Malcolm Turnbull must not be well liked in Liberal circles. Same-sex superannuation rights for public servants, the one gay and lesbian rights promise he’s been able to extract from his party during this election campaign, represents just 1.7 percent of the recommendations of the HREOC report. That leaves all other employees undealt with and 57 other forms of discrimination with no promise of a remedy should the Coalition be returned to power.
Even then, this one tiny promise was the absolute least the Liberals could do – leaving the issue undealt with would have unduly complicated the planned takeover of the Mersey Hospital in Tasmania as its gay employees would have been left in the lurch when switched from state to federal super funds.
It begs the question, what’s the point of being a leading moderate in your party, when your party is not led by moderates? With the Liberals seemingly headed for an electoral rout, are some in the party now concentrating on weeding out factional rivals so that they can grab control of the party in Opposition? Some have suggested that after losing Wentworth, Turnbull might be the ticket to make the NSW State Liberals electable again, but the state branches suffer from the same factional disease.
Meanwhile, the Labor Party’s raft of gay rights promises seems to be coming apart at the seams. Yes, HREOC’s recommendations will be passed into law in the first term of a Rudd government, but now we’ve been told we may have to elect them a second time to get Federal anti-discrimination laws – and even then, these will reproduce exactly the same outdated religious exemptions that exist under state laws.
The Labor pledge of nationwide and nationally consistent relationship recognition schemes under state laws is falling apart too, with only a handful of state Labor governments indicating they have any speedy plans to implement them, and with the Iemma Government saying it has no plans to introduce them at all.
So really the pledge on offer from the next Labor government of Australia is HREOC and HREOC alone – far behind the minor parties, and coincidentally exactly as far as the Australian Christian Lobby has indicated they will tolerate Labor going.
The continuing pandering to the Christian Right in this country is extraordinary. Although two-thirds of Australians identify as Christians, fewer than 10 percent attend church regularly, and a good proportion of those are moderates. Split that constituency into those who’ll choose prejudice over economic self interest and it’s a very small constituency who’ll change their vote based on homophobia alone.
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