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Tag Archives: abortion.

The transphobia “moral” panic

People contributing to anti trans rhetoric are playing a much more dangerous game than they realise.

The current wave of anti-trans sentiment will lead to more violence and victimisation. Initially the attacks will hit people who are visibly trans women. Eventually, it will spread to anyone who is LGBTQI+. The same forces promoting this violence are those aiming to limit women’s rights, and ultimately purge their countries of unwelcome categories of people.

Be very sure you know what you are doing if you join in.

In America over one weekend in Pride Month alone, extremism monitors tracked “seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people.” In the most dramatic event, 31 uniformed men in balaclavas were dragged from a U-Haul vehicle before they could create a “riot” at a Pride event in Idaho.

American political aspirants and preachers demanded death penalties for homosexuality in a year when 250 anti LGBTQI+ bills were introduced around that nation. In Ohio laws were passed that would allow the genital inspection of secondary and tertiary female student athletes. In Idaho, the law would make it a life-sentence felony for parents or doctors to help trans youth gain puberty delaying treatment, including making it a trafficking offence to take them out of the state in pursuit of medical care.

This hysteria feels much more extreme than in Australia, but as we saw on our streets over the pandemic, the violence of the turbulent world of American politics is brought here through internet swamps. Trump flags and nooses appeared in our street protests. Australians unknowingly appealed to American constitutional amendments for protection from health measures. Most Australians were shocked to see violent brawls with the police on our streets apparently emerging out of nowhere.

And in the global sewers of the internet, the reasons for the panic are clear. Of all the manifold bigotries that pervade the space, the one with the most convergence is that gay or trans people are pedophiles. That facts dismiss this as nonsense is no help; facts long since ceased having traction in this sphere.

This iteration of social contagion is not surprising. It is easier to absorb a “moral” panic when it confirms feelings of discomfort or incomprehension. Again, when it builds on earlier waves of “moral” panic, the new variant can confirm previous prejudice.

The “save our children” hysteria of the QAnon movement crescendoed in the worst of the pandemic. Lonely and frightened people sat at home on their computers absorbing a fantasy built on earlier waves of child stealing (and sacrificing) panics. Some of the people caught up in the QAnon cult would have been immersed in the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s where childcare operators were persecuted over baseless accusations of mass child abuse. QAnon proved they hadn’t been fools to believe.

The trans panic of this moment calls upon earlier fear and horror at the existence of Queer people in general. It was only in 1994 that mainland Australia legalised homosexuality, with Tasmania following three years later. The religious campaign against marriage equality during the postal vote in 2017 harnessed all the risks and threats that conservative Australians might dread.

The success of the equality vote brought change. Queer people in Australia described feeling accepted and finally welcome as part of the community. People felt newly safe to hold hands with their partner in the street.

These changes are recent and fragile. The Religious Right is fighting hard to limit equality, then ultimately to reverse it. This is most clearly apparent in the United States, but Australia saw Scott Morrison’s faction echoing its strategies. His religious discrimination bill aimed to grant religious groups the right to practise discrimination. In the election, Morrison’s decision to harness Katherine Deves’s feminist transphobia aimed to draw in a fresh base for his religious bigotry.

*And this feminist support for transphobia needs to be seen for what it is. “How the far right is turning feminists into fascists” traces the trajectory from some early radical feminist movements to the new anti-trans “feminism.” It is as likely to celebrate women for their child-bearing capacity as it is to echo ethnonationalist ideas. While feminisms are a broad range of beliefs, this kind seems grim.

The American Religious Right which Scott Morrison aimed to inject into Australian politics is infused with the theocratic belief in the absolute necessity for Evangelical/Pentecostal Christians to purify society. Christian Nationalism demands that all sexual activity in the state is procreative and within marriage. All men must be strong patriarchs. All women must be submissive wives. The Religious Right has not, however, placed itself at the centre of American “conservative” politics by being clumsy. It has deployed any strategy to achieve its aims, and encouraging women outside the churches to define their value in their reproductive capacity has been useful. It both works to aid the Religious Right’s war on women’s reproductive freedom as well as gaining allies against the LGBTQI+ people who would blur the boundaries.

