell research, asserting that “scientists should …. abandon embryonic stem cell research which involves the destruction of, and experimentation on human life”. Presumably, his ‘salute’ to the Right to Life anti-abortion organisation also comes from his belief that life begins at conception, whatever that means3.
The Safe Schools Coalition (an unfortunate use of the last word) was a program to promote safety, inclusion and respect for people with diverse gender identities. As the word ‘sex’ was mentioned, albeit obliquely, the far right of the Liberal Party went apoplectic. Cory Bernardi stated that it was a radical attempt to indoctrinate young people. Of course, Abetz also had to get in on the act. He stated that everyone supports stamping out bullying and protecting students, but he argued that the Safe Schools program went too far. He stated that locking young people into the views about gender and sexuality is ‘unhelpful and unhealthy’, and that a clear distinction between boys and girls should be protected4. This may not sound contentious until you understand Abetz’s attitude toward sexuality in general.
In 1998, Abetz stated “It is not possible by personal decision to alter one’s race or sex. Yet the facts … indicate that a person’s homosexual or transsexual behaviour is a learned behaviour and not a characteristic such as sex or race”. He also voted against extending government benefits to same-sex couples. In 1994, Abetz stated that repealing ‘anti-gay’ laws in Tasmania was the thin end of the wedge. He also stated that marriage equality is the thin end of, presumably, the same wedge and would lead to a myriad of consequences including polyamory (consensual relations between more than two people)5. Polyamory is not illegal in most countries (including Australia), but in the conservative brain it will presage the demise of civilisation, the former Mormon polygamous practices notwithstanding. It has also been around for many centuries in some countries, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Abetz has also stated, as if it was an argument against marriage equality, that in the Asian century, Asia may see us as decadent if we recognise same-sex marriage (although Taiwan looks to be on the verge of allowing same-sex marriage). He didn’t seem to realise that many Asian countries already recognise polygamous relationships, the possibility of which he had also used as an argument against marriage equality6. When you are a conservative, you don’t have to make sense or be consistent.
To cap all this idiocy off, Abetz recently raised concerns about the rainbow flag – the international flag for gay rights – which was hanging in the foyer of the Department of Finance building in Canberra. Abetz stated that the flag was an activist flag, and of course assumed that it was an argument for same sex marriage, his current paranoia, and thought that a flag of the opposing argument should also be allowed to fly7. Somebody in the Department of Finance presumably thought that Abetz would run with this and make a complete fool of himself. One thing you can always say about Abetz is that he is reliable. Abetz, presumably to cover himself, stated in a tweet, that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags could be flown with the Australian flag in government buildings. I wonder if he was so accommodating when Cathy Freeman ran with the Australian and Aboriginal flags after winning her 400 metre gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Remember the mild furore at the time? All sorts of right wing nut jobs came out from under their rocks and expressed their disapproval. It may do Senator Abetz some good to realise that the Aboriginal flag was once solely the preserve of activists, whereas it is now mainstream. The rainbow flag will do the same.
Like many of his RRWNJ mates in federal parliament, who are also preoccupied with sex, Abetz is a climate change denier8. For them, reality is an alien world.