The new government will be the worst we have ever had, according to leading gay rights activist Rodney Croome, who said the community is in the worst position it’s been in for 40 years.
Croome accused community leaders of responding poorly to recent political challenges, especially those who urged caution on issues like same-sex marriage so as not to antagonise the far right and make it harder for the Labor Party to win.
Now they reap what they’ve sown. The LGBT community is in the worst position it has occupied since the birth of the modern gay movement in Australia 40 years ago, he said.
Greens candidate Phillip Myers, who ranked third in the electorate of Grayndler, accused the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby of not properly explaining to the community about preference deals between the Labor Party, Democrats and right-wing Christian fundamentalist parties.
Myers said it was time for the GLRL to reassess its role in the community in light of it not providing this vital information.
But GLRL co-convenor Rob McGrory said the lobby repeatedly stressed the importance of voters knowing where their preferences went.
He said Myers was laying responsibility for his party’s performance on the GLRL.
One thing community leaders agree on is that having the coalition in control of the Senate -“ possibly with the support of the anti-gay Family First Party -“ could be bad for the queer population.
If the government of the day has absolute control of the Senate they can do everything they want and they can stop everything they want, Democrats senator Brian Greig, who is still unsure if he has been re-elected, said. If they just fall short of that, if they’ve only got 50 percent of the Senate, they will have the power of negation. In other words they could stop -¦ any amendment or stop any Senate inquiry.
McGrory said it was unlikely there would be any positive reforms under the new Howard government and he was concerned about further attacks, especially if Family First held the balance of power in the Senate. That would be a very negative outcome for our community, he said.
Croome said the government already had a number of anti-gay policies up their sleeve. He expected the coalition to move swiftly to amend the Sex Discrimination Act allowing states to block single and lesbian women from accessing artificial reproductive technology. It would also reintroduce its ban on same-sex couple overseas adoption and would reconsider overriding same-sex couple adoption in the ACT, Croome said.
The government would also consider banning marriage between transgender couples, Croome predicted. Further down the track they might consider amending the federal constitution to ban same-sex marriages and all partnership registers.
He said Howard would attempt to water down and even eliminate federal unfair dismissal laws, including provisions protecting employees from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.
The government could also bow to pressure to censor LGBT websites, he believed.
A spokesperson for federal communication minister Helen Coonan said any suggestion gay and lesbian websites would be restricted was bizarre. She said the government only gave a restricted classification to websites containing material such as child porn and racial vilification.
We don’t really want to be Big Brother, the spokesperson said.
Croome believed there needed to be a national and well-resourced LGBT organisation to face these new challenges. The Equal Rights Network, formed in January by a coalition of state rights lobby groups, was not organised or unified enough to do the job, he said.
There is one and only one short-term priority for the Australian LGBT community: the formation of a national organisation with the resources, structure and mandate necessary to effectively protect and enhance our human rights, he said.