When thinking about Tony Abbott’s views on social issues it’s easy just to think about his gaffes. A couple of weeks ago was a great example. In Western Sydney the best compliment he could come up with for one of his candidates was that she was “young,” “feisty,” and had “a bit of sex appeal”. People have rightfully pointed out that it showed that he cares more about sex appeal than substance when it comes to women candidates. The next day, talking to John Laws, Abbott said that same-sex marriage was the “fashion of the moment” – as if homosexuality was just a fashion statement.
It is fair to get upset at Abbott’s statements. They are out of date and offensive. But let’s not lose sight of the real fight here – the things he would do. Because when you look at the issue of LGBTI rights in particular, I am genuinely terrified of what Abbott will do.We all know that Abbott doesn’t support same-sex marriage, meaning his election will effectively halt reform at a federal level for three years. But’s it not just that. In more recent times, under his leadership, the Coalition voted against amendments which strengthened the Sex Discrimination Act. The Coalition voted against the bill as they wanted to exempt religious elderly care organisations from the bill – allowing these organisation to deny care to elderly LGBT people.
But it is also what Abbott hasn’t told us that makes me worried. The best place to look here is the Campbell Newman Government in Queensland. The language of Newman and Abbott is eerily similar – that there will be an audit of finances, that there is a budget crisis, but that workers will have nothing to fear. If we look at Queensland though, people have had a lot of fear. Campbell Newman has attacked unions, cut public service jobs and services (something Abbott has promised to do) and slashed funding to essential organisations such as the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) – the only LGBT specific health advocacy and support organisation in the state, the Biala Sexual Health Clinic, and Sisters Inside – which provides support and advocacy for women in prisons. The results have been shocking.
We can judge Tony Abbott on what he says. We should judge him on what he says. But let us not forget that it is what he does that matters – and it is what he does that will impact everyone. For me it is what he has done, and will do, that is the most scary thing. It is why we must fight against him.