As Christine Forster’s long-term partner and a regular reader of the Star Observer, I was pleased when Chris told me she had been approached for comment by Jesse Matheson for the column he was writing for the newspaper. As always, Chris was open and honest in her responses to Jesse, as she is with any and every journalist, in my experience.
I was disappointed to read in Jesse’s column that he claimed to have spoken with Chris, and rather than reference the direct responses she gave to his emailed questions, he chose to selectively quote a verbal answer she had given to AAP to a completely different question, posed during the recent City of Sydney Council election campaign. Chris gave Jesse her mobile phone number and invited him to call her, but he declined this offer. How can he claim to “understand who she is”?
Neither AAP or Jesse questioned Chris about whether or not she lobbies her brother Tony on the issue of marriage equality, yet on the basis of a comment to AAP, taken out of context, your columnist asserted that she doesn’t and wouldn’t. If only Jesse had asked that question directly he would have heard the answer Chris has always given: “Yes, my brother and I talk often and when we discuss this issue, I continue to advocate for marriage equality, and he continues to listen to and respect my viewpoint.”
Tony was just one of 98 MPs (including Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd) who voted against the marriage equality bill in federal parliament. But Chris has said repeatedly on the record since then that she was truly encouraged by the significant change Tony acknowledged afterward, when he said publicly that he was “conflicted” about his own decision given the knowledge and respect he has for Chris and my relationship. As Chris says, this seems a small shift but it’s a really significant one and shows how keeping up respectful dialogue can bring about real change. I know and see how committed she is to encouraging Tony and anyone else to seeing that marriage equality is a reform Australia should have.
Chris doesn’t believe that issues of community and national interest should be kept in the family, but she does love her brother and she understands that he, like many other people, have different views on some things than hers. There’s nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with not wanting to create a rift between family members because of it. Perhaps that’s the single greatest difference between the Katters and the Abbotts. The former seem to be estranged and at odds with each other, but I know the latter respect and acknowledge each other, despite their differing opinions. Which approach is more likely to result in a genuine, lasting shift in viewpoint from either side?
Lastly, I do want to respond to Jesse’s assertion that Chris and Tony’s relationship has been “painted” and “cleverly devised to get his sister into office.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Chris and my relationship was dragged into the public domain by a journalist who approached us directly in 2011, a long time after Tony had first fielded questions from journalists about his gay sister. Just as he did when directly questioned by Tony Jones on Q&A, Tony had always protected Chris’ and my privacy, when the situation could have been used to “make him seem human,” as Jesse claims.
Or is Jesse suggesting that Chris has somehow fabricated something about her sexuality, as well as her relationship with her brother to “get her into office”? Granted that is his opinion, but as a person who knows Chris and Tony well and loves them both, and who sees up close my partner’s very genuine desire to serve and give back to her community, I find that offensive in the extreme.