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…”