By any measure, Australia’s new prime minister is off to a bloody terrible start.
After Scott Morrison was chosen by the Liberal Party as a compromise candidate in the parliamentary elections, he officially took office on Aug. 24. Morrison, a former immigration czar in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government, wasted no time burning bridges with the LGBTQ community.
Within just the past week, Morrison has suggested bisexuals are disgusting, opposed affirming the identities of trans students, and declined to take action on conversion therapy, saying it’s “not an issue” for his government.
The controversies began earlier this week. On Monday, Morrison appeared on the Melbourne radio station 3AW, and morning show host Neil Mitchell asked the newly tapped leader if he believes that orientation change efforts “work.” Morrison replied that he had “never really thought” about the subject.
“Ah, well, people should abide by the law,” the conservative politician claimed. “If people aren’t breaking the law, then that’s a matter for them.”
Mitchell then informed the prime minister that conversion therapy, however, is not illegal in Australia. Although the Labor Party supports a federal ban on orientation change efforts, Morrison’s own health minister, Greg Hunt, defended the widely discredited practice as “freedom of speech.”
A recent Change.org petition called upon Morrison’s government to ban conversion therapy, which has been condemned by every leading medical association. More than 40,000 people signed the plea.
But after being corrected on the issue, Morrison said his administration would not get involved.
“I think people should make their own choices about their own lives,” he claimed. “That’s always been my view. I’ve never been involved in anything like [conversion therapy]. I’ve never supported anything like that. So mate, it’s just not an issue for me, and I’m not planning to get engaged in the issue.”
The right-wing leader maintained, however, that he respects people of “all sexualities,” “all religions,” and “all faiths.”
“I love all Australians,” he said.
Critics claim his actions say otherwise. Just hours before Morrison punted on conversion therapy, he claimed the teaching of LGBTQ subjects in schools is inappropriate for kids.
In conversation with 2GB host Alan Jones, Morrison took aim at the Safe Schools program, a voluntary curriculum in which 9th graders are invited to “role play” as a series of different characters. One option is “Megan.” The character “lives in the city and works in the local cafe she’s had 15 sexual partners and describes herself as bisexual, and these girls in class are told to role model these particular people,” according to Jones.
When the conservative radio host asked Morrison if that scenario makes his “skin curl,” he nodded that it did. Morrison said he sends his daughters to a private Baptist school because he wants them to focus on “math” and “learning science.”
“I don’t want the values of others being imposed on my children in my school and I don’t think that should be happening in a public school or a private schools,” he claimed.
Morrison wasn’t finished digging his increasingly cavernous hole, however.
Yesterday, Morrison tweeted that children don’t need “gender whisperers” in response to a Daily Telegraph article report about Australian teachers being taught to identify trans youth from early ages. The training is intended to offer support to a population who experiences an extremely high rate of depression, and suicidal ideation.
The Sydney-based tabloid newspaper reported the trainings led to a “surge” in children identifying as trans: with the number of transgender students increasing 236 percent in the past three years.
Morrison, however, felt the guidance interferes with children’s natural development. “Let kids be kids,” he tweeted Tuesday.
We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids. https://t.co/POzM26PXU5
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 4, 2018
Following Morrison’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, the remarks triggered massive backlash. Greens Senator Janet Rice, also one of the chief critics of Morrison’s conversion therapy comments, tweeted her support for trans youth.
“Well, I’ve got news for the Prime Minister — some kids are trans,” she posted on Wednesday. “Some kids are gay, lesbian, bisexual. Some kids are questioning their gender or sexuality. And they need to be supported by their families, communities, schools and their representatives in Parliament.”
Some kids are trans. Some kids are gay, lesbian, bisexual. Some kids are questioning their gender or sexuality. They need to be supported by their families, communities, schools & representatives in pment.#greens #auspol @rachelbaxendale @australian https://t.co/AEFu4H3oYV
— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) September 5, 2018
Jason Ball, an activist and Green Party candidate, suggested the prime minister’s double-speak on LGBTQ issues is hypocritical.
“‘I’m on your side,’” Ball said, quoting Morrison’s earlier promise to unite Australia following the divisive elections. “Unless you’re a transgender kid, gay, bisexual (‘they make my skin curl’), women bullied by the Liberal Party, children in offshore detention, or anyone who believes in climate change.”
“One week in the job and our new Prime Minister shows his true colors,” he added. “He was never on our side.”
"I'm on your side". Unless you're a transgender kid, gay, bisexual ("they make my skin curl"), women bullied by the Liberal Party, children in offshore detention, or anyone who believes in climate change. https://t.co/YN8e43CosL
— Jason Ball (@jasonballau) September 5, 2018
The Australian LGBTQ advocacy group Just Equal further extended an invite to Morrison. They requested he meet the populations his statements impact.
“Australia’s most respected mental health group, Beyond Blue, has found that most transgender and gender diverse young people experience abuse because of who they are, leading in turn to higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts,” the group’s spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said in a statement.
“If Mr. Morrison is going ‘to be on the side of Australia’ he must open his heart to those Australians who are the most vulnerable to hate and fear,” he added.
Morrison has yet to reply to the invite.
The right-winger will remain prime minister until Australia holds its next federal elections — which are due in 2019. If Labor takes control of Parliament following the election, the left-leaning party has vowed to outlaw conversion therapy.
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