They have convinced a sizeable proportion of America that progressives demand abortion up to the point of birth. The ludicrous parallel distortion is the depiction of trans women as a threat to other women. Both nightmare boogeymen prevent rational discussion of the issue, but rational discussion was never the goal.

The issue in America is driven from the top by well-funded Christian Libertarian thinktanks, and from the ground in the post-QAnon MAGA base. Republican politicians believe they have the key to minority rule in juggling these interest groups. In Australia, the nascent Religious Right is regrouping after Scott Morrison’s defeat. The secular version of their talking points is being amplified on Sky News, funnelled free-to-air into the regions.

When decent Australians allow themselves to be carried along by the wave of this moral panic, they are not defending women. What they are doing is becoming caught up on the rational-sounding fringes of a hysteria that will lead to violence.

The overlapping groups attacking LGBTQI+ people in America include Christian fascists and post QAnon conspiracy theorists alongside a range of other extremist factions. Anti-LGBTQI action has overtaken all the other “cross-pollination opportunities” like CRT, pandemic health measures and abortion access.

The violence in Australia is unlikely to look like militia in U-Hauls, but how many bashings or murders would be acceptable? The attack on trans people – or abortion – are not ends in themselves but trojan horse missions with the aim to replace our democratic projects with theocracy, and our freedoms to shape our lives with stringent rules of chaste behaviour.

We need to work together, just like the overlapping groups that despise us.

 

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Kevin bloody Andrews

Kevin Andrews (image from abc.net.au)

Kevin Andrews (image from abc.net.au)

As a companion piece to rossleigh’s excellent article, I thought it might be useful to have a closer look at our Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews.

As a backbencher, Andrews authored the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 to overrule Northern Territory legislation that legalised euthanasia (the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995).

Andrews also called for an end to trials of the RU-486 drug and voted against a bill that took away the Health Minister’s power to veto applications to allow the drug to be used.

In taking a stance against stem cell research in 2002, he stated that it was the “first time” that “human beings can be treated as a commodity”. He also took a stance against stem cell research during a debate in 2006, which resulted in the overturning of a previous ban on the research.

As the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, he was responsible for introducing the Howard Government’s major changes to industrial relations law in 2005, commonly known as WorkChoices.

Andrews is a member of the Lyons Forum, a socially conservative Christian faction within the Coalition. He has served as the Forum Secretary and is credited with suggesting the name for the faction.

As Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Andrews attracted controversy after he revoked on character grounds the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef, who had been granted bail on charges of aiding terrorists. After the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges against Haneef, Andrews refused calls to reinstate Haneef’s visa, stating that his personal evidence was still valid. Andrews’ justification of his decision, on the basis that he had a reasonable suspicion that Haneef had associated with suspected terrorists and therefore failed the test of good character that a person must pass to keep a visa, was rejected in the Federal Court, and the revocation of Haneef’s visa was overturned. However in November, e-mails released under the Freedom of Information act appeared to indicate that Andrews’ office had a plan to revoke the visa before the case went to court, in the case that bail was granted.

Following Andrews’ criticism of irregularities discovered in the CV of an Indian doctor working on the Gold Coast, various media organisations carried reports disputing Andrews’ claim on parliamentary and ministerial websites to have co-authored three books, having contributed only a chapter to each. Andrews argued in his own defence that:

“In common, everyday parlance, as one of the authors (of a chapter) I presumed you called yourself a co-author – that’s all I’ve simply done. I wasn’t aware, to be frank, of some publishing convention that someone’s referred to (that suggests otherwise). If that offends people’s sensibilities well so be it, basically.”

