Queer and present danger
Cory Bernardi is scared. He is scared of a world where tolerance might be taught in schools, where gay children might live without the torment of shame and unknowing.
He is scared of a world where heterosexual children might understand and respect queer children, where identity might be a person’s own.
Mostly, he is scared of a world fast approaching, where his views are seen for what they are: hateful and misinformed and antique.
This is true any week but is especially true this week.
It was Bernardi’s fear of tolerance that saw Malcolm Turnbull announce a review of the Safe Schools program, aimed at boosting inclusion for same-sex-attracted and gender-diverse students. Turnbull should be ashamed of his decision to indulge this bigotry.
In the party room, Bernardi claimed the anti-bullying program “was being used to indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism”.
He told News Corp: “We’re talking about children as young as 11 being told to imagine that they are same-sex attracted and 16 years of age and going to engage in a sexual relationship. That’s in one of the booklets that’s in there. There’s also techniques about making kids stand up and until they answer all the questions correctly they’re left standing. And so it isolates those who may have a different values perspective … I’ve never practised it myself, but there is a part of this program which was highlighted to me yesterday where boys are encouraged to tuck their genitals between their legs so they can have a smooth front should they want to wear a dress and similarly they’re saying to young women they should be able to bind their breasts if they want to have a flat chest. Now if that sort of stuff is being put to 11-year-olds, I think it’s a bit weird.”
The man is obsessed. So are editors at News Corp, who have run on their front pages this shameful campaign. So are others in the parliament, aroused moralists such as George Christensen and Andrew Nikolic and Labor’s Joe Bullock. Christensen likened the program to grooming by paedophiles.
Some facts: The Safe Schools Coalition provides free resources and training to schools to help deal with homophobia and transphobia. Their programs are opt-in. They have been tailored for children.
Some more facts: Same-sex attracted youths are six times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide. The average age of their first suicide attempt is 16. Queer youths are up to five times more likely than the general population to report psychological distress or major depressive episodes.
Another fact: Cory Bernardi has often been asked if he would consider leaving the Liberal Party because it is too moderate to hold his views. He should leave, and it should not be at his choosing. To give him preselection, to give him a platform, to give his aged hate credibility is to diminish the humanity of the party that holds government.
His views are appalling to many Australians. Worse, he uses them to punish children. He is a blight on decency, a cancer on the Liberal Party. This week, he is a bogeyman in school playgrounds. He deserves no standing. His views have no credibility. They are awful, frightened, spiteful, just as he is.
The Liberal Party should disendorse Bernardi and encourage him to run on a platform of his beliefs, unprotected by factional racketeering. If the country finds fit to elect him then, it is a more terrible place than any of us could have thought.
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 27, 2016 as "Queer and present danger". Subscribe here.