Women’s groups have welcomed Dominic Perrottet’s promise to be the “Prime Minister of the Family,” but some are demanding a guarantee that he will not use his religious beliefs to limit women’s reproductive choices and access to abortions.
Most important points:
- Dominic Perrottet is a Catholic father of six with conservative views
- Women’s groups have expressed concern over the PM’s views on abortion which could affect ongoing reforms
- Mr Perrottet says his faith will not affect his ability to serve as Prime Minister
Mary-Lou Jarvis, chair of the NSW Liberal Women’s Council, said female voters would identify with the new prime minister because the father of six “lived juggling and wrestling”.
“I think any mother who has homeschooled children or juggles work will identify with him,” she said.
“I think they’ll give him a chance.”
She said voters would look at his record as treasurer in Berejik’s government.
“I mean, the kids’ vouchers, that funding that came out in Tresillian’s last budget for helping new mothers.”
She said Mr Perrottet offered “generational change” while continuing the stability and leadership that characterized the Berejik government.
“He was very much a part of the team that led us through this pandemic and he has the experience to move us forward,” she said.
But the Catholic father of six will have to work hard to connect with female voters who don’t share his religious and conservative views and who may be more used to moderating liberal leaders.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby said it was “optimistic” but expressed concerns about abortion that could affect ongoing reforms to give women statewide access to abortions.
Mr Perrottet opposed the decriminalization of abortion during a debate in the NSW Parliament in 2019.
The bill was eventually passed, but the reforms are still making their way through the state’s health system.
“An overwhelming proportion of both women and men supported the decriminalization of abortion, so we expect him to respect that,” said Mary O’Sullivan, NSW coordinator of the Women’s Electoral Lobby.
“We trust that the new Prime Minister will not use private religious beliefs to hinder the continued implementation of the Abortion Law Reform Act through the NSW public health system.”
Marie Stopes Australia, a provider of sexual and reproductive health care, said it is critical that abortion rights don’t go “backwards” under Perrottet’s leadership.
“Women and pregnant people in the state need peace of mind when it comes to accessing abortion care and not live in fear that it could be criminalized again,” said director Jamal Hakim.
“We have fought for too long to jeopardize this human right again.”
In the past, Perrottet has spoken openly about the influence of his Catholic beliefs on his politics.
At a media conference after the leadership vote, he was asked about his vote against decriminalizing abortion.
“There are always different opinions and some decisions are sensitive and difficult,” he replied.
“The stance I took was similar to the stance that many people took in parliament and that many people in our state take.”
He said his Christian faith was something he was “incredibly proud of” and not something that should preclude him from holding political office.
“Does that somehow take away my ability to serve as prime minister? Well, I don’t think so, and I think it’s sad that some people do that,” he said.
The first test of how his personal views will guide his leadership will come next month when Parliament debates the voluntary assisted dying law.
The new prime minister has announced that he will allow a vote of conscience.
The chairman of the NSW Liberal Women’s Council said Mr Perrottet’s comments showed a commitment to listening to a wide range of views.
“To his credit he spoke about how he wants to have discussions that people don’t necessarily agree with, but they respect that,” Ms Jarvis said.
“That’s probably motivated by his belief that you don’t force your opinion on others.”
The Christian group FamilyVoice said it was in “close contact” with the 39-year-old prime minister.
“The prime minister’s politics are well rooted in his conservative Christian faith and respect social issues as matters of individual conscience,” spokesman Greg Bondar said.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby said there were a number of other bills in Parliament that could have a significant impact on the lives of women and girls in NSW.
These include the Education Amendment (Parental Rights in Education) that proposes changes to sex education and consent education in public schools in NSW.
And the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedom) that would grant faith-based organizations exemptions from discrimination laws.
“The Perrottet administration’s response to these bills will be a critical marker of their support for women’s rights and gender equality,” said Dr O’Sullivan.
She called for women to be at the center of the prime minister’s COVID-19 recovery plan.
“We will look to the Prime Minister to acknowledge the disproportionate suffering of women during the COVID crisis,” said Dr O’Sullivan.
Domestic Violence NSW called on the Prime Minister to use his position to create “real change” for the women of NSW.
“There has never been such a difficult time for domestic, family and sexual violence,” said CEO Caitlin Morahan.
“We look forward to working closely with him to make a much-needed difference for those affected by domestic and family violence.”