Andrews’ 2007 decision to cut Australia’s refugee intake from African nations was branded by some critics as “racist”, and pulling out the race card before the 2007 Australian Federal election. Andrews defended the decision, saying: “Some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope.” Andrews accused Sudanese refugees of fighting in bars and congregating in parks to drink alcoholic beverages, but did not provide statistics to back up his claims.

In 2009, Kevin Andrews declared his candidacy against Malcolm Turnbull in a vote for a leadership spill, in opposition to Turnbull’s support for the government’s emissions trading scheme. He had declared himself a climate change sceptic, saying that ‘the jury is still out’ on human contributions to global warming. The party room however voted down having a leadership spill 41 votes to 35 and the Andrews challenge did not eventuate. After continued leadership speculation, a second Party Room meeting was held, at which point the leadership was declared vacant. Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull all stood for the leadership, and Tony Abbott was ultimately successful. Following his election as Leader, Abbott promoted Andrews to the Shadow Cabinet as Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services.

A member of the Catholic Pontifical Council for the Laity, Andrews is an Adjunct Lecturer in Politics and in Marriage Education in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.

Andrews is an advisor to the Board of Life Decisions International (LDI), a (non-denominational) religious pro-life group that is primarily concerned with opposing the pro-choice Planned Parenthood organisation. LDI campaigns for chastity, boycotts corporations and names individual celebrities who support abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell experimentation or who, in their opinion, support sexual promiscuity. These include GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Time Warner and Disney.

Andrews made a speech to the Endeavour Forum on 9 April 2003, a group focusing on women’s issues, opposing abortion, equal opportunity and affirmative action.

He has also spoken at the Family Council of Victoria, an organisation which regards homosexuality as the manifestation of a psychiatric disorder. The Family Council of Victoria also opposes sex-education and anti-homophobia policies in public schools, which it claims is “pro-homosexual indoctrination” of students.

In 2011, as a Liberal Shadow Cabinet frontbencher Andrews published a critique of the Greens policy agenda for Quadrant Magazine in which he wrote that the Australian Greens’ “objective involves a radical transformation of the culture that underpins Western civilisation” and that their agenda would threaten the “Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment synthesis that upholds the individual” as well as “the economic system that has resulted in the creation of wealth and prosperity for the most people in human history.”

In December 2013, as Social Services Minister, Andrews introduced to the House of Representatives a bill repealing almost all of the gambling harm-minimisation measures passed by the Gillard Labor government in November 2012.

“This is a straight capitulation to the power of the pokies lobby,” says Tim Costello, chair of the Australian Churches’ Gambling Taskforce.

When Australia is recognised as having perhaps the worst gambling problem in the world, with 41 per cent of poker machine revenue coming from problem gamblers, one must wonder about Andrew’s motivation. Could it have something to do with the sudden upsurge in gambling-industry donations to Australia’s major parties, which coincided with a deal between independent MP Andrew Wilkie and then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard?

Fittingly, Andrews’ amendment will also change the name of the law passed in 2012 — from the National Gambling Reform Act, to the National Gambling Measures Act. For now, meaningful gambling reform is quite literally off parliament’s books.

Andrews is a member of the Credlin-led decision-making Star Chamber which includes federal Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane – Ms Credlin’s husband – along with John Howard’s former chief of staff, Tony Nutt, and minister Michael Ronaldson.

He also has his gun sights set on the ABC. Speaking at Canberra airport on his way to a cabinet meeting, the Social Services Minister said that in a robust democracy, the media should be scrutinised as much as anybody else. ”I think the ABC should be open to constructive criticism about its performance as it would be about the performance of other people and other institutions in Australia,” he said. ”What goes around comes around.”

We then hear from our Social Services minister that the nation’s welfare system is “unsustainable” and large, urgent changes must be made to the disability pension and the general unemployment benefit.

He said the government was reviewing all welfare rules to see what could be done to decrease the number of unemployed on the dole, including the possibility of eliminating the ability of those on welfare to refuse to take a job if it was more than 90 minutes from their home and keep their income support payments.

