New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
For News Corp columnist Piers Akerman, gay rights are a cover with which to marginalise religion. The dignity of individuals, he argues, is used to punish and mock the church.
For Akerman, it is a high-stakes war, and same-sex marriage is the final battleground. The rightness of his cause is nowhere understated. “Faith drove anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu, to name just two,” he wrote this month, “who stood for the immutable truths and principles of Christianity and transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process.”
Akerman believes “the time of homosexual protest was in the ’60s”. He abhors the “shrill cries” of gay rights activists, and believes they are the truly intolerant. The movement campaigned successfully against police brutality, and should have ended there. “This is the stuff of black-and-white documentaries now. The argument is as old as a Village People tune, and as camp.”
Queer people are an obsession in Akerman’s columns. He suggests the ABC has been overrun by gays and their supporters. He writes yearly about the evil of Mardi Gras.
Writing against government support for the parade in 2008, he noted: “Homosexuals are accepted at every level in Australian society, but it must be said that the bigger issue they make about their sexuality, the more boring they become just like heterosexual men and women who talk endlessly about their sexual antics.”
A year later he was complaining Mardi Gras served to “reinforce the straight community’s stereotypical view of homosexuals as a group of mincing, lisping, limp-wristed queers”.
Shortly before descending into a longish aside on the origin of the term “pillow biter”, Akerman was keen to show his enlightenment on the issue of stereotypes: “There are lesbians who don’t have basin hair cuts, who don’t roll their own cigarettes and who don’t wear workman’s overalls. And there are homosexual men who don’t work in hair salons, wave their hands about as they speak or dance to Kylie Minogue’s music, but the homosexual organisations don’t seem to see them.”
The piece was helpfully titled “Gay lords should bite the bullet on Bruno”.
When a rainbow was painted over a crossing at Taylor Square in Sydney, he was appalled by the “hand-flapping hysteria” generated by its proposed removal. “But the rainbow display is at the lighter end of the activist spectrum,” he warned. “Homosexual marriage is at the darker end, along with a rapidly accelerating assault on the language and traditional culture and society.”
All of this would be of no consequence, if it were not for the impact Akerman’s column had this week. Akerman enjoyed perhaps the first win in his war on gays, with the NSW Department of Education halting screenings of a documentary on gay parenting, titled Gayby Baby. To do any less would have warranted the minister’s resignation.
Akerman is fixated on what he deems “normal”. He has a strawman built of census data and dud polls that define this ideal. But what he really fears is tolerance. He fears the world he lives in, and the other people happily living in it. To accept that queer families might raise children is to accept their normalcy. Akerman rejects this, and in doing so rejects reality.
In the course of the column, Akerman lectured a 12-year-old girl. He reached for the Oxford English Dictionary to explain to her that she was not “normal”. It is telling, in this debate, that the only win Akerman has claimed is against children.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 29, 2015 as "Piers reviewed".
A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.