It Took Two Weeks For Scott Morrison To Show His True Colours When It Comes To Queer People
The PM has attacked queer people twice this week. It's no accident.
To say a horrible thing about young queer people once is careless, but to do so twice in the space of three days, well, that’s deliberate. And that’s exactly what Scott Morrison has done this week.
Almost two weeks into the reign of Prime Minister Morrison, we’re starting to get a sense of exactly what type of Prime Minister he wants to be and how he plans to differentiate himself from his predecessor.
It’s can’t be on policy grounds, given Morrison is as tied to Turnbull’s big failures, especially those unpopular business tax cuts, as Turnbull was.
So the PM is turning to that other trusty weapon when one is behind in the polls: The culture wars.
This morning the PM tweeted that “we do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools”. He was referring to a story in the Daily Telegraph about teachers being trained to identify transgender children, so that those children could be given the help they need. The story was utter bullshit, as we’ve explained here.
We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids. https://t.co/POzM26PXU5
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 4, 2018
The tweet came after Morrison was questioned on radio earlier this week about a program that asks students to empathise with bisexual people. The PM responded that the idea makes his “skin curl”.
In the same interview, Morrison declined to denounce gay conversion therapy, which has been described as torture by the UN, and said that he sends his children to private school in order to avoid discussions about sexuality. It takes some cognitive dissonance to spend tens of thousands of dollars to avoid acknowledging that queer people exist, while also claiming, as Morrison did, to “love” all gay people.
We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, though, because Morrison’s views on LGBTIQ rights are well known. He campaigned against marriage equality in last year’s postal survey (a survey he demanded), and, despite a significant Yes vote in his own electorate, chose to flee the chamber rather than participate in the final vote on same-sex marriage in Parliament.
Choosing Your Battles
The Prime Minister’s pulpit is a powerful one. When he speaks, the nation listens (or at least the nation’s media does, then amplifies that message to the nation).
A Prime Minister can choose which issues they want to engage with. They think every day about what agenda they want to set and why. Scott Morrison wasn’t asked about the story in the Daily Telegraph today. He just jumped on Twitter when he saw an opportunity to open up a new front in the culture war.
He went looking for this battle, and that’s deeply concerning. It’s impossible to believe that Morrison is unaware of the consequences of his words. If he didn’t know about the dangers of conversion therapy before, he certainly would have found out during the controversy over his comments earlier this week.
And this morning’s tweet was downright dangerous. As LGBTIQ health organisation ACON noted today, the PM’s comments have the potential to do real harm.
“While we respect Mr Morrison’s right to hold personal opinions, we would encourage him to use the office of Prime Minister to act in a manner which is inclusive of all Australians, and to refrain from using stigmatising language that makes the lives of vulnerable people harder,” ACON said in a statement today, while noting that 70 percent of young trans and gender diverse people had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety and almost 80 percent had self-harmed.
Scott Morrison has shown in one week exactly what the LGBTQI community is to expect from him. It's not hypothetical, this will be a real threat to our community. We need to be alert.
— Bec Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) September 5, 2018
But none of that matters to Morrison, who knows he has nothing to lose. With eight months (maximum) until the next election, he’s on a hiding to nothing. According to the latest polls, the government is toxic, no one knows who Morrison is, and those who do know him don’t like him.
Morrison’s only chance at success is to take the debate away from policy and into pure politics. It’s no coincidence that just today, Paul Kelly wrote in The Australian that the PM’s plan is to do exactly that.
“The single biggest message from Morrison is that he will fight Labor as an instinctive political animal,” Kelly said. “With a short run to the next election, Morrison will be governed by politics, not glorious policy reforms.”
Wrong Side Of History
Given that most people have stopped listening to the government, the culture wars are probably Morrison’s best shot — but that doesn’t mean it will work.
Morrison has chosen his first target, and it’s the LGBTIQ community that his government did so much damage to in last year’s postal survey. That’s the same survey that the No side tried to turn into a referendum on Safe Schools and “radical gender ideology”, but which the Yes side won convincingly.
Most Australians just aren’t as scared of trans people as Morrison and the ACL goons like to think.
Scott Morrison is PM for a week and
▪️agreed bisexuals make his “skin curl”,
▪️announced conversion therapy is legal and nothing to do with him,
▪️labeled teachers who support trans students as “gender whisperers”
This is completely out of step with mainstream Australia
— Sally Rugg 🏳️🌈 (@sallyrugg) September 4, 2018
Running a campaign against a community that was overwhelmingly supported by the entire country just 12 months ago probably won’t succeed, but it still has potential to do enormous damage to some of society’s most vulnerable people.
Once again, the community will rally in support of each other. We know the power of our voices now, we know how to organise and we know how to get shit done, even when a government tries to stand in our way.
If Scott Morrison thinks he can use the queer community to frighten his way to an unlikely election victory, he should think again.
Rob Stott is Junkee’s Managing Editor. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_Stott.