Australians are still in shock over one of the most surprising federal election victories in recent memory, which saw the Coalition re-elected for a third consecutive term.
Despite countless opinion polls suggesting Labor was the overwhelming favourite to topple the Liberal-National Coalition, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ultimately swept the Coalition to victory over the weekend.
Following Labor’s astonishing defeat, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced that he would step down as leader, saying in his sombre concession speech, “we are a resilient and proud movement and we never give up”.
So what does the Coalition’s re-election mean for LGBTIQ+ communities in Australia?
Late last year, following a spill motion that saw a majority 45 Liberal MPs vote against then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull being leader of the party, Scott Morrison was announced as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister.
Up until that point, his track record on LGBTIQ+ rights has been tenuous at best.
Morrison, a former Minister for Immigration and No voter in the postal survey, had been adamant that it was “okay to say No” during the marriage equality debate.
He also defended Israel Folau in 2018 when the rugby star came under fire for posting a handful of anti-gay messages on social media, saying that “hell was God’s plan for gay people”.
In the nine months following his ascent to the top position, Morrison did little to improve his relationship with LGBTIQ+ communities.
He was slammed for peddling “harmful” and “ignorant” rhetoric around trans and gender diverse young people after calling instructors in trans inclusion in schools “gender whisperers”, and repeatedly delayed moves to protect LGBTIQ+ students and teachers at faith-based schools from religious discrimination.
He also came under fire for saying that he sent his children to private schools to avoid Safe Schools, and later said that conversion therapy wasn’t “an issue [he was] focused on at all”. (In the Coalition’s defence, the Liberal Party Federal Director Andrew Hirst subsequently said the Morrison Government didn’t support conversion therapy.)
In the lead up to the recent federal election, both Labor and the Greens made a number of pre-election commitments for LGBTIQ+ communities that far outweighed the promises of the Coalition, as evidenced by a survey called Rainbow Votes 2019, which was sent to the major parties by Equality Australia.
On the positive side, the Coalition announced that if elected, it would channel $3 million into LGBTI mental health funding, with a funding commitment to support the National LGBTI Health Alliance and its suicide prevention program MindOUT, as well as a confirmed boost to Qlife, with funding of $2 million over two years.
Speaking to the Star Observer, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman also said that the government would “get on with the job” of removing religious discrimination against students in faith-based schools.
However, beyond an inquiry, it’s still not clear what the Coalition’s plans are to tackle religious exemptions, after failing to deliver on a promise to act urgently late last year. Rather, Morrison proposed amendments to a Labor Bill that would have increased discrimination, leaving the Bill dead in the water in 2018.
On the conversion therapy front, the Coalition committed to “working with states and territories, which have legal responsibility in this area, to ensure such practices are not supported or occurring”.
However, this response evades federal reform, such as tightening the regulation of school chaplains.
While Labor and the Greens made strong statements against medical interventions on intersex bodies, the Coalition instead referred to the ongoing inquiry by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
And for the many LGBTIQ+ people beyond our borders, it is clear that asylum seekers will continue to suffer indefinitely under Coalition policies on Nauru and Manus.
For the Coalition’s full responses to Equality Australia’s survey, visit Equality Australia.