There were many who forecast trouble ahead for Queensland’s new premier when he was elected with a massive majority on March 24 – and not because of the state’s precarious economic position.
Campbell Newman’s almost unprecedented demolishing of the ALP also brought with it a huge party room full of far-right religious conservatives, many of whom were as untested as their leader; a man wanting to run the state who had no seat in its Parliament.
At the time it could merely be dismissed as wishful thinking on the left that such a landslide could be anything but the ultimate prize for a party, long kept from the reins of power. But even those adamant that the numbers spelt trouble for Newman could not have foreseen how quickly the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) messiah would fall beholden to the extreme elements of his party.
There were some encouraging signs early on when Newman leashed social conservative attack dog Fiona Simpson into the Speaker’s chair. It looked to be a strategic move to ensure the controversial anti-gay Sunshine Coast MP had no say in policy or had the chance to embarrass the leader with more of her gay reparative therapy advocacy on the floor of Parliament.
While he stayed well away from the disemboweling of Queensland’s only LGBT health organisation, Healthy Communities, Newman couldn’t wait to tout his compromise on civil unions. A victory for both sides, he claimed, as he gave a press conference about alleviating the concerns of Christian lobbyists who’d spoken to him about the offensive emulation of marriage that civil unions represented.
Despite saying he’d met with LGBT representatives before the election and knew where they stood, Newman has yet to detail one official meeting with any such individual or organisation about the decision to repeal state-sanctioned civil union ceremonies.
Then came the murmurs of deep dissatisfaction among the LNP that the Civil Partnerships Act would otherwise remain intact.
Low and behold last night we saw the devolution of civil unions into the insipid relationship register, along with the scrapping of state ceremonies and a streamlining of invalidating unions because of fears dissolving a registered relationship in the district court would too closely resemble ending a marriage – I won’t touch the irony of that argument.
It’s also interesting to note that following Newman’s original announcement of a compromise deal, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Queensland director, Wendy Francis, seemed confident in the knowledge that civil unions would be rolled back into a relationship register, despite no such detail being mentioned by Newman or his attorney general in their press conference.
Let’s recap: we’d gone from Newman saying before the election that he wouldn’t repeal unions if couples had already entered into them, to saying that it was indeed his policy to repeal them as long as it didn’t leave couples in legal limbo, to his compromise deal, and then finally the gutting of the entire Act. Still with me?
At this point we haven’t even reached the bombshell announcement of surrogacy reform last night. Leaving aside the incredible indignity of removing the rights of a minority and then twisting the knife with the ‘exciting’ announcement of further reform, this was an area in which Newman had explicitly said in March this year would not be touched (you can see video of his comments below).
Last night he told reporters it had long been the party’s policy to deny single people and gay couples the right to have children through surrogacy.
Picking up a pattern here?
Drew Sheldrick is the Star Observer’s Queensland news editor