Don Farrell: Minister For Sporting Homophobia

Sen Don Farrell, the Pope of South Australia (right): Gawler History

The Shoppies Union boss Joe De Bruyn must be a very happy bunny right now. This strong opponent of abortion, same-sex marriage and gay rights in general is still in the box seat, despite the fall of his protegee Julia Gillard.

The “Dutchman Who Doesn’t Like Dykes”,  as Whitlam dubbed him, never misses an opportunity to stymie progress on LGBTI equality and to frustrate LGBTI Labor MPs and Senators.

Not so long ago Joe’s WA Shoppies Union buddy Joe Bullock knocked lesbian Senator Louise Pratt off the top spot on the state Labor ticket, jeopardising her chance of re-election.

Another of his union mates, Jacinta Collins, now squats at the Ministry for Health and Ageing, with control over LGBTI youth mental health and age care programs and funding.

De Bruyn nearly managed to bring down Penny Wong, too. He temporarily unseated the out lesbian Finance Minister from top spot on the SA senate ticket, in favour of another his mates (and former Shoppies Union president), Don Farrell. Only a furious counter-attack by the left, led by Anthony Albanese, forced Farrell to graciously cede the top spot back to Wong.

So who is this man they call The Pope of South Australia?

Senator Farrell comes from a family steeped in the old [Catholic] Democratic Labor Party. His old shop assistants’ union exists mostly to promote conservative social policy through the Labor Party. That would put him naturally as close or even closer to Mr Abbott than Ms Gillard and Ms Wong on a number of issues. Before entering the Senate, Farrell was the South Australian secretary and the National President of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) union and a leader of Labor Unity in South Australia.”   [Business Review Weekly]

Farrell was also one of the famous ‘faceless men’ who deposed Kevin Rudd and installed Julia Gillard, demanding as part of the price her opposition to same-sex marriage. So where is he now that Gillard has been toppled and Rudd reinstalled?

He’s Minister for Sport. Which puts an end to any hopes we may have had of federal government support in tackling the entrenched anti-gay culture in men’s team sports, especially the AFL.

LGBTI advocates had been pressing for funding to be withheld if they failed to make progress on eliminating homophobia. But now the old Catholic warrior is in that particular hot seat, the chances of pressure being applied have dramatically diminished. To zero.

Andrew Demetriou’s sphincter must have relaxed for the first time in months.

Suddenly it seems pointless to fear a sudden increase in the influence of socially conservative Catholics on government policy under an Abbot government. It could hardly be stronger than it is right now.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)