COMMENTS made during a doorstop interview with federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Thursday night in New York about his upcoming attendance at an Australian Christian Lobby national conference has ignited backlash and criticism on social media.
“There are many Australians of Christian faith, and they have a legitimate role in Australian political debate,” Shorten said.
“For myself though, I’ve been a strong supporter of marriage equality and I would also say that when people talk about AIDS, we need to adopt not a religious sort of condemnation view, but a supportive understanding view, and make sure we do everything we can to help people who suffer AIDS, not condemn them.”
Social media was quick to criticise the comments and why the Opposition Leader had mentioned AIDS at all.
— Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) July 25, 2014
Journalist: Bill Shorten, why are you keynoting the ACL conference? Bill Shorten: Because AIDS!
— Leslie Nassar (@leslienassar) July 25, 2014
A tweet where Bill Shorten told America Christians should be kind to Gay people because of AIDS? #Auspol Seriously? Did he really say that?
— jill #winkersunite (@SenateSabotaged) July 25, 2014
I think it would be worth reminding Shorten that the @ACLobby doesn’t represent all Christians. It only represents the fringe nutters.
— Aaron Hewett (@urbancreature) July 25, 2014
A spokesperson for Shorten told the Star Observer that he was in fact referring to a comment made earlier this week on Twitter by ACL managing director Lyle Shelton during Monday night’s episode of Q&A.
Sad that we as a society have given up on the ideal of man-woman marriage. Wouldn’t be having this discussion if we had not. #qanda
— Lyle Shelton (@LyleShelton) July 21, 2014
The spokesperson said that the context in that interview had not been established correctly and he could understand where the confusion had come from.
The Opposition Leader earlier this week responded to the criticism facing his continued decision to appear at the ACL conference by saying that he was strong supporter of LGBTI rights including marriage equality and rejected the “hurtful, untrue comments made by [Lyle Shelton] in relation to AIDS.”
Shorten’s spokesperson also highlighted that while the Opposition Leader doesn’t always agree with organisations he speaks to, his role and position requires that he engages with many sectors of the Australian community.