Senate Voting Reforms Just Passed, Hopefully Labor’s Gay Slurs Will Too


As Labor filibustered to stave off a division on Senate voting reform overnight, the monologues their upper house members conjured up were variously boring, nasty, and funny at different times.

That’s not surprising. Their stalling tactic relied on a continuous, carnivalesque tag-team of chatter about how unfair and undemocratic the effect of changes to Senate voting will be. If you’re taking all night, and run out of things to say, you can understand how the conversation might range.

What is surprising though, is that the Labor party doesn’t seem to be able to attack the Greens for doing a deal with the government without attacking the sexuality of Robert Simms, a Greens Senator for South Australia.

Late Wednesday night it was Labor’s Alex Gallacher who made the premeditated decision to read out a constituent’s letter describing the Greens Senator as a “gay victim”. Obviously, it’s hard to see how that relates to Senate voting reform.

To back it up, Senator Jacinta Collins decided to trace a similar theme last night, musing on whether or not Robert Simms, a gay man, was in fact a woman. Classy stuff.

Here’s a video of the two incidents together:

Sure, they’re not the worst outbursts of homophobia we’ve seen in the Australian Parliament.

But what makes these attacks so galling is the hypocrisy of Labor crying “disappointment” twice this week over the fact “the Greens voted to stop a debate on marriage equality in the Senate”.

Of course, given that the Labor Party refuses to bind its members to vote in favour of marriage equality, and the Liberal Party binds its members to vote against marriage equality, the debate would inevitably have gone nowhere meaningful.

It was designed to stall the Senate voting reforms, and as a useful smokescreen for another attack on the Greens.

The Labor Party has also quite rightly been active this week in drawing attention to the Coalition attack on the Safe Schools program, which is designed to help kids struggling with their sexuality because of bullying.

Incidentally, last month Labor Leader Bill Shorten received widespread praise for standing up to an overt “homophobe,” Cory Bernardi. Maybe he’ll have a crack at Simms when it suits too  though, who knows?

@billshortenmp brands @corybernardi a “homophobe” in corridor exchange. More on the blog

Whatever you think of their decisions on Senate voting reform, it’s hard to argue that the Greens have ever been a roadblock to securing marriage rights for the queer community, and even harder to argue that they’ve actively slurred them.

It’s not difficult to understand why Labor Senators might resort to saying stupid things when they force the Senate to sit through the night. It’s just worrying and insightful that when they run out of puffery and words, they resort to nasty and irrelevant snipes about an adversary’s sexuality.

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.