Abbott denies he's 'programmed' by bishops

Responding to a Year 10 student who asked why he appears to care for unborn babies but not asylum seekers, Federal Minister for Health and prominent Catholic politician Tony Abbott said yesterday: "I am not programmed by archbishops".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Abbott, the Federal Government's leading opponent of abortion, was been put on the spot during a grilling by students from Melbourne's Wesley College in Canberra yesterday.

The students accused him of having "parroted" the views of the Catholic church on abortion and euthanasia, but failing to reflect the church's criticism of mandatory detention for asylum seekers.

Mr Abbott said his views were his own and he did not support something "just because it is the view of the Catholic church or the Howard Government".

The exchange came during a forum between Mr Abbott and secondary students organised by the Parliamentary Education Office. Mr Abbott defended the treatment of detainees with mental illness, saying he had no reason to think the Department of Immigration was not diligent about the care of detainees.

But James Wilson, a year 10 student from Melbourne's Wesley College, suggested Mr Abbott had not reflected the church's criticism of mandatory detention but had parroted the Catholic line on abortion and euthanasia.

In reply Mr Abbott said that just as people would not want him to parrot the church on abortion, he did not do so on mandatory detention.

Later he told journalists the students had "some very strong points of view that they wanted to put to me". His views on abortion and mandatory detention proved "I am not programmed by archbishops".

"The point I was trying to make was that I have never taken any position in my life as a politician and argued for it on the basis that it is church teaching or that some authority figures say this is the view.

"I would be failing in my duty to my constituents and to the wider public if I was not able to give a plausible argument for all the positions I take based on general human reason."

Asked if detaining people seeking refuge in Australia sat comfortably with Christian principles, Mr Abbott said "traditional moral teaching" accepted that under certain circumstances "you are entitled to do things which are not the things you would ordinarily say should happen to people".

Student's parrot jibe ruffles ministerial feathers (Sydney Morning Herald 11/8/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Tony Abbott MHR, Federal Member for Warringah

Abbott "at ease" with faith in politics (CathNews 20/7/05)
Abbott says "humane thinking" motivates his anti-abortion stance (CathNews 30/5/05)
Jesuit defends Abbott impartiality (CathNews 4/3/05)
Abbott backs new anti-abortion lobby (CathNews 1/2/05)
Liberals say Abbott will pay for commitment to faith before politics (CathNews 8/11/04)

Howard's faith in Fielding unwise (Sydney Morning Herald 11/8/05)

11 Aug 2005