Thursday, October 12, 2006

WTF Happens Now?

UPDATE: Refreshing honesty from Liberal Senator George Brandis in parliament yesterday, while debating the Democrats' revived Sexuality and Gender Discrimination Bill. He got it right when he called Howard a 'lying rodent', and he's got it right again this time (emphasis added):

But may I pause to say a word about the false antithesis which some people seek to draw between the advancement of this issue—respect for the rights and dignity of gay people—and so-called family values. There are certain people, some of them occupying the lunar fringe of my party, and certain extreme religious groups who seek to make that antithesis. It is a false antithesis. As if homosexual people are not members of families! As if their sense of commitment to their families and the values of their families, and the value to them and to the community of their families, is not as important to them as to anyone else! It is an ignorant, absurd and offensive notion.

Cheers, thanks a lot, George.


So, I guess now it's all out in the open, I can publicly scratch this itch.

'Shattered' is a fairly apt euphemism for how I felt when I first found out about Warren Entsch's extremely long-awaited same-sex couple equality bill. Rather than a comprehensive amending bill remedying the wide array of current areas of discriminatory federal legislation - and there's a hell of a lot of them - Entsch instead came up with, to quote the bloke directly, a 'very simple' bill that 'will require all ministers to review their portfolios, and any areas where there is gender discrimination ...make the necessary amendments to make sure that this is not the case.' Oh, and an independent review body would also be established.

Because that's exactly what is needed: Yet another parliamentary report and committee. Which I'm sure the Coalition, with its parlimentary procedures-quashing Senate majority, would take very seriously anyway.

This review body, according to Entsch, would 'make sure Ministries correct discrimination in a timely manner, and to pick up on any areas they may have missed'. Perhaps by missed, his subtext reads 'deliberately ignored by raving-right homophobic Bible-basher ministers like Abbott, Andrews, etc, who probably put out a ministerial instruction to all public servants warning them under no circumstances to do any actual work which would progress the bill's desired outcomes'.

Because of course, we all know that's how this government likes to work.

Entsch is claiming that, as his is a private member's bill, it cannot introduce any legislation that would have budgetary implications. Assuming that's true, it's certainly testament to the ultimate futility of a well-meaning lone MP attempting to single-handedly do the job his government should be doing. But you can certainly track over the last couple of years the change in Entsch's tone. In 2004 he supported gay marriage (or at least disagreed with his government banning it). In 2005 he was supporting civil unions. In 2006 he is talking a lot more about interdependent relationships where sexuality 'isn't part of the equation'. And as expression of his progressive attitude has drained from a torrential flood to a piss-weak trickle, so too has the bill he has finally come up with. He's even attempted to rationalise as much: 'You don’t win a war by going in with all guns blazing, you do it by winning individual battles...'

Which is bullshit; the government's guns have been nothing but blazing when it comes to IR 'reforms', the privatisation of public assets, VSU, curtailing of civil liberties and all the other radical ideologies it has bashed through its Senate majority since 2005. What Entsch really means is, 'you'll get half a notch above fuck-all when it comes to queer law reform if you're lucky'. And for every tiny, baby step forward - migration visas, defence force relocation, super interdependent reforms, etc - there'll be two giant adult steps backwards - gay marriage ban, ACT civil union destruction, etc.

I would've thought this would be a better time than ever for the crocodile farmer to go in with his six shooters anyway; he's retiring at the next election, so what has he got to lose?

I'm probably getting unfairly stuck into Entsch here. I still lay the blame squarely with the Howard government beastie. Entsch has only fumbled the ball due to the pressures exerted by his own team.

But here is the twist: at some point between Doug Pollard's article going to print in Melbourne Star and now, it would appear Howard has asked Entsch to put up key areas for reform, in place of this tragically futile bill, and promised to act on them (presumably within some time frame other than 10 more years).

Now, Howard has proved repeatedly he is a man one must never, ever take at his own word. I imagine that was the mistake Entsch made before his original grand plans were watered down. So quite honestly, I don't know what to expect. I'm fairly certain banning gays and lesbians from adopting overseas children, the unsuccessful other half of the original 2004 gay marriage bill, will be the 2007 election wedge - I think that's why they've still held out on re-introducing it. But as super reforms were the 'sweetener' for that particularly egregious move, I wonder if perhaps some genuine reforms now will be the sweetener for then.

Who the hell knows? The only certainties the Howard government has provided us over the last 10.5 years with regard to queers is that we shouldn't be allowed to get married, adopt and/or raise children, schools should not teach students about us, and that wrongly accusing us of being predatory paedophiles won't result in genuine reprisal.

I know it's easy to be cynical - it's just also really, really hard not to be about this. Watch this space, I guess.


At 12/10/06 7:53 pm, Blogger HDZ said...

In other words, he is recommending that they set up an interdepartmental committee, with fairly broad terms of reference, so that at the end of the day they would be in the position to think through the various implications...oh sod it!

Bah humbug.

At 12/10/06 8:53 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

Gay marriage aside, what would you have them do? (And I am not baiting you here or anything; I am genuinely ignorant.)

PS, great you have someting to blog about -- other than OK-looking Josh from Desperate Housewives.

At 13/10/06 9:12 am, Blogger Sam said...

Adam: Simple - enact a civil union scheme similar to those in the UK, France, NZ and all the other places where they are currently in operation and the sky has not fallen in as Bolt, Albrechsten etc would have us believe.

Failing that, a reform of all the legislation identified in the HREOC report, creating or extending the meaning of interpendent to include a same-sex partner.

At 13/10/06 11:24 am, Blogger JahTeh said...

Next year there are going to be so many serious issues Howard will not want as election fodder that any gay reforms will be presented as the worst threat to the Australian way of life.

At 13/10/06 12:49 pm, Anonymous cheesymae said...

trouble with a bill to have ministers review discrimination is that, based on all responses to letters to ministers over the years, is that they do not see it as discrimination (ruddock is a classic). i dont hold out much impact for this bill if passed

At 14/10/06 8:34 pm, Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that these remarks come from Sen. George Brandis, given his insane attempt in 2003 to link the Australian Greens with Nazism.

On a side note, you might be interested to learn that prominent anti-gay campaigner Bill Muehlenberg has a blog.

At 15/10/06 10:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spotted this article this morning:,20867,20583825-5006786,00.html

The Young Nats (Queensland aside) are almost overtaking the ALP when it comes to support for gay rights. I wonder how much of this change can be attributed to a certain high-profile reality TV contestant? Or is it just all those "tree-change" queer votes going begging? CW

At 16/10/06 10:56 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

I have no problem with gay couples being given equivalent rights to de facto heterosexual couples. Civil unions, however, strike me as gay marriage by proxy: how would such a union differ from a regular marriage?

At 17/10/06 9:23 am, Blogger Sam said...

For one thing, civil unions only extend to state laws governing couples, not federal; for another, CU are almost always performed by civil registrars - no church involvement.

But frankly, even if a federal civil union scheme were 'marriage by another name', as the UK model has been accused of, so what? If you say you have no problems with s-s couples having the same rights as de factos - and I think most people would generally feel the same way - then why not also allow them the opportunity to formalise their commitment to one another with some kind of symbolic and legally-binding ceremony?

At 17/10/06 2:18 pm, Blogger brokenleg said...

Fuck me, Has George Brandis's brain been taken over by someone who actually has a clue?

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