UPDATED 2:00 pm, 11 August: The newly endorsed Liberal candidate for Kurrajong Peter McKay has quit the race after his comments about Indigenous acknowledgement of country and a homosexual “bias” in ACT Policing were made public today.
Liberal leader Alistair Coe has issued a statement saying the comments do not accord with the standard that he expects of the Liberal team.
”Accordingly, earlier today I sought Mr McKay’s resignation as a candidate which has since been tendered and accepted,” he said.
”My vision of ensuring Canberra is the best place to live, work and raise a family, includes ensuring Canberra is inclusive of all people, regardless of their culture, ethnicity, faith, gender or sexuality.
”This prompt and decisive action underscores the seriousness in which I have taken this matter.”
But Mr Coe did not answer questions about whether the Party was aware of Mr McKay’s comments when he was preselected or its vetting process for selecting candidates.
Mr McKay made the comments in a submission to the Religious Freedom Review in 2018.
The ACT’s openly gay Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, who also came under attack in the submission, said the comments were a sad reflection of the values of the Canberra Liberals, and would be alarming to most Canberrans.
”This is now mainstream opinion within the political party. Its very, very regrettable,” he said.
He called the Liberal Party in Canberra an ultra-conservative party, and said Mr McKay was not the only candidate who held these sorts of views.
Earlier today, it had been revealed that Mr McKay, whose pre-selection for Kurrajong was announced on Sunday, took aim at the Indigenous acknowledgement of country and a supposed homosexual “bias” in ACT Policing in the submission.
He is the second Liberal candidate to resign from the Kurrajong race. He replaced Vijay Dubey, who resigned last month after falling out with the party. Mr McKay was a Liberal candidate in Kurrajong at the 2016 election, taking 2.6 per cent of the vote.
His comments appear to be at odds with the Liberal Party’s stated support for delivering the Acknowledgement of Country in Ngunnawal.
“The government’s adoption of animistic religious practices is to be condemned. The welcome to country ceremony does not accord with aboriginal practice and is a misrepresentation,” Mr McKay wrote in his 2200-word submission.
“The last one I attended included the acknowledgement and worship of aboriginal ancestors. This is similar to a number of animistic religions around the world.
“These religions did not result in the benefits of development that emanates [sic] from western civilisation (ie founded on the precents [sic] of the Christian world view).”
Mr McKay also singled out Chief Minister Andrew Barr – Australia’s first openly gay head of government – when criticising how authorities handled an attack on the Australian Christian Lobby’s office in Deakin in December 2016.
“In the case of the ACT all same-sex advocates are not the same,” he wrote.
“The man that used six gas bottles to bomb a secluded Christian organisation in Canberra had worked as an advocate in the USA yet the within 24 hours of the attack the ACT Police influenced by the homosexual Chief Minister and the strong lesbian influence in the ACT Police (yes, I could provide some names) dismissed the attack on religious thought by describing the cause as a mental health issue,” he wrote.
“This was ‘false news’ and diminishes trust in our authorities.”
ACT police told media after the event that while the driver detonated gas cylinders in his van deliberately, their investigations strongly suggested that his motives were personal rather than politically, religiously or ideologically motivated.
But ACL head Lyle Shelton said at the time that the attack has been prompted by “extreme left” politicians whose rhetoric had motivated “unhinged” people to act violently.
The perpetrator took his own life in 2017 and a statement from the man’s lawyer after his death linked his suicide with mental health issues.
In his public submission, Mr McKay also likened restraints on religious freedoms to the rule of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.
“One would not wish to compare this government with Hitler however if the results of this review are cynically tokenistic without any real change, history will not be kind to the Turnbull government and the consequences not kind to the Australian people.”
While Mr McKay’s views were not presented to the enquiry on behalf of the Liberal Party, the Canberra branch has been criticised in the past for being too conservative compared to the ACT’s generally progressive voters.
During the same-sex marriage referendum, Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe was the only government or opposition leader in the country to declare their ‘no’ vote. The ACT recorded the highest ‘yes’ vote in Australia with 74 per cent.
The small size of the Liberal party in Canberra – with just a few hundred members – also allowed former opposition leader Zed Seselja, an ultra-conservative, to wrestle the 2013 senate pre-selection away from the more moderate former Chief Minister Gary Humphries.
Humphries and other moderates have since quit the Liberal party. Pre-selection voting in Brindabella for the upcoming election only attracted 34 votes.