Kevin Rudd is probably the most queer friendly PM Australia has ever had. But one of his first key decisions has shown that queering the Government still isn’t high on the agenda.
With Kevin Rudd back, we now have the most queer-friendly Prime Minister, and Government, Australia has ever had. In his first term Rudd moved through the same-sex omnibus bill – changes that are probably much more influential than same-sex marriage will ever be. As Foreign Minister he announced that sex and gender diverse Australians would no longer have to have a gender affirmation surgery to change their gender on their passports. And now, Rudd becomes the first PM to support marriage equality.
Yet, within his first week, one key decision left me with some serious questions. The problem is his new Minister for Mental Health, Jacinta Collins. Bernard Keane from Crikey explains:
“Collins is from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association and holds the social views one expects of a Shoppie: she is stridently anti-abortion and a diehard opponent of same-sex marriage; “stable, biological parenting” should be fostered “as a social norm” she said in reference to the same-sex marriage bill last year.”
I appreciate that the ALP still has some social conservatives (one reason I don’t support them), and I expect some of them to be in cabinet. But I am certainly not happy that our new Minister for Mental Health is someone that has problems with queer people – especially given that mental health is such a major issue within the queer community.
The Coalition is just as bad. The Opposition Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said in the debate about same-sex marriage last year that gay couples are simply ‘not interested in monogamy’. This sort of pop-psychology does not belong in a Mental Health Minister. Collins and Fierravanti-Wells in Mental Health could have a real impact – hurting queer-friendly services that we very much need need.
And this describes a challenge. While Rudd is pretty queer-friendly, we need a more holistic approach that what he is providing. It’s not just about legislation that directly affects queer people – we need a ‘queering’ of our society. Queer issues cross-over with all other issues – just as all other issues are queer issues. This means a lot – it is a fundamental change to the way we think about how our society operates. At a minimum it should mean taking a very queer-friendly approach to our health services. The change to Collins, and potentially Fierravanti-Wells seriously threatens this. We have a lot more to do to queer our society.