Look Who’s Talking (Not)


pic: Vassilis

LGBTI locked out of discussions? Or God Squad blowing smoke?

The Ruddock report on religious freedom has been delivered to the prime minister, who has handed it off to Attorney General Christian Porter. He will respond on the government’s behalf in due course.

Longtime advocate Rodney Croome of just.equal has called for the immediate release of the text, to no avail, and the stirrer has been unable to find any LGBTQI advocate or organisation who has seen a copy. Nor, it seems, have any of them been called in for discussions ahead of the government response.

Before the Ruddock Report was handed to the Prime Minister, Just Equal sent him the results of a poll conducted by YouGov, and requested a meeting.

The YouGov Galaxy poll, conducted for the LGBTI rights lobby group Just Equal, found that 82% opposed the existing discrimination law exemptions that allowed expulsion of gay and lesbian students and 79% opposed the schools’ ability to fire teachers if they married a person of the same sex.

The poll lends weight to submissions from LGBTI rights groups to the Ruddock religious freedom review, which call for the exemptions to be abolished and adds pressure on Labor to oppose them. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/14/most-australians-oppose-religious-schools-right-to-fire-staff-based-on-sexuality

To date there has been no response. Turn to the religious lobby, however, and it appears to be a different story. Eternity News reports:

Discussions at senior levels in the Federal government on religious freedom have begun, after the Phillip Ruddock-led Expert Panel inquiring into the subject handed its report to the Prime Minister last week…

“We are making progress in this important work,” Professor Patrick Parkinson told a Freedom For Faith (FFF) conference in Sydney this week. “I have been kept closely in touch with the Ruddock Inquiry. I have been kept informed by the Prime Minister’s office and we have been making progress. “It is a glass half-full situation. Will we get all that we would like? No.”

Parkinson wrote the FFF submission to the Ruddock Inquiry, which was one of the more significant materials placed before the Expert Panel. Eternity understands that it was well received.

the stirrer has not so far been able to discover any LGBTI group or advocate who has been invited to participate in these discussions: Anna Brown of the Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne says the Centre has asked, but has not yet received a reply.

The Unshackled speculates

Despite all of the hype over this review and the number of submissions it attracted, one can conclude the final recommendations are extremely mild. They won’t satisfy radical LGBT activists who want all religious freedoms gutted and compulsory LGBT sexuality education in all schools. But its recommendations will also underwhelm many conservatives who were promised this review would recommend stronger religious protections.

The Courier-Mail has reported that [the report] will recommend strengthening federal anti-discrimination laws to give religion the same protection as sexual orientation, race, age and disability. It also recommends Australian Human Rights Commission hear complaints from aggrieved parties and conduct conciliation proceedings, and if that failed, a federal court [Unshackled: ibid]

That’s problematic on many levels:

  • Religion is not an innate characteristic, like sex, sexual orientation, race or disability – it’s a state of opinion
  • Anti-discrimination legislation is already largely toothless, and very difficult to use
  • Right wing Coalition members don’t trust the Commission and are agitating for the establishment of a Religious Freedom Commissioner

Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson told the stirrer:

At this stage no-one is on either of the many ‘sides’ as the Ruddock Report has not yet been released. Anything to be proposed by legislation will go through a full process of consultation.

There are no formal consultations with anyone. There are constant conversations with people on the many sides of this debate, including people with an interest from an LGBTI perspective.

Someone else suggested that the Eternity report should be taken with a grain of salt. I have no doubt that is correct: however, having already been excluded from the inquiry panel in the first place, it would appear that the religious lobby already has the inside running. LGBTQI people are already extremely sceptical about this ‘theocracy by stealth’ move. The PM should correct that perception at once.

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)