HACK, TRIPLE J
MONDAY, 15 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECT: Gay conversion therapy
TOM TILLEY, HOST: Should gay conversion therapy be banned in Australia? Or would that be an assault on religious freedom? It’s been banned in 14 American states and the Federal Labor Opposition is calling for it to be banned here in Australia. Catherine King is Labor’s Shadow Health Minister. Catherine King thanks for joining us. How would your ban work?
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Well we’d need to work with states and territories as well as through federal law to look at how health practitioners are registered, and to insert bans there. As I understand it, Victoria is working towards a ban now but through the Council of Australian Government Health Ministers’ meeting we’ll work with states and territories to ban it through their laws and look at what mechanisms we’ve got federally.
I think the report that’s come out today is actually really timely because there’s some recommendations in there that I hadn’t thought of before – particularly around Commonwealth-State funding for schools which I’ll have a chat to Tanya Plibersek about, particularly around funding of school chaplaincies. The concern that we have in this area is that you can do it through health practitioners have to be registered and you can do it through those mechanisms but of course it’s those underground, where churches are calling it something else, and where it’s not out in the open, that it is really difficult. And I think you’ve got to be careful about what you did there but my view very, very firmly is that this doesn’t just not work it actually does terrible harm to people. Anything that seems to think that homosexuality is a disorder to be fixed frankly has no place in our modern Australian society.
TILLEY: So you want it completely banned – formal and informal, minors and adults?
KING: It shouldn’t be happening at all, it shouldn’t be being offered. It shouldn’t be practiced within this country at all. How we go about doing that is a matter we need to talk to the states and territories about but also to community organisations and people who have had experience in this field because obviously one of the issues is that it is driven underground and you don’t want to just create loopholes. What you want is churches to recognise that this practice is actually a) futile but b) in fact does a terrible damage to people and that’s not something anyone should be engaged in.
TILLEY: What about consenting adults though, should they have the right to do this? The recommendation from the Human Rights Law Centre was that it was minors that it would be banned for and so therefore some consenting adults could take part in this if they really wanted to.
KING: I think that you know certainly minors are the primary concern because people are being forced into this, may not necessarily be able to exercise informed consent. But equally I just can’t see when I look at this how you could possibly say that this is an evidence-based health practice. It just is not. So it is being offered. Of course you know I guess if people want to go and talk to people about it and those sorts of things but frankly when you’ve got something like the UN saying this is tantamount to torture you have to sort of say is this something we really want to support in this country? I don’t think we do.
TILLEY: On the text line, Alannah says gay conversion therapy doesn’t always come formalised. Simply existing within a church that pushes that view means you are immersed in it. That’s a really interesting point. It’s not always a formal program where you’re sitting down with pamphlets and learning how to stop masturbating – like this is just absolutely fundamental to the beliefs of some Christian churches and it’s all throughout all their preaching.
KING: I guess that’s what I’m saying – it’s difficult as to how you determine if they’re claiming that it’s spiritual healing or it’s something else, how you actually do crack down on that. And I think that’s also making sure we get information out to church groups that this in fact actually does damage. There are a number of church groups in the US who were practising this who now come out and have admitted that they believe that it does create damage. I think the Australian Christian lobby here in this country is well behind many of the other churches in the US states. They’ve created a petition to try and save gay conversion therapy and had a crack at Labor about trying to get rid of it. I think that you know frankly they’re out of step with the vast majority of communities and the vast majority I think of some church groups as well.
TILLEY: You listening to Triple J’s Hack program and we’re talking about gay conversion therapy. A new report came out today from the Human Rights Law Centre saying it still happens in Australia. A lot of listeners can’t believe it, someone texted in saying I’m a Christian and I’m disgusted by this therapy. You can’t just convert someone from same-sex attraction, it’s not how it works. And another says it’s disgusting to try and force a person to be something they are not. Jess from Bowral says I’m openly gay, I’m a 28-year-old woman. A few years ago a friend of mine came out. Her parents forced her into gay conversion therapy. She’s obviously still gay. This is totally not okay. I’d love to hear from you if you have any experience with gay conversion therapy. We’ve got Catherine King in the studio, she is Labor’s shadow spokesperson for health. I just mentioned a moment ago Catherine that Scott Morrison announced they’ll introduce legislation to ensure religious schools can’t discriminate against students because of their sexuality or gender identity, which seems to be a bit of a move from his position last week. Have you put this proposal to him, to ban gay conversion therapy and what’s been the government’s response?
KING: Well I think he got asked a question Alan Jones as a result of Labor – I think we’d put out a couple of press releases in this, basically calling on Scott Morrison as a new prime minister to join with us and ban it – and that was his response, he just sort of washed his hands of it as I didn’t want to engage in the issue at all.
TILLEY: His answer to Neil Mitchell was well I’ve never been involved with it and it’s it’s not an issue for me.
KING: Well, you would hope not. You would certainty hope he hadn’t. Yeah, I’ve seen that. I think that’s just a cop out, frankly. It’s great that he’s now seeing the light in relation to exclusions from private schools for LGBTIQ children. We asked him today about you know what is he going to do about the exclusion of teachers. He obviously is trying to cop out on that as well. So we’ll keep pushing him on this but obviously we’ve got to have general election in seven months’ time and if people feel strongly about this issue then Labor’s made our position pretty clear. We will work to get rid of this practice and in the meantime let’s hope the government sees the light.