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Monday 08 November 2010


Looking Elsewhere?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 9th August 2010

It's difficult for most LGBT international political observers to summon any enthusiasm for Australian federal election coverage. Nevertheless, Australia is our largest trading partner and nearest neighbour, so...

Australia has no written constitution, Bill of Rights and is a federal nation of six states and two territories. It used to be a fairly progressive nation-state until the advent of John Howard and his Liberal/National Coalition, which then proceeded to steer Australia further rightward over the consequent decade of misgovernment. It attracted controversy over its slavish adherence to the Bush administration's Iraqi War adventurism, draconian refugee and asylum protection policies and a federal same-sex marriage ban in 2004.

Finally, in 2007, the Howard administration fell from power and Howard even lost his own Victorian electorate, Bennelong. By then, the Liberal/National Coalition had also lost government in all Australian states and territories, and only Western Australia has since returned to the fold. Since then, the Liberals have lurched from one poor leadership choice to another, with three Leaders of the Opposition in as many years- Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and now Tony Abbott. Abbott is a rabid conservative Catholic opponent of (deep breath) abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voluntary euthanasia, stem cell research and even divorce.

One would have thought that with Howard's removal, the Australian Labor Party would have been a breath of fresh air after a period of fearful introspection and backward social policies. Unfortunately, due to the Australian Labor Party's entrenched, byzantine and fratricidal factionalism, this proved not to be the case. Worse still, new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was a Queensland technocrat, unused to democratic accountability and a rigid social conservative. At a time when Britain and New Zealand were introducing relationship equality and civil unions, Australia retained its same-sex marriage ban.

Indeed, even after Rudd was toppled due to a prolonged period of domestic policy incompetence over the last two years, and Julia Gillard became Australia's first female federal Prime Minister, it still exists, despite adamant Australian Green federal opposition to that policy. Like Rudd before her, Gillard has pandered to the fundamentalist Australian Christian Lobby over retention of the ban.

At the moment, it is uncertain which side will win the Australian federal elections, primarily due to ALP infighting, although Gillard's reconciliation with her predecessor and a strong economy have boosted her re-election chances. She is pro-choice on abortion and does have the repeal of the Howard administration's WorkChoices anti-union policy to her credit. However, the ALP is barely recognisable as a mainstream centre-left political party any more.

Australia is shunned as a potential immigration destination by skilled LGBT migrants due to its backwardness over LGBT relationship equality. Unfortunately, that shows little sign of abating, whichever side wins the election.


Craig Young - 9th August 2010

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