NEW Prime Minister Scott Morrison counts himself as a devout Christian and stands for protection of religious freedoms.
Raised in the Uniting Church, he’s a regular worshipper in the Pentecostal Horizon Church, along with his wife Jennifer and two daughters in the heart of Sydney’s southern Sutherland Shire – home turf for rugby league’s Cronulla Sharks, which Mr Morrison also follows with devotion.
The Horizon mega-church in Sutherland attracts weekly service attendances of more than 2000 people.
“He’s a valued part of our community … and we love Scott and his family,” Horizon Church senior pastor Brad Bonhomme told ABC Radio.
“Faith gives us guiding principles; it allows us to lean on thoughts and ideas that allow us to treat people with love, fairness and justice – so for Scott in his decision-making I would suggest that those principles would help him.”
Mr Morrison was sworn in as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister on August 24 after days of Liberal Party turmoil.
He won a party leadership contest against Peter Dutton 45-40, after former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed to a second leadership spill in the same week.
During his first media conference as prime minister, Mr Morrison named the drought “as the most urgent and pressing need right now”, as well as addressing electricity prices and healthcare.
“In healthcare I am distressed by the challenge of chronic illness in this country and those who suffer from it,” he said.
“Affordable medicines, aged care, Medicare, small and medium-size businesses, and to ensure that we are continuing to deliver support to that enterprise ethic that exists across our economy.”
Mr Morrison also moved quickly to identify the conflict over school resourcing as one of the “key issues” for his government.
His appointment of new Education Minister Dan Tehan received an immediate welcome from Catholic educators.
Mr Tehan, educated at Xavier College in Melbourne, replaces Senator Simon Birmingham who was criticised by the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria over controversial Socio-Economic Status scores used to allocate federal money to Catholic and independent schools.
“We look forward to working with Mr Tehan to achieve the best outcomes for all students, regardless of sector or location,” Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said.
“The 147,000 students in our Queensland Catholic schools and their families will be looking to the new minister to resolve the outstanding issues we have around school funding.
“We hope to continue with Mr Tehan the good work that has been done in recent weeks as we have continued working through the funding issues.”
On other issues, Mr Morrison backed the “No” vote during last year’s same-sex marriage debate, and has signalled a clear willingness to ensure greater religious freedoms.
“It all starts when you allow religious freedoms (to be eroded), mockery to be made of your faith or your religious festivals – it always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke – just like most discrimination does,” he told Fairfax media in December last year.
“And I’m just going to call that out. With what I’ve seen happen in the last year (2017), I’ve just taken the decision more recently, I’m just not going to put up with that any more.
“I don’t think my colleagues are either.
“Where I think people are being offensive to religion in this country – whichever religion that might be, but particularly the one I and many other Christians subscribe to – well, we will just call it out and we will demand the same respect that people should provide to all religions.”