Speech: Matters of Public Importance - Gender and Sexual Orientation


The Greens have brought this motion on the attacks against young LGBTIQ Australians supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a matter of public importance because it is a matter of public importance. We have long known Mr Scott Morrison's views on LGBTIQ rights. His record on voting against marriage equality and campaigning against the Safe Schools antibullying program is well known. What concerns me even more deeply, though, is that now Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds the highest political office in this country and has since worked to legitimise a narrative of hate and fresh attacks on some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This is not okay. This is not about silencing or stopping dissenting views at all. This is about stopping discrimination, stopping hate and stopping harm.

I must say, I am amazed at the gall of Senator Fawcett, who claims freedom of speech as an excuse for attacking and harming young LGBTIQ people in Australia. Within a week of taking office we were reminded that the man who is now Australia's Prime Minister will not denounce the dangerous, discredited and very, very harmful practice of so-called gay conversion therapy—a practice that the United Nations has officially described as a torture and has recognised as an international human rights issue. This practice, of course, can take many forms, including forced counselling, prayers and even exorcisms. Imagine that you are a young person already trapped in an unsupportive environment and then you are forced into this so-called therapy, which essentially says to young people: 'You are broken. You need some fixing up. There's something fundamentally wrong about you that must be cured.' This is so dangerous, it is so despicable and it should be rejected in every way, shape and form.

A Fairfax Media investigation earlier this year revealed that about 10 religious ministries that are dedicated to changing people's sexual orientation and gender identity still operate in Australia and are part of an informal network of churches and counsellors here and overseas. These groups may have changed their names and their profiles, but their harmful practices still remain exactly the same. It sickens me to the core that we have a Prime Minister who not only has refused to denounce this practice but has, instead, chosen to say that this isn't an issue for him. Well, Prime Minister, this is an issue for a vast majority of Australians. This is an issue for young Australians who live in this country, and it should be an issue for you.

What the Prime Minister actually needs to do is legislate a ban on these extremely harmful practices, but we all know that he won't do this. On top of that, the comments from the Prime Minister will only serve to embolden people who promote this heinous practice. Let this sink in: we also now have a Prime Minister who tweets bizarre phrases like 'gender whisperers' when referring to counsellors who advise schools on how to work with children who may need support, such as trans children, and how to make sure that they are treated like any other child in that school. One has to step back and think: what century are we living in? The human toll of these words must be considered. These are real people being harmed by the perpetuation of this BS language like 'gender whisperer' that the Prime Minister is using.

The sole aim of articles like the one in The Daily Telegraph which was promoted by Mr Morrison is to target young LGBTIQ Australians. The aim is to directly challenge these young people, to challenge their sense of identity, to go after them while knowing full well that many of them are some of the most vulnerable in our society. They are already targeted, already bullied and already isolated, so much so that young LGBTIQ Australians are at least three times more likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers. It was only last year the Trans Pathways survey found a staggering 48 per cent of young trans people had attempted suicide, compared with 2.4 per cent of young people in the general population, and that 80 per cent had actually self-harmed.

Let's also not forget that the plebiscite on marriage equality—or, as it has been more accurately described, the 'plebi-shite'—opened the door to hateful, divisive and ultimately very harmful campaigns against LGBTIQ people in our community. As the postal survey was conducted, I remember reading with dismay of the alarm raised by mental health organisations as they struggled to cope with the dramatic spike in clients accessing support services. This is Australia in the 21st century. When the private matter of one's sex, sexuality, gender or gender identity becomes public debate, distress is natural. LGBTIQ people are already at a far greater risk of a range of mental health problems and a high risk of self-harm due to the daily discrimination, stigma and prejudice that they face.

We know the agenda of people like Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to make some Australians feel less worthy, less significant and less important and to pick and choose which Australians get which human rights. That's not on. That's not okay. We will not stand for this. The Greens and I will always stand up for LGBTIQ Australians and their right to be who they are and to live a life free from discrimination.