Anti-abortion. Anti-euthanasia. Anti-gay marriage. A cardboard cut-out Catholic dramatically elevated into Labor’s leadership team after the second coming of Kevin Rudd.
She says her public image as a Catholic crusader is a myth. In the 2002 debate about research involving human embryos, she described the proposed legislation as an “unprecedented sanctioning of destructive research on human life”, a quote still cited as evidence of her papist zeal. In the same speech, she made it clear her objections to the legislation were secular, rather than religious. “I believe that the issue here is not the character and strength of my personal Catholicism,” she told the Senate. “In many senses in respect of this debate I do not believe it is a relevant issue.” Collins is certainly Catholic but is not demonstrative in her religious beliefs; a reservedness she says she inherited from her mother, Shirley. Whereas her late father, Gavin, a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew in Korea, was actively involved in parish life and used to go door to door saying the rosary, Collins attends church when she can and not for public show.
“I am not a devout Catholic,” she says. “I read a piece years ago that described me as the Labor Party version of Tony Abbott. I am not…”
But on Wednesday Labor senator Jacinta Collins told the Senate it is necessary to “respect the right of religious schools to be run in accordance with their beliefs” and for parents to have their children educated “in accordance with their religious convictions”.
Collins said that schools expect teachers and staff to “respect the ethos, values and principles of the particular faith and not to act in ways that undermine a school’s mission”.
Collins said that while religious exemptions to discrimination law are “out of step with community expectations”, legislators need to ensure that schools are “positively entitled to operate in accordance with their belief and mission”.
She warned that the Greens bill only “addresses one side of the equation” by removing discrimination against LGBT staff but not preserving schools’ ethos.
“We would also like to see in legislation a recognition that religious schools are entitled to require employees to act in their roles in a way that upholds the ethos and values of that faith; and this requirement can be taken into account when a person is first employed and in the course of their employment,” Collins said.