Freshly Doug Australia Day

Pic by Geraldo Maribondo

It’s Australia Day. As a blow-in from the UK some people seem to think I shouldn’t have an opinion about ‘our national day’. The ones who write things to me like, “People should come here to be us, not to change us.”

Because that’s exactly what I love about this place: people come from all over the world and every single one of them changes what it means to be Australian. ‘Australian’ is a constantly evolving identity, not something defined for all time by an old song about a suicidal billabong-haunting sheep rustler.

I love the way that there is no Australian cuisine. Instead we have a smorgasbord of food preparation methods and philosophies that we mash-up, mix, and match at will. We don’t get hung up on authenticity and purity, just with what we find good. I apply the same principle in politics: I don’t care about the brand, only the quality of the product.

There are things I don’t like about Australia, too, like people who are all for free speech, so long as they are always guaranteed the last word. Who are all for equality, so long as they are recognised as more equal than the rest. Who are against discrimination by other people and faiths, reserving that privilege to themselves. Who spread their arms in mock apology and say sorrowfully, “Love to help, mate, but God says no.” There’s been a heap of that on show at the Senate committee hearings into the Anti-Discrimination Bill Exposure Draft this week.

I do have a rather perverse love of the awfulness of Australian politicians. I’ve met quite a few, and they seem (with a few notable exceptions) like ordinary people, but with a bit missing. I haven’t quite worked out what the missing bit is yet: a sense of purpose, perhaps?

Take Bob Katter. He seems to want power, but to have no idea why, beyond a dislike of change. He just wants. And he has worked out that in order to get, there are certain things you don’t say, at least not in public.

He isn’t bright enough to lie cleverly, so he sticks to telling as much of the truth as he dares.

When he says that he will regret the homophobic advertisements aired by his party during the last election for the rest of his days, calling them  “a crowning glory of all mistakes” and “a political mistake of major proportions,” he really means it. Because those ads costs him a lot of votes, which in turn lost his party a lot of potential Federal funding – he reckons about $2m worth. And boy does he regret kissing that much dosh goodbye. Major political mistake.

So this time round, he won’t talk about teh gay. He won’t let party members talk about us either. Keep your eyes on the prize and your trap shut, folks, and think of all that lovely public money. But he can’t help the truth slipping out.

When he says he won’t talk about gay issues because he “doesn’t care” about all that, he is perfectly sincere. He doesn’t give a stuff. But he won’t go any further because then he would have to lie and say “we’re not homophobic.”  Whereas he knows and we know and just about everyone and his cat knows, he and his Katters Real Australia Party (KRAP) are a bunch of rampant homophobes. The spat with his freshly dumped Senate candidate neatly blew that open.

Mr Gaynor also said that he was disappointed to have been suspended for stating an opinion that the party leadership personally supported.

“The last time I spoke to Bob Katter he commended my moral courage. I am disappointed, however, that his party has chosen a politically-correct course of action. The Greens would be very happy with this decision.”

As did this remark from Hatman himself.”I am not aware of a single person of that persuasion [homosexual] committing suicide amongst the million people in north Queensland.” No Bob, you wouldn’t be, because you don’t care. You have never bothered to ask. And grieving families of dead gay teens aren’t going to turn to you for sympathy and support, are they?

If you want to know how people like Uncle Bob really think about LGBTI folk, you have to travel back in time. I reckon if we could eavesdrop on a KRAP branch barbecue today, the language would sound a lot like this.

And finally, while we’re on the subject of politicians, I don’t think Barack Obama is some sort of saint, but I do admire a man who will go against not just his opponents, but a significant proportion of his own party, his own ethnic constituency, and even his voters, to say and do what he thinks is right. Happy ‘Strayliadae.

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)