Tony Abbott is our new Prime Minister. In what was a convincing (although not smashing) victory, Abbott has led the Coalition to at least three years in Government. The question, therefore, is what this means for LGBTIQ people.
Some are trying to place a positive spin on the results. In a media release titled “Marriage equality advocates encouraged by election result,” for example, Australian Marriage Equality said that they were “encouraged by yesterday’s election result, saying support has increased across both major parties”.
No matter how much spin we put on it, however, I don’t think that anyone could argue that this was a good result for LGBTIQ rights. This election has probably put the issue of marriage equality back at least three years as we replaced a Prime Minister in favour of the reform with one stridently against. Our new Government looks unlikely to work actively to make LGBTIQ issues a priority, and will definitely be keeping policies such as the rights of religious organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQ people in place. The party with the strongest position on LGBTIQ rights, the Greens, lost over 3 percent of the vote, and it now looks like the balance of power in the Senate will be held by bigots such as John Madigan.
It’s a blunt but realistic assessment. If you put LGBTIQ rights high on your agenda, this was not the result for you.
So what to do? Well, I think we’re all going to have to brace ourselves for a bit of a fight, and we’re going to have to broaden our agenda to do so. Because whilst same-sex marriage may stay at the top of people’s wishes, if recent LNP State Governments provide any indication we have other issues to deal with. In Queensland, for example, the Campbell Newman Government has slashed funding to essential health services such as the Biala Sexual Health Clinic and the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC). With Abbott talking about a “budget emergency” in the Australian budget, there is a chance similar sorts of cuts could be coming our way. On top of that, there is a good chance that the very conservative elements within the Abbott’s party, and our new Senate, could push for the dialing back of LGBTIQ rights – something we have to be wary of.
And that makes the next three years tough. We will have to stand up and fight for what matters and we will have to do it well. The marriage equality movement has shown that we have the public on our side, and we will have to mobilise them to defeat any attacks coming our way. We have will have to be loud, vocal, and smart. But we can do it.