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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6061

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (16:37): I'm delighted to support this MPI this afternoon, because our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is no friend of Australia's LGBTI community. They've reached out to me to tell me about their concerns about Scott Morrison's appointment as Prime Minister, and I share their concerns. I will give you some of the reasons why the community is so appalled by his appointment. He defended and praised Israel Folau when he said that gay people were going to hell. Our Prime Minister said that he had shown a lot of strength of character. Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was a vocal opponent of marriage equality. He was one of the drivers of the divisive postal survey, and he did this as a way to try to obstruct this nation's path to marriage equality. He campaigned actively for the no case and voted no during the postal survey. To add insult to injury, he supported amendments to the bill to allow for discrimination against LGBTI people within the Marriage Act. Our Prime Minister then went on to abstain from the vote, ignoring the will of the Australian people and, indeed, the will of the people within his own electorate. He was one of a handful of people to abstain from this vote, and he was joined by a handful of other MPs, including Andrew Hastie, Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews. It is of no surprise to me that it is this same group of conservative MPs who were part of the push to replace Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.

Let's be clear: this homophobic, anti-gay agenda is core to a key grouping within the coalition and motivated them to roll Malcolm Turnbull. So we are legitimate in the concerns that we have regarding the influence of these hard-right Liberal and National MPs inside the Morrison government. But we in Labor and the LGBTI community will not be complacent. We know we've achieved marriage equality, but we know that the growing conservative control in the Liberal Party means we could see the reversal of rights that we have fought so long and hard for.

It is of no surprise to me that, to continue this agenda, Prime Minister Morrison has voiced his concern about 'gender whispering' in our schools. I saw Mr Morrison trying to defend these statements, but I would like to tell it as Evie said it. Evie said:

I'm Evie, I'm 13, and I'm a transgender kid, and this is what I want to say to the Prime Minister … There are thousands of kids in Australia that are gender diverse. We don't deserve to be disrespected like that through tweets from our Prime Minister.

We know that Prime Minister Morrison has said Australian schools don't need gender whisperers. Australian schools don't have gender whisperers. What we have are school communities and teachers that need to reach out to students of all backgrounds to support them in their needs, be they having a disability, be they having a learning issue, be they gender diverse or be they lesbian or gay. It's simply not good enough to fail to support inclusive environments for our nation's children, and that is the signal that Scott Morrison is sending. Frankly, it's akin to when Senator Hanson tried to argue that autistic children should not be in the same classrooms as other children. It is simply divisive and is marginalising young people and students in our schools. Evie went on to explain that she:

… I went to a Christian school where I had to pretend to be a boy and spend weeks in conversion therapy.

She said:

We get one childhood and mine was stolen from me by attitudes like this.

It's all very well for Prime Minister Morrison to talk about his love for all Australians whatever background they come from, but that's code for saying, 'Love the sinner but not the sin.' We know that that is what Scott Morrison means when he says these things. He does not support LGBTI Australians in having self-determination and inclusion in our community. Young LGBTI Australians face disadvantage that is greater than what their adult counterparts face, because of the addition of their youth. They have a lack of their own economic autonomy, they can't vote and they are not represented in policymaking in this nation. Research has shown that they endure discrimination, social exclusion and socioeconomic and cultural disadvantages. They're overrepresented in our homelessness population. They're more likely to experience homelessness due to poor mental health; poor physical health; substance abuse; physical, sexual and emotional abuse; being placed in state care or family violence.

I tell you that the reason these things happen to young LGBTI people is not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex; the reason these conditions are prevalent among young LGBTI people is the exclusion that they experience from the likes of our Prime Minister and other discrimination from people in the community. It is why the step that we took forward in relation to marriage equality in this nation was so important. But it shows that it is not enough, because this government has within it those that are determined to continue to propagate discrimination and exclusion of the LGBTI community. We know that their lack of visibility furthers their vulnerability. We know that 61 per cent of LGBTIQ youth have stated that they experience abuse because of their sexuality or gender, that 18 per cent have reported physical abuse and that they're more than five times as likely to commit suicide.

The Prime Minister's statements such as 'gender whisperer' reinforce transphobic rhetoric. Transgender people in our nation are more than 11 times as likely to commit suicide. This is a classic populist and divisive move by our Prime Minister when this government's numbers are down in the polls. He is seeking to ignite hate-fuelled anger and bigotry, which he helped incite during the marriage equality plebiscite. It is a despicable move by this Prime Minister, who has frequently victimised LGBTIQ children in this country, using them as a political football to rouse the conservative base, all because his rabble of a government is on the nose in this nation.

Labor has not forgotten the children who were harassed on their way to school by anti-Safe-Schools protesters—LGBTI children harassed at the school gates and shamed simply for being who they are. We have not forgotten gay mums and dads who endured campaigns that attempted to discredit the value of our families during the postal survey. And we have not forgotten the harm inflicted on the LGBTI community of this country by this divisive Prime Minister and this divisive government. The Prime Minister might want to wash his hands of issues like gay conversion therapy and anti-LGBTI schooling in schools, and he should be ashamed of himself.