I was born in Far North Queensland, grew up in Brisbane, moved to Canberra in my mid-teen years and Melbourne in my early twenties. I have remained more-or-less in Melbourne for the last 17 years, and from my current standpoint, looking at recent events in public life in this country, I have ended up in the right place.
I have never been particularly political about being gay, but the time has come to stand up and be counted. Recent actions taken by the Queensland government, timed with Gina Rinehart’s unrelated but strangely resonant might-is-right assault on the editorial independence of the Fairfax papers, point to a pattern that has been emerging in this country for some time, and I find it very unsettling.
The Queensland government, using its overwhelming majority, has prioritised and executed the most stark rollback of gay rights of any comparable jurisdiction in the world. The speed and efficiency with which this has happened suggests to me that it could happen elsewhere in Australia. Why not? After all, the recent census showed the diminutive extent of the gay minority - or at least, those who claim to be in a gay relationship - as Gerard Henderson was so quick and apparently satisfied to point out on Insiders last Sunday. What does it matter if so few people are disenfranchised? Gays have been barking louder than their bite for years, and it now seems that to declare an agenda ‘liberal’ or ‘left’ is justification enough to see it eradicated.
Then there is Gina Rinehart. Rinehart stands for a lot of things, as she is entitled to do. What I find worrying is that her astonishing wealth, gleaned from carving up large chunks of Australian mineral resources, may lead her to have a highly distorted level of influence over public life in this country. It is hard to believe that a woman who has been so - definitive - in the actions taken against members of her own family would have any hesitation in seeking to crush those elements of a ‘liberal’ agenda that she might take exception to. I have no idea what Gina Rinehart thinks about homosexuality, but it would not appear to be a big part of her world. Why would a newspaper under her editorial influence seek to continue supporting such a marginal, minority viewpoint as that of gay rights?
The majority of my electoral neighbours, of which there are 102,879, elected Adam Bandt of the Greens as our Member of Parliament in 2010. While the dogged certainties of the Greens agenda bug me, I cannot deny that my personal philosophy of life is more accurately represented by Bandt than it would be by most other individuals in the Parliament. Melbourne the electorate is transforming in my mind into The Bastion - a place where the electoral boundary might as well be a virtual protective wall around the place I call home. A real wall - with towers, gates, and defences.
As a free thinking individual I am entitled to entertain such a protectionist fantasy, and I am drawn to do so because I feel threatened: threatened by the brashly emerging intolerance in the State of my birth, and threatened by the fact that I cannot see any real impediment to the full flowering of such intolerance elsewhere in this country. Certainly, a majority government led by Tony Abbot would seem to present few obstacles to the rollback of rights that I, at least once, perhaps naively, thought had been won for all time.
These are the Good Old Days
Early in the 21st Century, a Montreal musician/rapper/filmmaker/puppet-maker/various-other-thing-er of the name of Socalled released a song entitled ‘These are the Good Old Days’. His basic thesis, pre-GFC, pre-Eurocrisis, is encapsulated by these lines from the song:
“Truly these are the good old days
Where man, woman, and child can log onto the Internet and text message each other across their own house
Where there is any form of contraceptive from solid to liquid to gas
We have reached the point of civilization like the Incans reached when they had gold roads and the Egyptians reached when they had, like, magical buildings and secret things
So, what you do is you go kiss whoever you kiss, grab whoever you grab
Because these truly are the good old days and it does not get any better than this
And when it does you wake up and you’re dead”
I am beginning to suspect that he was right: those were the good old days, and that now we have only the perfect storm of a fully-formed right wing agenda dominating the horizons of public life ahead. I hope I am over-reacting, but the Hard Right has been popping up all over the world in recent times. I really don’t know what will become of us, but perhaps here in The Bastion we will be able to weather the storm. I wouldn’t want to be gay in Queensland right now.