Mr Andrews has already revealed the government is looking at changes that would see more people under the age of 40 on the DSP checked to see whether they could work and temporary payments for potentially impermanent conditions to prevent the number of those in the system from ballooning to one million.

Under Mr Andrews’ mooted change, disability pensioners who were assessed by their family doctors – before Labor tightened the system in 2011 – would be re-examined by medical experts at the Department of Human Services.

The minister is also considering giving a fixed higher payment for the most disabled pensioners, with lower payments for people with less restrictive disabilities, who might be able to work part time.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said the Abbott government was “punishing some of the most vulnerable people in society” by tightening checks on the disability pension.

Regarding the minister’s idea to reassess recipients, Mr Innes said: “To effectively move the test back a few years, it just seems a cruel way of penalising people who’ve been in receipt of a benefit. Introducing a quarterly or six-monthly check is just adding more complexity both for the Centrelink system and for people with disabilities,” he said.

Andrews is pushing the idea that pensioners suffering “episodic” illnesses such as depression should be given monthly or quarterly medical certificates rather than getting two-year “set and forget” pensions. This idea, he said, was particularly important given there were now more disability pensioners suffering from psychological conditions than suffering musculoskeletal problems.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said she would support any measures by the government to “invest” in disability pensioners to help them return to the workforce.

But she was concerned that subjecting disability pensioners to more regular assessments could end up “exacerbating their mental health condition”.

“We don’t have a welfare crisis in this area, we have a jobs crisis,” Dr Goldie said. “We all want to work on decent reforms which will improve people’s pathways back to being well and getting paid work.”

Despite the financial crisis that apparently makes it necessary for us to send people suffering from depression ‘down pit’, Mr Andrews was able to find $20 million for marriage guidance counselling vouchers. This of course has nothing to do with the fact that he and his wife are/were involved in the marriage counselling business.

I have tried to remain factual in this snapshot biography of our Social Services Minister but hells, bells and cockle shells, it would be hard to find someone less suitable for the job.

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Women go back to the future

In 1975 I was asked to take part in the Lions Club Youth of the Year Quest. The competition was in two parts. Firstly we were asked for our views on current affairs. I remember East Timor was a hot topic at the time. Secondly, we had to give a speech on a subject of our own choosing.

The Lions Club had an interesting rule stating that, even though girls could compete, they could not go on to represent their district at the next level. This had to be done by a boy, so if I won, the boy who came second would go to the state finals rather than me. As it was International Women’s Year, I chose to make this the topic of my speech, pointing out that the word “youth” was defined as “the time of life between childhood and maturity” regardless of gender.

I’m not sure if they were shamed into it, or if I was a token, but I won the public speaking section and the headlines in the local paper the next day said “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias” – something I copped quite a razzing for from my friends.

So why am I sharing this self-indulgent piece of personal history with you? Because almost 40 years later I am still having the same arguments.

Politicians like Cory Bernardi and Fred Nile still accuse women of using abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control” and label those who advocate pro-choice as “pro-death”.

We have a Prime Minister who thinks that men and women have different abilities – and he considers that position to be evidence-based.

Mr Abbott said in the 1970s: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

In 2004, he said: ‘‘Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.’’ If the rumours I have heard are true, it is a “convenient exit” that Mr Abbott took advantage of as a young man, well before the much publicised time that he left his girlfriend just after she had given birth.

In 2006 we were greeted with this headline.

“IT took 15 years for Gardasil to make a national hero of its creator, Ian Frazer. But it took just three days for the world’s first cancer-preventing vaccine to make a national dill of federal Health Minister Tony Abbott.”

The gatekeeper of the federal drugs budget rejected Gardasil for PBS subsidy and the application by the drug’s promoter, CSL, for a three-stage national immunisation program. While justifying his concerns about the price on radio, Abbott floated the bizarre idea that a misplaced confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine might actually result in “an increase in cancer rates”.

