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Thursday, 18 November 2010

This is Liberal National Party Senator Ron Boswell. Who wants this bulk-serve middle-aged white dude determining policy that affects the wellbeing of Australian children who are same-sex attracted (SSA)? The Queensland senator has come out against same-sex marriage, most recently in a Sydney Morning Herald story, where he nastily predicts the type of negative reception a Labor Party MP who had decided to campaign for same-sex marriage might receive in "the front bar of any working class pub":
''I will happily take any Labor (MP) to the front bar of any working class pub. He can advocate gay marriage and I will happily stand back and hold his coat.''
Yes, senator. And we don't want to help those idiots in the front bar to change their misguided views, do we?

The children of idiots who are against same-sex marriage are the ones who persecute SSA kids at school, on the bus, and walking home afterward. Teenage suicide is an epidemic in Australia but it is a silent one because of the compact made by newspapers to not report such events when they occur. This compact lets the likes of Ron Boswell off the hook when they vociferate publicly about things that materially and detrimentally affect the lives of millions of honest and hard-working citizens.

The Labor Party actually has a pretty good track record in terms of progressive policy implementation, most notably via the abolition of racial aspects of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, which had prevented non-whites from entering the country and had been the first piece of legislation passed in the new Parliament of Australia. The Whitlam government, which took office after the December 1972 election, won by Labor, made those important changes. The Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which made discrimination on the basis of race unlawful, was also a Whitlam initiative, arising out of his government's ratification of all international agreements relating to immigration and race.

There is no question that the White Australia Policy, enshrined as it was in federal law, caused suffering to millions. My father's memoir vividly describes how non-Anglo kids were treated in the street by kids from the dominant ethnic group and even before he handed the CD-ROM to me he had for as long as I can remember made his feelings clear through the bitter and ironic tone of voice used when recollecting his childhood. And this policy was furthermore responsible, at least in part, for his disappointment with his father, who came here in 1924 from the Portuguese African colony he grew up in. The man simply sought a better life; a visionary, he struggled with language and with discrimination for decades.

The push for tolerance that has suggested to Julia Gillard the wisdom of rescheduling the Labor Party's national conference, is a virtuous one. Tony Abbott, the Opposition leader, might accuse the Labor leader on the floor of Parliament of giving in to the Greens. But she should remember that the large Green vote of the September election was due mostly to disaffected Labor voters changing their ballot preferences. The Left faction of the Labor Party knows this. The push for tolerance on the basis of SSA is coming from within Labor as much as from the current government's junior partner.

It's time for the Labor Party to return to its progressive roots and stake another claim on the future's fond regard by making gay marriage part of the Party platform. It's definitely time, Julia.

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