An online Zoom meeting of Victorian Coalition MP this Tuesday spiralled into a heated argument after some members furiously rejected a shadow minister’s promise that the Opposition Party would not alter the Dan Andrews government’s law banning so-called gay conversion therapy.
Warning: This story has graphic language and discussions on so-called conversion therapy, which might be upsetting to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
Earlier this month, Liberal MP James Newbury had told The Age the the party had made an “ iron-clad guarantee” to uphold the law banning so-called conversion therapy. This followed another report where Australian Christian Lobby’s Managing Director Martyn Iles had claimed that the Victorian Opposition had given a “written agreement” to roll back the ban on conversion practices.
However, a leaked audio footage of a zoom meeting between Opposition members, that was acquired by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, suggests that not all members agree with the new leader’s stance on the conversion practices ban.
Revealing Insight Into Opposition
In a press conference on Thursday, Deputy Premier James Merlino said the Coalition meeting was “a revealing insight to the rabble that is the Victorian opposition.”
“I think people can see a glimpse into what they (the Coalition) are really like and my view is they need to get out of the way of an important piece of legislation.”
The details of the leaked zoom chat revealed that Newbury and Guy’s promise to not roll-back the law did not have support within the coalition, which is trying to amend the laws.
“From a Nationals point of view, we will not be supporting James on this position and he can go and get f—ed, simple as that,” Nationals leader Peter Walsh said during the meeting.
“Just because James has been appointed the shadow [minister], doesn’t give him the right to change history and put a very definite view that is counter to what’s been agreed to by our party processes,” Walsh added.
Hard-right Liberal backbencher Bernie Finn said the opposition should remain loyal to the groups they promised to amend the laws.
However Shadow attorney-general Tim Smith challenged Finn’s interpretation of the Coalition’s position on the bill.
“Read the f—ing bill, Bernie,” Smith said.
“We gave a commitment; you might not care about commitments but a lot of us do,” Finn replied.
“I can read, you fool. Read the f—ing thing” Smith responded.
“You are a f—ing idiot,” said Finn.
Iron-Clad Guarantee Crumbles
A Coalition MP who attended Tuesday’s meeting told The Age the whole thing was a “shambolically executed episode of Seinfeld”.
“Newbury’s iron-clad guarantees can best be equated with a soggy scotch finger biscuit out of the Brighton cafe,” they said.
Prior to Matthew Guy’s appointment as leader of the Opposition party, former Coalition leader Michael O’Brien had reportedly promised many groups that if his party won next year’s election, they would make amendments to the conversion practices law.
These amendments include allowing parents the right to speak with their children about gender and sexuality issues and protect the work of psychiatrists engaged in evidence-based practice to support the mental health of gay and gender-diverse people.
In 2019, a report published by the Victorian Government about their inquiry into the Conversion ‘therapy’ found that those who undergo the inhumane treatment suffer long-term psychological harm including severe anxiety and depression.
The Victorian Legislative Council had passed The Change Or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 27-9 in February with Labor, Greens, Cross-bench and some Liberal MPs voting for the law.
The Bill was passed in the Lower House on December 10, 2020, with Liberal MPs abstaining from the vote.
The United Nations also declared that conversion therapy was a human rights violation as the attempt to change someone’s sexuality often involves harmful practices including; social isolation, verbal abuse, forced medication and in some extreme cases rapes and beatings.
If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.