Morrison’s Reflex Is To Divide & Set People Apart, Says Out Labor Senator Penny Wong
Out Labor Senator and Australia’s Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying his reflex was to weaponise issues to divide the community.
Trigger Warning: This story discusses transphobic comments by political leaders, which might be distressing 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.
Wong was speaking at the LGBTIQ+ Election Forum at the Victorian Pride Centre last week. The forum was presented by Equality Australia, AFAO, Intersex Human Rights Australia and LGBTIQ+ Health Australia. Wong was joined by her colleagues, Greens Senator Janet Rice and Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg for the discussion moderated by out ABC journalist Patrica Karvelas.
“Elections are always a choice about what sort of country you want. And what I’d say to you is this election is a choice between a better future and more of the same. And importantly for our community, it’s a choice between a leader whose reflex is division, his reflex is to set people apart, and an Anthony Albanese Labor government, which wants to bring people together,” Senator Wong said in her opening remarks.
“Labor governments have had long and proud history of advancing equality for Australians. That would continue if we are elected.” (Video starts at 17 minutes)
‘There Is Something Deeply Wrong’
The discussion on issues of importance to the LGBTQI community took place in the background of a vicious national debate about the trans and gender diverse community.
Morrison refused to sack Warringah candidate Katherine Deves over her use of offensive slurs against the transgender community and her now deleted homophobic and transphobic social media posts. Morrison has also endorsed Tasmanian Senator Claire Chandler’s bill to ban trans girls and trans women from participating in female sport.
“This is ultimately actually not about the policy, we all know that … this is about a political tactic in the same way as we saw the Religious Discrimination Bill used in the same way… Morrison’s reflex is to weaponise certain issues as a way of dividing the community,” said Senator Wong, when asked about Senator Chandler’s bill.
“I actually find it really quite distressing. I have a couple of kids in my life, not my children, but friends of the family. This is a hard time for them, trying to work out who they are, and they hear this,” said the Senator Wong, adding that she would understand if people of faith or those with deeply views were trying to understand the issue.
“This is not about that…there is something really deeply wrong where a political leader can target kids who are vulnerable, who are more likely to self-harm, in an attempt to play a political identity card,” said the Senator, and expressed her hope that there would be more moderate Liberals who would oppose and stop it.
Senator Rice called it a “sad moment in Australian political history” for a candidate to be “fanning the flames of transphobia”.
“To be in the Senate and to hear openly transphobic, really dangerous and divisive speeches regularly by some of the Liberal senators is distressing,” said Rice, who promised that the Greens would vote against Senator Chandler’s bill “if it sees the light of day”.
Senator Bragg, who joined via Zoom, agreed that it was “hugely regrettable” that the issues were being pushed into the heat of an election campaign.
Labor, Liberals And Greens To Invest In LGBTQI Health
Senator Wong announced the Labor’s election commitments to the community, including a promise to restore the funding cut by the Morrison government. She said an Albanese government would earmark $5.9 million dollars to support the work done by Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations and National Association of People with HIV Australia.
The Labor Senator also announced that a one-off grant $400,000 would be provided to QLife “so that more LGBTQI+ Australians can be reached”, and a one-off grant $250,000 for LGBTIQ+ Australia (LHA) “to undertake a national consultation with LGBTIQ+ communities and the Department of Health to feed into the development of a National LGBTIQ+ Health Action Plan”.
Senator Rice reiterated Greens’ fully costed plan of $900 million in forward estimates to implement its policies for the LGBTQI community. This included establishing a national LGBTQIA+ health and wellbeing plan and providing $285 million in funds over four years, including $15 million in “dedicated funding to cover the out of pocket costs experienced by trans and gender diverse people in accessing gender-affirming healthcare.”
Senator Bragg announced that Liberals would invest $4.2 million over three years to support the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQI Australians.
Organisations Welcome Investment In Community’s Health
LGBTQI and HIV/AIDS organisations have welcomed the bipartisan commitments by major parties and the acknowledgement of the health needs of the community.
“The announcements and commitments made at the forum are welcomed and a good step forward. It was clear from the Forum that there is a great lack of understanding of the needs of intersex people, and it is vital that we achieve a fundamental change in the way health and wellbeing investments are made so that all LGBTIQ+ communities can thrive,” said Nicky Bath, CEO, LHA.
LHA also called for “an end to the harmful debates about trans and gender diverse people and for attention to be focused on what is urgently needed to end the significant health and wellbeing disparities for the remainder of the election campaign and beyond”.
AFAO said that Labor’s commitment to restore funding were a positive development. “We have made important strides in HIV prevention over the last five years, but progress is delicate and will stall without additional investment. These commitments provide a solid foundation as we attempt something quite remarkable, the end of Australian HIV transmission,” said AFAO chief executive, Darryl O’Donnell
“We are now in the fifth decade of the HIV epidemic, but with renewed political and financial commitment we can absolutely avoid entering a sixth. While LGBTIQ+ communities are resilient they have poorer overall health and are less likely to access health services. We warmly endorse the support of Labor health spokesman, Mark Butler, in understanding this challenge and identifying the need for additional support,” added O’Donnell.
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.