THE host of The Project was in Sydney leading up to the Mardi Gras and he took the opportunity to speak to the Star Observer about his values, equality and how he treats his responsibilities hosting a national news and current affairs show seriously — especially when humour is involved.
The comic and TV host discussed policing at Mardi Gras in 2013 and didn’t mince his words. He was affected by the now-viral video of Jamie Jackson Reed being slammed to the ground by a police officer but he acknowledged the significance of the 78ers coming back to lead the parade.
“I think last year was very unfortunate. It was really disturbing vision. Thank God for cameras on phones. It was disturbing vision but it served as a very timely reminder,” he said.
“I think for the 78ers to work with the police to make a statement again is really important. I think it is really important for the police to make that statement.
“You are dealing with a very tiny minority of police that have (homophobic) attitudes. You have to get rid of it. You have to cut a cancer out of an organisation. You have to draw lines and say we won’t tolerate something that crosses that line.”
Pickering also raised an issue dear to many in the LGBTI community: marriage equality, and the perverse reality of power imbalance.
“The power resides in a group that aren’t affected by the issue at hand,” he said.
“When we finally gave Indigenous people the vote it was because white people decided they could have the vote. It is the result that had to happen, but even that irks me.”
The appointment of Tim Wilson to the Human Rights Commission also caught Pickering’s attention, with him challenging the openly-gay commissioner’s calls for modifications to the Racial Discrimination Act.
“I come from a similar background to (Wilson). I grew up in a white, middle-class family. I went to a really good school. I went to university. I got a job in a large law firm. I had the classic privileged white trajectory,” he said.
“If Tim Wilson was born Indigenous in this country, he could expect to live 20 to 30 years less with chronic health problems; have less education; be significantly more likely to be incarcerated to a staggering degree and he is is significantly less likely to have a voice, or to affect the political process in this country. So for him to say that every voice is the same is a genuinely ludicrous proposition.”
Pickering also took aim at the Liberal Party’s inconsistency on little government, and how they wanted to be involved in LGBTI people’s bedrooms: “The Liberal Party is meant to be the party that gives you freedom to live your life and do what you do.
“They want people free, unencumbered from taxes, and it’s weird as they say the government shouldn’t interfere in your life, unless it is about sexuality, in which case we are going to interfere in your life. I think people now see that that’s really hypocritical.”
When asked how he kept abreast of so much while also hosting The Project, Pickering said he constantly read news feeds all day.
On interview preparation around election time, he spoke of his responsibilities in having a prime time platform: “If you are in a position that you are interviewing a politician before an election, you have to know what their policies are, to enable them to ask a question.”
He also draws on another form of inequality when discussing his preparations for an interview with Clive Palmer, where he had investigated various policies of the Palmer United Party beforehand.
“He is a person because of his wealth has greater influence than someone who is not as wealthy as him. I think you need to hold people to account when their only reason for that influence is their wealth,” Pickering explained.
Weighing into the topic of asylum seekers, he suggested that the policy was broken and that there was no orderly queue, so desperate people would take desperate action to come here.
However, he also believed there were bigger issues at play.
“We spend a lot of time in this country making noise about a lot of problems that aren’t that big,” Pickering said.
“The really big ugly problems we face are behind closed doors. They are harder to flush out and they are harder to talk about.
“If people are more aware that a woman dies every week at the hands of violent partner. If people knew the levels of incest that goes on in society and then think about the harm that family violence and incest and child abuse cause and the scale of the ills they create in society and the cost of dealing with those problems, we could start to solve real problems.
“Now and then you need people to squirm to realise the problems that are out there. There are some really vulnerable people with no voice that need us to look after them.”