Canning MP Andrew Hastie hits back over Coopers controversy

Canning MP Andrew Hastie has issued a stinging rebuke to the “progressive left” and the South Australian brewery involved in an internet video in which he discussed his views opposing gay marriage with a parliamentary colleague.

In the seven minute video, which was produced by the Bible Society and was intended as a demonstration of how to conduct respectful conversations about serious issues, Mr Hastie outlines the reasons he supports traditional marriage to gay Liberal MP Tim Wilson, a supporter of same-sex marriage and a former Human Rights Commissioner.

The discussion was held while the men drank Coopers beer, which had been brewed and packaged to celebrate the society’s 200th anniversary.

The release of the video led to a torrent of online abuse directed at the two MPs, and an accusation by inner-city Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt that Coopers brewery was “sponsoring ads against marriage equality”.

Then on Tuesday, after a number of partial retractions, the company issued an apology and said they would cancel their limited edition Bible Society beer and join same-sex marriage lobby group Australian Marriage Equality.

Coopers Brewery said they were “incredibly saddened by the impact our involvement with the Bible Society has had on our valued Coopers drinkers”.

Mr Hastie said the back-down was a “craven capitulation” that showed “little spine”.

“The whole point of this video was to demonstrate that two MPs can disagree on a very important issue and still be friends and still respect each other,” he said.

“The public reaction from the left has demonstrated there is something seriously wrong at the heart of our democracy. I had no idea when I did this with Tim that we would trigger so many people on Twitter.

“They [Coopers Brewery] are apologising for nothing, they've done nothing wrong.”

Mr Hastie said he was surprised at the anger unleashed over the video and the coverage the reaction had received in the media.

“It demonstrated that the left demand your surrender if you disagree with them, they shut down dissent and at their heart they are totally illiberal,” he said.

“In their minds any dissent must be eliminated and the idea you can have a discussion in which people disagree but respect each other is not part of their world.

“I've had crass and bullying emails from as far away as Tasmania and the reason people are so unsettled by it is that it goes to the heart of our civilisation. Are we truly free, are we truly democratic, do we allow free thought?”

Mr Hastie said he was more than happy for people to disagree with him and he wasn’t much bothered by the abuse.

“I'm happy for people to debate me, but their impulse is to crush, suppress and eliminate my point of view,” he said.

The Bible Society released a statement standing by the video and said it was not sponsored by Coopers.

“The interest from the public in this campaign reinforces the message of the video – that it is important for Australians to have respectful conversations about serious issues,” the statement said.

Coopers corporate affairs director Melanie Cooper said the brewery was “supportive of diversity and encourages individualism”.

“Our company supports marriage equality,” Ms Cooper said.

“Offence has been taken by our recent involvement, for which we are deeply sorry. We have listened to a range of community views, we acknowledge this feedback and respect everyone’s individual opinions and beliefs.”