Speaking Out Against Homophobia

Speech from Senate Hansard, 2 February 2016. 

Madam Acting Deputy President, a happy new parliamentary year to you. I rise tonight to talk about a matter that will be of importance to all Australians who value equality and diversity. I refer to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to speak at an event hosted by the gay-hate group Alliance Defending Freedom in the United States last week.

Madam Acting Deputy President, a happy new parliamentary year to you. I rise tonight to talk about a matter that will be of importance to all Australians who value equality and diversity. I refer to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to speak at an event hosted by the gay-hate group Alliance Defending Freedom in the United States last week.

This was a brazen slap in the face to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians and their loved ones. Mr Abbott might hold conservative views—his conservative views are well known—but he is no ordinary politician. He is a former Prime Minister of this country. Having held that important office—indeed, the highest office in the land—he is considered an ambassador for our country. Like it or not—I have to say I do not like it—that is the reality. With that in mind, he should think very carefully about the causes with which he associates.

And let us make no mistake: the Alliance Defending Freedom is no ordinary religious group. This is no ordinary organisation. It advocates for the criminalisation of homosexuality and the abolition of anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTI people. It is a lunatic fringe organisation that promotes an agenda that ruins people’s lives. That is a fact: the agenda of this organisation is life destroying. That is the consequence of criminalising homosexuality, and we have seen the implications of that the world over.

In this place last year, I spoke about the homophobia of the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation that uses the Christian name to peddle lies, misinformation and hate speech. Well, the Alliance Defending Freedom is the ACL on steroids when it comes to peddling hate against the LGBTI community. It is the ACL on steroids when it comes to homophobia and when it comes to demonising innocent people. Despite professing to defend freedom, the focus of this organisation is on anything but. It is about restricting the rights and freedoms of LGBTI people. That is the focus of this radical fringe organisation.

The Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to strong-arm the judiciary in the United States so that it can restrict the human rights of women and LGBTI people. According to The Conversation:

It has more than 40 lawyers on staff, and has trained more than 1300 law students and 1700 practising lawyers.

So it is a significant organisation, and a large organisation. In 2003, it fought unsuccessfully for the rights of states in the US to criminalise gay sex and it continues to campaign, unsuccessfully, in the United States against marriage equality.

I also want to point out that the reach of this organisation extends beyond the United States. This has a global influence and a global focus. There have been reports that this organisation has provided advice to supporters of Russia’s anti-LGBTI legislation. This anti-gay legislation in Russia has had the most appalling human consequences. The terrible human rights abuses of the Russian regime and the terrible treatment of gay and lesbian people is well documented.

In Belize, I understand, the Alliance Defending Freedom provided lawyers to advise an anti-gay coalition to help retain its anti-homosexuality laws. In Belize they have a law known as section 53, which imposes a 10-year jail sentence for ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’.

This is an organisation that has some very sinister links. This is an organisation that a former Prime Minister of this country thought it was appropriate to associate himself with. A former Prime Minister of this country is courting this radical fringe organisation. What a slap in the face to LGBTI Australians and what a slap in the face to all people who value equality in our country. Quite frankly, it is deplorable and an embarrassment to our nation. By sharing the rostrum with these bigots and homophobes, Mr «Abbott» is legitimising their hateful agenda. He is legitimising hate speech, which ruins people’s lives.

The former Prime Minister is fond of lecturing Australians on mainstream values. He may well reflect on how many would share the views of the Alliance Defending Freedom. How many Australians would support the criminalisation of homosexuality—the criminalisation of gay sex? My home state of South Australia abolished that 40 years ago last year, but that is the kind of world this organisation wants to take us back to. They want to take us back to the dark ages, with all the heartache and human misery that comes with it. To see a former Prime Minister of our country indulging such an organisation is an affront to all Australians.

When it comes to combating homophobia, racism and sexism, we in public life have a responsibility to stand up and speak out. We have a responsibility to lead by example. We have a responsibility to model appropriate behaviour. It is by doing so that we can help change the culture of our country. This is the test of leadership that Mr Abbott has failed time and time again. After all, as opposition leader he thought it was appropriate to stand in front of a placard describing former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the most sexist and degrading terms. And now he is at it again, going to the United States and associating himself with the lunatic fringe. What’s next? What’s planned for his next United States visit? Maybe a joint press conference with Donald Trump and Sarah Palin? They certainly seem to be promoting the same brand of ugly and divisive politics. I note that Mr Trump’s political career has fallen quite flat today; maybe it is following the Tony Abbott trajectory. 

In the speech Mr Abbott gave to this hate group, he said that it was time for common sense to prevail. He said, ‘We need less ideology and more common sense’. Well, isn’t that rich! If only he would follow his own advice. This is a man who has made a political career out of imposing his radical agenda on Australia. Let’s face it; this is a politician who is so conservative he makes John Howard look like Karl Marx. It is time for him to put his radical ideology aside and stop fanning the flames of ugly division in this country.

And, let me say, on the topic of common sense, it is time for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership on this issue. He needs to Tony Abbott out for his bigotry. Apparently, the ex-Prime Minister is free to speak to whoever he wants and say whatever he wants. Mr Turnbull just shrugs his shoulders and says that it is ‘Mr Abbott’s right as an MP’. It seems that it is his right to say whatever he wants and to talk to whatever right-wing conservative lunatic fringe organisation he wants. Well, what about the rights of the LGBTI community? What about the impact this has on our national reputation? And what does this say about the government of our country when you have one of its key figures behaving in this manner? What does it say when you have a former leader of the Liberal Party, a former Prime Minister of this country, jetting off overseas, courting bigots and homophobes in the United States? What does it say about this Liberal government?

The Greens will always call out homophobia when we see it. It is time for the leadership of this country to speak out and do the same.

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