Federal member for Riverina Michael McCormack was declared the new Nationals leader on Monday and will be Australia's new deputy prime minister as a result. The decision has quickly prompted outrage due to views he expressed more than 20 years ago when acting as editor for a local paper.
McCormack, who was veteran affairs minister before becoming deputy PM, was 30 years old when he wrote an editorial for Wagga Wagga's Daily Advertiser in 1993 calling homosexuality "sordid" and ultimately blaming the gay community for AIDS.
McCormack has apologised for his comments multiple times – most recently in August 2017 – and also voted for marriage equality in the parliament following Australia's same-sex marriage postal survey, but people are still angered by his appointment to the second highest role in Australia's democratic system.
While others are saying that his multiple apologies are enough and that the deputy prime minister should now be judged on his actions going forward.
On Monday, equality advocates called on McCormack to "heal wounds caused by gay hate".
"Many LGBTI Australians will be justifiably concerned about Michael McCormack being our deputy prime minister given his hateful comments against us in the past," said Just.equal's Rodney Croome in a statement.
"Many National Party voters will share our concern given the strong Yes vote in many parts of rural and regional Australia.”
"The apologies Mr McCormack made in the past are welcome but given the hatefulness of what he said, and the high office he has stepped in to, he needs to walk the talk.”
“He needs to get behind initiatives that will reduce the unacceptably high levels of LGBTI isolation, prejudice, and suicide that still exist in some parts of rural Australia.”