The former Australian PM has been criticised by Christian leaders, the Labor party and the Greens for his advice to Europe on handling the refugee crisis
Tony Abbott did Australia proud during a major speech in London, in which he urged European leaders to ignore a core tenet of the Bible to enact tougher border protection measures, the Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi has said.
Abbott, who was training to be a priest before switching to politics and becoming prime minister, gave the second Margaret Thatcher Lecture in London on Tuesday night. In it, he urged European leaders to adopt Australia’s hardline approach to asylum seekers.
“Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to love your neighbour as you love yourself is at the heart of every western polity,” he told the conservative crowd. “But right now this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error.”
Bernardi said he put forward Abbott’s name to give the speech in the first place.
“Tony Abbott did us proud last night,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.
But many Christian leaders disagreed, saying Australia should be advocating for a more compassionate response to the refugee crisis.
“I’m ashamed that a former Australian PM would be putting out a message like this,” retired bishop Pat Power told Fairfax. “People will make their own judgments but that’s completely at odds with what’s at the heart of Christianity. I’m certainly offended.”
The Australian Christian Lobby, one of the most conservative Christian groups in the country, has advocated for a doubling of the humanitarian intake, focusing on persecuted minorities and family groups.
“We probably could be a little bit more generous,” the ACL acting director, Martyn Iles, told Guardian Australia. “It’s a Christian value to be generous even when it costs you something.
“The government ought to be very generous with what it does [with asylum seekers], while still looking after its flock. “Both [tenets] should be exercised at the same time.”
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, said Abbott was lecturing world leaders. “I am not sure European leaders grappling with a scale and a dimension of a problem which we don’t have in Australia are necessarily going to benefit by Tony Abbott’s advice,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“I am not sure Tony Abbott on a victory lap giving a Margaret Thatcher lecture is exactly what Europe needs to solve its problems.”
Malcolm Turnbull, who ousted Abbott last month to take the prime ministership, downplayed Abbott’s speech.
“He has obviously had a remarkable career in public life, including two years as PM. We owe him a great debt for that,” Turnbull said on Wednesday. “His views are in hot demand everywhere in the world.”
The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, rejected that, arguing that even Australians did not want to hear his views.
“It’s not a healthy thing for a recently deposed PM to be strutting the world stage and giving his view on foreign policy at a time when he was very clear that the Australian community didn’t support his view of many things, including his view of foreign policy and our approach towards what are some very complex international issues,” he told reporters.
“The only catastrophic error that Europe has made is giving Tony Abbott a platform to speak. To give a failed prime minister a platform to espouse his hateful and insular views of the world,” he said.