A version of this article first appeared on Independent Australia
28th October 2021
Last weekend, hundreds gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall in support of LGBTQI rights and by extension, in protest against NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet. Bearing signs that read “No right to discriminate,” the group drew attention to proposed legislation embodying what they considered to be the politician’s homophobic agenda. But how warranted is this fear? And what exactly do Dominic Perrottet’s family values mean for the future of diverse Australian families?
It’s been almost a month since Gladys Berejiklian’s shock resignation and replacement by the then Treasurer. And what have we learnt about NSWs’ new Premier?
Ostensibly little. Perrottet has for the most part kept his head down and focused on the state’s recovery from 2021’s delta crisis, sticking to the party line of a vaccination-dependant reopening.
But we should not ignore Perrottet’s more controversial policies regarding the rights of minorities, which may well rear their head as the premier’s leadership settles into its rhythm.
Perrottet, in his own words, promises to be NSWs’ “family premier.” He has previously described the family as “the nuclease” of society,” with this terminology’s recollection of the nineteen fifties’“ nuclear family” ideal” surely not accidental. The fact that Perrottet is one of twelve children and has six children of his own seems to reinforce this presumption, fairly or unfairly.
And the politician’s public comments do little to suggest otherwise. In 2020, the future premier was quizzed on his thoughts regarding NSW Treasury’s Economic Strategy Deputy Secretary Joann Wilkie’s suggestion that employers take steps to make their workplace a safer space for the LGBQI community, such as not operating on the assumption that a person is straight and cisgender until proved otherwise. This evidence-based response to a public policy problem (LGBTQI individuals are far more likely to experience pay gaps and unemployment despite havening statistically higher educational levels, and the Australian Human Rights Commission recognises the importance of terminology in personal welfare) was described as going “way too far.” After all, Perrottet predicted, this path it will result in the apparently unthinkable outcome of “no Father’s Day.”
With this in mind, it’s little wonder that queer rights activists are monitoring Parliament’s consideration of the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 with some alarm. After all, it’s not hard to imagine that a man unwilling to acknowledge gender fluidity in the workplace would take a similar view of the classroom.
Passion project of controversial ex-leader Mark Latham, the bill’s primary objective is to outlaw all mentions of gender fluidity from schools; “indoctrination” that apparently undermines the role of parents in their child’s moral development. As it stands, many (though not all) schools include material on trans issues such as transphobia as part of their sex education syllabus. This will not be allowed if the bill is passed. Tolerance- what next? No Father’s Day?
Like Perrottet, Latham sanctifies the role of “the family” in society while attacking the range of diverse family structures that actually exist in Australia today. In their view, those families with transgender children, parents, or partners are not really families at all; arguably evidence that these politicians are the true social engineers as they defy biology and redefine the family to conform to conservative ideals.
Dominic Perrottet has hinted at conservative sensibilities for a long time. His disapproval of society’s “…obsession with rights to the exclusion of responsibilities.” His salute to the role of “Judeo-Christianity in Australia’s ongoing development.” And his implication that any criticism of our diversity is uncalled for. (In his first speech as Premier, Perrottet declared that “We live in a very diverse society,” before qualifying the sentiment with the opinion that “…some of the criticism in relation to that diversity has been unfounded.”)
This conservatism is hardly incompatible with so-called “family values.” But what of the growing number of families comprised of same sex couples, transgender and intersex parents and children, and those who are childless? Women who have abortions? Unthinkably injured children, victims of the Catholic priesthoods’ vow of silence as supported by Perrottet? Do the Premier’s family values really reflect society’s morals?
Perhaps Gladys Berejklian’’s endorsement of Perrottet suggest that it does, at least in the Liberal Party. But the Premier’s narrow definition of morality warns of an uneasy future for the nation’s minorities. After all, when someone tells you who they are; believe them.
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