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Thursday, 18 October 1973
Page: 2333

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - Mr Speaker,as I did not expect to be called because of the limited time allowed for this debate, I did not do the homework that other speakers in this debate have done. Prior to coming to this Parliament homosexual acts were as repulsive to me as they were to any man. But having read material of the Parliamentary Library and having conversed with men here who have made some study of the problem, I find myself now more tolerant to the homosexual than ever before. I applaud the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) for bringing this matter before the Parliament. In my view, politicians usually shirk their duties concerning these very serious social questions because they say that there are 'no votes in homosexuals'. I believe that the legalisation of homosexuality was first raised in the Mother Country, Great Britain, by the Wolfenden report which was referred to by the right honourable member for Higgins. To my mind, that report virtually stunned the British people when they were informed of the prevalence of homosexuality in their society.

Had it not been for a peer or the son of a peer in Great Britain being charged withthe criminal offence of homosexuality, the Wolfenden Committee might never have been created to bring down its report. It was because someone influential in society was involved that the Wolfenden Committee was asked to investigate the extent of homosexuality in Great Britain. Because the British people were stunned, the legislators were not game to bring own legislation or to debate the matter in the House of Commons until many years after the Wolfenden report was submitted. Since then psychiatrists and different sections of people in our society have made a study of the prevalence of homosexuality in the United Kingdom and Australia. It is estimated that one male in 20 is afflicted with homosexual tendencies. In other words, if those figures are correct - I believe them to be correct - there are 6 people with homosexual tendencies among honourable members in this House and 3 in the Senate.

On the serious side, to any decent, thinking man, blackmail should be more repulsive than any other crime. I have never been blackmailed. No attempt has ever been made to blackmail me. But I know that people with this unfortunate affliction have been blackmailed for many years. That in itself sways me to support the liberalisation of the homosexual laws. Another point that was omitted by the right honourable member for Higgins and the honourable member for Maribyrnong is that our police forces are brought into disrepute when they have to enforce an unpopular law in something with which a person at any level of society could be afflicted. Invariably judges reprimand police officers in court when they enforce the law. We are the ones who should be ashamed because we have not had the courage, the spunk or the guts to liberalise the law and to remove this unpleasant phase of police duties which is repulsive to every decent policeman in the country who has to enforce this law.

Why is it not enforced today, as has been pointed out? It is enforced today by the police forces of Australia only on the complaint of some citizen. The police feel that, if they do not investigate a complaint, disciplinary measures may be taken against them which may affect their careers in the police force. Reluctantly, they have to enforce this very unpopular law. As we all know, homosexuality is prevalent in Australia today. Many of us live in our ivory towers and never go to the rendezvous frequented by homosexuals. Homosexuals congregate in certain toilets in Sydney and certain meeting places in public parks. I do not believe, as the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) has said, that if this law is passed it will accentuate the growth of homosexuality in our community. I believe to the contrary - that it may induce the habit-forming homosexual to leave the public parks and the toilets knowing that he cannot be blackmailed when he goes to a room to carry out and practise the weakeness that he has, and which, in many cases, homosexuals have fought to overcome.

It is also true, as has been pointed out by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), that many homosexuals throughout their life fight against the affliction. A very high suicide rate exists among homosexuals because of their inability to overcome this affliction that is either hereditary or which has been brought about by environment. I think there are conflicting opinions on this particular aspect of the subject. I find the homosexual today more to be pitied than criticised. I should like to see a more moderate liberation of the law. I should not like to see homosexual acts removed from the law altogether because from my own personal experience, in my previous profession, I have had to go and knock on the door of decent homes and say to the parents that their 10 or 14-year-old son had been found with an old man in the Sydney domain. I have had the personal experience of having to do that and therefore I should not like to see the homosexual liberated altogether. I do not intend to take up the full time allotted to me in this debate. To those who laugh and to those who criticise we who support this amendment to the law, I want to say that one day they may have a son, a brother, or a near relative afflicted with homosexual tendencies. I am positive that steel bars and grey walls are no place for those unfortunate people who are so afflicted.

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