Monday, 9 April 2012

you can SPEAK NOW

Alex Greenwich, of Australian Marriage Equality, has drawn our attention to an anonymous online survey by which a committee of the Australian federal parliament's House of Representatives is trying to gauge community attitudes to proposed changes in the Marriage Act.

The House of Reps 'standing committee on social policy and legal affairs' is encouraging all interested parties to express their views on the TWO marriage bills before the House.  The committee will then provide a report to  Parliament summarising the issues and contributions to the inquiry.  The Bills will then be debated in the House of Representatives.

Last week opponents of same-sex marriage asked for 80,000 people to complete the survey, so it's a good opportunity to counter that negative push and demonstrate that there are many more people concerned to grant equal status to all Australian citizens.

You can take the survey online at:
Alternatively, your views and comments can be sent to the Committee via email:

or posted to:

Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee,
House of Representatives,
PO Box 6021,
Parliament House,
Canberra ACT 2600. 

The closing date for responses to the inquiry is 20 April 2012.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Tony Abbott SPEAKS NOW (from both sides of his mouth)

Meanwhile, the Weekend Australian Magazine (April 07-08) carries a cover story revealing that Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition, has a sister, Christine, who is gay, and that he and his wife and daughters are kindly disposed towards her partner, Virginia. 

Yet he maintains a hard (Catholic) line against same-sex marriage, and feature writer Kate Legge construes this as a plus. 'So, when his sister came out, did he waiver?' she asks.  Legge applauds Abbott's ability to play both sides of the fence as evidence of being 'true to his philosophy' and casts the sister as a 'huge fan' of her brother. 'Political integrity requires the Coalition to maintain its position', he is quoted as saying, after 'toying briefly' with allowing coalition MPs a conscience vote on same sex marriage.

With the help of the Weekend Australian Mr Abbott is trotting out a bogus new line which is as old as his toxic religion.  The hypocrisy of “I’m not a bigot, look! Some of my best friends (and my sister!) are gay” might sit comfortably with a politician used to speaking from both sides of his mouth.  But are we supposed to believe these alleged friends (and his sister) are happy with the implication “You’re my friend, so you won’t mind if I stab you in the back”?   

There are several points in her writing where Legge betrays her complicity in political spin.  Only a writer for The Australian, where the line between political spin and journalism was long ago lost, would promote this spurious makeover of Abbott as a kinder, gentler leader.

If Abbott gains power in Canberra, will he emulate the triumphant Campbell Newman, the new conservative Premier of Queensland, whose first fiat after gaining a landslide victory in the recent elections was to cancel the Premier's literary awards?  The cost of the Awards was a mere drop in the state budget, so the symbolism was striking.  Outgoing Premier Anna Bligh used to actually read all the finalists in each category of those awards, and she led the support for the change in the ALP's Party platform to allow same-sex unions equal status in law.  Newman doesn't need literature.

In the same edition of the Weekend Australian magazine (p. 40), Phillip Adams commented on 'private polling' showing that only 25% of men in Queensland were willing to vote for a woman. Abbott has the advantage of being the 'right' gender to lead the conservative forces and, aware that he will need at least some women to vote for him and his cohort, is rolling out the hypocritical makeover version as a kind family man, co-opting his feisty, non-conformist sister as an ally.  'The last thing she wants is to become a public spectacle', he protests lamely. 

Oh please! pass me the barf bag...

Alyena Mohummadally SPEAKS NOW

Pakistani-Australian lawyer Alyena Mohummadally,  who penned one of the most moving chapters in SPEAK NOW with her partner Catherine Roberts, is featured in the cover story of this week's Good Weekend magazine  'Dangerous Liaisons: The Secret Lives of Gay Arabs in Australia' (Fairfax/Sydney Morning Herald/The Age April 6-8, 2012).

Prominent journalist David Marr profiles gay Australians of middle eastern background whose families reject their sexuality. Marr depicts the difficulties produced by non-conformist children bringing shame on their families and communities.

For those who fondly believe the days of the closet are well and truly gone, this feature article is a reminder of the real suffering many young people undergo among various communities within Australia.

Marr also interviews courageous people within those communities who are working to change attitudes. In 2004 Alyena Mohummadally set up a pioneering online forum, 'Queer Muslims in Australia':

At first, she was terrified of repercussions but the online forum has assisted many in coming to terms with their sexuality, their religion, and the atttiudes of family and the wider communities and in Marr's article Alyena testifies how she has gradually gathered courage.

Her moving piece for SPEAK NOW is encouraging, too.  Her Pakistani-born father did not respond as you might expect when Alyena and Catherine affirmed their commitment to each other. 

Yet under Australian law, they are not permitted to marry.  Neither the ruling Australian Labor Party, which holds a tenuous grip on power at the Federal level, while gradually losing it in the majority of state parliaments, has failed to do the right thing and truly lead the country on this civil rights issue.  Meanwhile, the opposition coalition parties, led by Tony Abbott (sometimes called 'Captain Catholic') does not feel the need to alienate their conservative base. Their continuing success at state level (witness the landslide at the recent Queensland elections) provide ominous signs of a distinct lurch to the right.