Newly appointed Coalition Prime Minister Scott Morrison is the first PM to emerge from the Church of Pentecostalism, a relatively small Christian evangelical denomination popular for its large stadium-sized sermons.
Apart from Morrison’s affiliation with the Horizon Church in Sutherland, Sydney, which often boasts 2000 guests a service, his commitment to conservative social movements and the number of Christian conservatives in the Coalition, should ring alarm bells.
No wonder the backward Australian Christian Lobby’s expressed it delight with Morrison's elevation, describing his “deep faith” as “reassuring”.
Morrison’s support for the No campaign against marriage equality is the most recent example of his bigoted views. Given that he had defended the homophobic comments of rugby player Israel Folau, who stated all gay people would “go to hell unless they repent their sins”, it was not a surprise.
But despite a majority Yes vote in his own electorate of Cook, Morrison abstained from the parliamentary vote, while calling for a new law to protect religious freedoms.
This should be of concern not just for the LGBTI community, but for all who support tolerance and inclusivity.
We saw the impact of the homophobic No campaign during the marriage equality postal survey, which was used to better organise conservatives, as Tony Abbott happily explained at the time.
We can expect more of the same because the conservative Christian agenda not only underpins Morrison’s belief system; it is the same for Dutton, Abbott and the other conservative Christians in parliament.
Morrison is not the only MP looking to boost and consolidate conservatism.
Dutton, who took over from Morrison as immigration minister and deepened the misery and suffering of refugees on Manus and Nauru, is hardly acting like a Christian.
But the decades of bipartisan refugee and asylum seeker bashing has had an impact.
A 2017 Lowy Institute Poll found that 48% agreed that the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru should never be settled in Australia.
Moreover, almost 40% agreed that asylum seekers coming by boat was a “critical threat” to Australia’s interests.
This is the xenophobic base that Morrison intends to build on.
There are links between the conservative Christian movements, the Monarchists and the small, but vocal, far right in this country.
Morrison’s decision to gift his cabinet Australia flag pins is a small, yet telling, example of this and his values. And with Donald Trump in the White House, right-wing, bigoted and xenophobic politics has an opportunity to grow — if we let it.
While we may not be on the verge of theocracy, we need to be aware that unless we organise to fight against it, Margaret Atwood’s Gilead may be closer to reality than we (or she) had ever anticipated.