A QUEENSLAND LGBTI rights advocate has slammed comments made by a state Liberal National Party MP who called a government MP along with others “drag queens” during state parliamentary proceedings this week.
Lockyer state LNP MP Ian Rickuss made the remark on Wednesday during debate over a bill regarding public holidays and a specific point he was making regarding the Winternationals drag racing event held in Ipswich.
“No, not drag queens. That is Jim and a few of his mates over there, but we will leave that,” Rickuss said.
“No, the drag racing, the Winternationals, which attracts 40,000 people.”
Speaking to the Star Observer, Madden said: “I was absolutely flabbergasted by the seemingly out-of-the-blue comments from the member for Lockyer.
“The Chamber was very busy at the time and I didn’t have a direct line of sight to see which other opposition MP interjected, but I didn’t hear anything from the government’s side that warranted a bizarre comment like that.”
However, Rickuss denies making any other comments regarding drag queens other than the first part of the Hansard quote.
“There was a lot of interjections from both sides of the House and I said ‘no, not drag queens’. That was my only comment relating to drag queens,” Rickuss told the Star Observer.
LGBTI rights advocate Phil Browne said Rickuss’ comments were cause for concern and needed an explanation.
“I was concerned and disappointed that potential anti-LGBTI slurs may have been suggested in Parliament, a place meant to improve our society,” he told the Star Observer.
“What was the intended implication of these comments? Where they a deliberate criticism and put down of LGBTI people?
“Are these MPs failing to acknowledge that LGBTI people are valid contributing members of society who lead ordinary lives as upstanding citizens?”
Rickuss’ comments are not the first time an LNP MP’s conduct towards the LGBTI community in Queensland Parliament has come into question.
In 2012, then Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie made what was seen as a “belittling and disturbing” quip regarding former Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, joking that he was no stranger to gay clubs in the city.
Browne, who raised concerns over those comments, echoed his remarks about the potential impacts that jokes at the expense of LGBTI people could have on the mental wellbeing of the community.
“These comments could be seen by some members of society as validating and fuelling intolerance of LGBTI people. In short, this could be seen as giving permission for homophobia,” Browne said.
“Public figures, especially politicians, have a responsibility to act with empathy and sensitivity to the community they serve. Their words and actions can offer support, or alternatively they may cause harm to members of the community.”
Madden agreed that comments from an elected official that used a section of the community as a source of ridicule were unjustifiable.
“This is just a sign that Rickuss and the LNP are out of touch with the progress made in the wider society. Jokes at the expense of the LGBTI community are unacceptable now,” he said.
“The LNP just seem to be locked into a different part and an older age of thinking in Queensland and they can’t seem to move on.
“I would hope they can learn to embrace change in the community and learn from their past mistakes with the LGBTI community.”
Browne said that it was up to politicians to speak and treat the community with respect.
“Mental health agencies Headspace and beyondblue acknowledge that prejudice and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people results in much poorer mental health,” he said.
“Our politicians have a duty to appreciate this disturbing fact by monitoring their language and actions, ensuring they show sensitivity to LGBTI constituents.”