Australian Democrats Senator Brian Greig yesterday gave voice to the sense of outrage felt by gay and lesbian Australians in the wake of Senator Bill Heffernan’s allegations against Justice Michael Kirby.
Senator Greig told the Senate that the country had been swept by a wave of homophobia since Senator Heffernan made his speech, and called upon Senator Heffernan to apologise to the gay and lesbian community.
The attack on Justice Kirby is an attack on all homosexual people, Senator Greig asserted. The innuendo about -˜promoting causes to impressionable young men’ is rooted in the -˜recruitment’ mythology of anti-gay groups. Gay and lesbian people have heard all this nonsense before.
Anti-gay outbursts give licence to those who would condemn, attack and vilify. The attack on Justice Kirby seems to be yet another case of a gay person in public life condemned for little more than his openness about his sexuality.
Senator Greig also gave notice yesterday that he would introduce federal anti-homosexual-vilification legislation on 16 May. The private member’s bill will be based on current New South Wales legislation, he said.
We have heard much in recent days from both the government and from the opposition, who claim not to support discrimination against gay and lesbian people and to be strongly opposed to vilification of gay and lesbian people, but we have seen no legislative response to address that, Senator Greig said.
During his speech, Senator Greig also called upon Senator Heffernan to urge his colleagues in the New South Wales Parliament to vote in favour of an age of consent private member’s bill introduced by Democrats leader Arthur Chesterfield-Evans. Senator Greig said that Heffernan’s call for legislation to protect gay men from being prosecuted for offences that occurred before the decriminalisation of homosexuality on the one hand -“ and voting against an equal age of consent for gay men on the other -“ was an act of hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, Labor MPs continued their withering attack on the government during Question Time, while Liberal and National Party MPs tried to argue that Justice Michael Kirby’s acceptance of Senator Heffernan’s apology signalled an end to the matter. Labor efforts focused mainly on previous police and departmental investigations into the now discredited Comcar driver’s log which Senator Heffernan supplied to NSW Police.
Labor leader in the Senate, John Faulkner, declared the issue to be still very much alive. [Senator Heffernan’s speech was] one of the most grievous acts of the abuse of the parliamentary process -¦ that we have seen in this place, he said. A censure motion against the Senator passed by 32 votes to 30 on Tuesday.
Justice Michael Kirby has so far been lauded for the grace and tact of his response to Senator Heffernan’s apology.
I accept Senator Heffer-nan’s apology and reach out my hand in a spirit of reconciliation. I hope my ordeal will show the wrongs that hate of homosexuals can lead to, Justice Kirby said. Out of this sorry episode, Australians should emerge with a heightened respect for the dignity of all minorities and a determination to be more careful in future to uphold our national institutions -“ like the parliament and the judiciary.
Despite Senator Heffernan’s apology speech on Tuesday and his resignation as parliamentary secretary to Cabinet, calls for his resignation from the Senate have come from members of both major parties. Calls for the prime minister to apologise to Justice Michael Kirby for his role in the affair have as yet gone unanswered.
Heffernan denied that he had a vendetta against homosexuals in his apology speech.
Despite some speculation in some quarters to the contrary, I do not believe in discrimination against homosexuals. I do not think there’s an automatic link between homosexuality and paedophilia, he said.
The focus in the Heffernan affair for many has moved to the forged Comcar document which formed the basis of the senator’s attack on Justice Kirby. A report in yesterday’s Courier-Mail stated that the driver believed to be at the centre of the Comcar scandal would meet with police to clear his name.
Premier Bob Carr told State Parliament on Tuesday that he looked forward to this matter being prosecuted and the person who forged that document being revealed and prosecuted.
What is emerging out of Canberra is nothing less than a monstrous conspiracy directed at bringing down a High Court judge, Carr said.
The great question that focuses minds at this stage must be: who forged that document? Who set out to write down fake entries on a form purporting to be a record of Commonwealth car movements? That is the question that the Commonwealth Government must answer.