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Coalition filling the homophobic void post-Bernardi

Coalition filling the homophobic void post-Bernardi

Friday 17 February, 2017
When Bernardi turned his back on the Coalition, a brief pang of SSM optimism was felt: would it now be discussed differently? We quickly got our answer.
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When Bernardi turned his back on the Coalition, a brief pang of SSM optimism was felt: would it now be discussed differently? We quickly got our answer.

Cory Bernardi was never all that happy in his party.

Sure, things looked pretty golden while his good friend (but not in a gay way) Tony was PM, but the more his colleagues jostled for “equality” (whatever on earth that meant), the more the right-as-right-can-be senator felt the itch to switch.

However, with the name on management’s door changing, his pleas for the government to lurch further to the Right fell on deaf ears (though, the voting public may disagree), and come election time Bernardi was to be found blogging about his new campaign to “unite Australian conservatives”, directing them to a newly crafted website for reference.

Six months later, and sitting comfortably on a Liberal Party-elected six-year term, the man who infamously claimed that legalisation of same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality has left his party of 30 years.

Suddenly, things were looking awful progressive in the government. Backbenchers were abuzz with a new push for a free vote on same sex marriage, and the conservative puppeteers of the Coalition were without their maestro.

Hopes were buoyed, with commentators crossing their fingers that the purge of one of Turnbull’s oldest internal nemeses could mean a reawakening of the old Malcolm, complete with leather jacket.

No more bucking the increasingly Right-wing line on matters of equality, no more pandering to a PM long-past on the issues that the voting public truly cared about.

Alas, within days those hopes were dashed. Bernardi had left a homophobic hole in the party room needed to be filled, and at 195 cm tall, it would take a mighty prominent figure to fill it.

Fear not, deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was more than happy to put his conservative colleagues at ease.

The Coalition supporting gay rights? Not bloody likely.


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In what a source describes as a “spray”, Joyce ripped into the frontbench, lecturing them about the downfall of the government that discussing “fringe issues” like same-sex marriage will bring.

This is in spite of a poll this week showing that 71% of voters (including 64% of those who already vote conservatively) would look more favourably upon the government if they allowed a free vote on amending the Marriage Act.

The deputy warned that “things will not improve” should the government continue to “be distracted” by issues which “only appeal to people in George Street and Oxford Street, but not in the outer suburbs and the regions.”

This is because, of course, the gays only exist in the inner cities, with rural and regional Australia completely free of the grip of homosexuality. A gay farmer? An utter oxymoron.

Still, the Nationals have always been a little more on the “traditional” side of things than their Coalition counterpart, and Turnbull, master of intelligence and reason, does spruik himself as being a supporter of gay rights.

Except he too has jumped on the bandwagon, cracking jokes that you would be forgiven for thinking were more than a little bit homophobic, entertaining his troops with tales of opposition leader Bill Shorten being “on his knees” and “under the tables” of billionaires.

The prime minister making gay jokes in the very same week his deputy shut down any hope for marriage equality in the foreseeable future? It’s akin to rubbing salt into a wound.

If that’s not enough to paint the LNP in a not-so-rainbow light, the attendance of George Christensen at a dinner where a former Liberal MP lampooned the concept of same-sex attraction certainly is.

Ross Cameron, MP turned Sky News presenter, joked at a Q Society banquet that “the NSW division of the Liberal Party is basically a gay club,” but that he didn’t mind, he just wished that, “like Hadrian, they would build a wall.”

The deputy warned that “things will not improve” should the government continue to “be distracted” by issues which “only appeal to people in George Street and Oxford Street, but not in the outer suburbs and the regions.”

The no doubt applause winning peace of wit was followed by Cameron musing that it “was better to exist than not exist – that’s one of the reasons I’m quite attracted to heterosexuality.”

Christensen, of course, received no flak from his comrades, with so-called moderates within the party utterly silent.

Sure, one could argue that it is very hard to discipline an MP, when that MP is the difference between you being in-or-out of government, but it hardly speaks to the moderate values swinging voters look for.

Don’t be fooled. Homophobia dressed up as comedy is still homophobia. Indeed, it doesn’t take actively legislating anti-gay policy to earn a government its anti-gay visage.

Every dinner our MPs attend and joke about gay men – or “pillow biters” in this case – being thrown off of buildings; every low-brow swipe our PM makes at the sexual habits of his opposition; every time our leaders decry human rights as being a “fringe issue” – remember it.

For it is when discrimination rears its head in passing that it hits the hardest.

No, our government isn’t openly dropping slurs, nor outwardly stating they believe heterosexual Australians deserve higher status than their same-sex attracted peers, but it certainly is legislating that way.

Inaction in the face of oppression is in itself an act of oppression. Inaction based in fear of conservative backlash, basted in schoolyard gay jokes, is in itself an act of cowardice.

 

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