NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet: An Ultraconservative of the Morrison Ilk

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Dominic Perrottet

Just as expected, it was announced a little after 10 am on Tuesday morning that now former NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet had been elected state premier. The leadership announcement followed the shock resignation of Gladys Berejiklian from the role last Friday.

Berejiklian resigned after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) revealed it would be launching an investigation into her conduct over the period 2012 to 2018. And this was followed in quick succession with deputy premier John Barilaro standing down from his position.

So, now, all eyes are upon Perrottet: a 39-year-old father-of-six hailing from Sydney’s Hills District, who much like the current prime minister of this country, prominently wears his Christian faith on his sleeve. Although, unlike Morrison, he’s a Catholic, not a Pentecostal.

And Perrottet has a reputation for being an ultraconservative, casting a gaze back to Howard and Menzies.

Over the weekend, many have pointed to a November 2016 Facebook post by Perrottet, in which he praised the election of US president Donald Trump as “a victory for people who have been taken for granted by the elites in the political establishment for too long”.

The premier then pronounced that “if you stand for free speech, you are not a bigot”, questioning climate change doesn’t make you a sceptic, supporting stronger borders doesn’t make one a racist, wanting a same-sex plebiscite does not make the homophobe, and love of country is not extremism.

“It’s time for a conservative spring”

Entering state politics in 2011, Perrottet has long shared his conservative beliefs with the public, as he’s vocally warned of the anti-family aspects of the welfare system, he’s decried abortion and he voted against a law that would require priests to report child abuse disclosed in confessionals.

In his 31 May 2011 inaugural speech in the NSW lower house, the premier stated that “traditionalism with its emphasis on virtue, and libertarianism with its foundation of freedom, are both vital and necessary strands of the fabric of conservative thought,” and guide his own beliefs.

Perrottet spoke of family as the “cornerstone” of society, he professed respecting the dignity of all “whether they are born or unborn”, and he stated his support for “the principles of free markets”, agreeing with Churchill that the socialist model leads to the “equal distribution of poverty”.

The NSW Liberal leader further extolled the virtues of “our Judeo-Christian heritage”, “a free market, with limited government”, and the “equality of opportunity”, as opposed to the Labor principle of “equality of outcomes”.

Indeed, the coming of Perrottet as the leader of the NSW Liberal Nationals government is nicely timed, as he seems like a man that – as with the PM – can attempt to steer the country back to a time when white Christian heterosexual men weren’t shackled by the rights of the Other.

Attacks on welfare

In June 2015, when Perrottet was finance minister, he addressed the Centre for Independent Studies on The Great Divorce: The Costly Divide between Economic and Social Policy, in which he warned that the economic implications of policies on welfare, the family and culture are often overlooked.

The current premier then cited the 1965 work of US bureaucrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which today is known as The Moynihan Report, but at the time was titled The Negro Family: The Case For National Action.

As Perrottet explained, the report posits that the widening monetary gap between African American families and the rest of the United States was due to welfare. The premier presented this as a valid argument, as he too blamed the dissolution of the family unit on the welfare state.

“Moynihan was unequivocal in citing the collapse of the nuclear family as the primary reason for black inequality,” Perrottet advised. “And he was equally direct at laying the blame on government policies where ‘marriage was penalised and single parenthood subsidized’.”

The NSW Liberal Party leader then stated that instead of winding back welfare at that time, the US launched more of it, to the point that in the mid-60s “25 percent of black children lived in single parent households”, while in 2015, that figure was “over 70 percent”.

Perrottet then pointed to a recent documentary about the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt as an example of how “well-intended, but ham-fisted” welfare programs cause problems, as “one in five of the houses in that suburb” are social housing stock, with half the tenants being single parents.

“Whatever your opinion on the causes of climate change”

The current NSW premier went on to deride other social programs, including the “gratuitous waste” of the political Left’s “almost religious devotion” to changing climate, stating that Labor and the Greens managed to set up the Department of Climate Change, which was a waste of money.

“Australia is responsible for around 1.5 percent of global carbon emissions,” Perrottet told the CIS audience. “If we achieved a target of a 5 percent cut in emissions, this would reduce the world’s temperature by 0.0038 of a degree by 2100.”

These comments don’t sound promising from the leader of a government that has just committed to cutting emission targets by 50 percent by 2030, especially as when Perrottet was pulled up about these comments in early 2019, he refused to back away from them.

Religious freedoms

In September last year, the current premier riled against an email sent by NSW Treasury economic strategy deputy secretary Joann Wilkie, in which she suggested staff be more aware of creating a space workspace, and perhaps add a pronoun preference to their signature block.

“I’ll be making sure people in Treasury are free to call their spouse whatever they like,” Perrottet told Sky News. “Wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, honey, babe, whatever – as long as we’re focused where it should be.”

And in this, he sounds much like NSW One Nation MLC Mark Latham, who’s been leading the charge for religious freedoms laws, as well as measures that would ban any mention of gender fluidity within schooling systems, which would effectively erase the identity of transgender students.

The majority of MPs making up two committees have already endorsed both these sets of proposed laws. And attorney general Mark Speakman stated last month that his government will pass religious freedoms laws as soon as Morrison oversees the passing of similar provisions at the federal level.

Dressed up as religious discrimination laws, the measures being proposed at both the federal and state level go a step further than regular anti-discrimination law to the point that they would override it and allow those of faith to discriminate against others in the name of their religion.

This is a push coming from the Christian Right of politics, and it’s a reaction against the passing of marriage equality laws. It’s further understood that these forces see targeting transgender people as a profitable way to push back against the entire LGBTIQ rights movement.

And with the NSW government already teetering on passing such regressive laws in an attempt to wind back social progress, the coming of Dominic Perrottet does not bode well for those who believe in a seat at the table for all, not simply heterosexual Anglo Australians of the Christian faith.

Image: “CeBIT-2014-VIP-Dominic-Perrottet-MP-9878” by CEBIT AUSTRALIA is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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