It took just another 24 hours for the Prime Minister to put an end to the nonsense. John Howard, alert as ever to the public mood, delivered sparkling prime ministerial endorsement to Gardasil along with a clear direction to Minister Abbott that the immunisation program should proceed. And pronto.

“There is no lack of desire to get this wonderful drug available and the mass immunisation campaign to start as soon as possible,” Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Despite the fact that, in Australia, cases of human papilloma virus infection have dropped nearly 60 per cent since the immunisation program against the virus which causes cervical cancer began, Mr Abbott, whose views on virginity as a gift are well known, said no. ‘‘I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.’’ Maybe it’s because he has the ridiculous notion that it will encourage his daughters to be promiscuous without taking precautions?

He has led the Liberal Party at the same time as the Party has experienced a decline in women’s participation at top levels. Senior Liberal women have publicly protested over the systemic sexism in the party. Good people like Judi Moylan, who had the courage to cross the floor on the asylum seeker issue, are ignored in the Liberal Party, with preference shown for fawning sycophancy and dramatic histrionics.

When Tony Abbott announced his Cabinet with only one woman there was justifiable outrage. We are back to girls not being able to represent at the next level, back to the old Lions Club rules. If there are no “women of merit” in the Liberal Party, they should be asking themselves why that is. If this caused outrage, Tony’s self-appointment as the Minister responsible for women’s policies and programs was the ultimate insult.

To be represented by the man who says he “gets” us, like we are some homogeneous group with clearly defined views and aspirations, the man who, when asked about the merits of the candidate he was campaigning with, could only come up with “She’s got sex appeal”, the man who uses “ironing” to explain carbon pricing to “the housewives of Australia”, is really just too much.

Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about that. The middle-aged white males have it all under control. “Women of calibre”, go forth and multiply. Single mothers, get off your butts and get a job you bludgers, and why haven’t you got a husband anyway? And all you fakers on the Disability Pension can do likewise – we know you are spending all that money on golf lessons and martinis. We will no longer be contributing to superannuation for those of you who fail to earn a large amount of money as you have obviously not taken advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities on offer. And don’t think you will be getting an old age pension either. Why should those of us who earn a lot subsidise the workers who make us our money and the carers who are too lazy to get a job and provide for their own retirement.

Time to go find my apron and polish up on my darning.

 

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Let’s hear a cheer for Cory Bernardi and the “Established Order”!

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Yet again the ABC are demonstrating their determination to make the Coalition look silly. Their latest trick is to give Cory Bernardi’s ideas publicity.

Earlier, Senator Bernardi said there was no room for personal views where cabinet ministers were concerned.

“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about fringe issues outside party policy, he should resign from the frontbench,” he told the ABC.

“Our longstanding party position is that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“Our frontbenchers need to reflect that in any comments they make.”

The Australian 16th December 2013.

Today, however, he expressed the view that ALL members of Pariliament should be free to be free to express “personal views”. But, of course,

“The stifling doctrine, the tyranny of political correctness means that when get into the debate about some issues of substance, you’re howled down and levelled with pejorative slurs. I don’t think that’s healthy for democracy.”

Corey Bernardi, ABC interview January 6th 2014

And there we have the most intriguing thing at all about the idea of free speech that’s been peddled by the Ridiculous Right – that somehow you have your free speech eroded every time someone criticises you.

It’s an interesting tactic, because rather than discuss your original proposition, you end up discussing “free speech” and we all agree that we have a right to free speech, don’t we? Apart from those leftist, Stalinist, politically correct people who want to shut it down. They don’t value debate! They just resort to name calling because they’re feral, unemployed, socialist welfare cheats.

It was used very well in 1990s with the introduction of the Victorian Certificate of Education. Some newspaper would report a criticism, and while some criticisms were valid, a large number were not merely a difference of educational opinion, there were factually incorrect. If a government minister, teacher or education worker attempted to put the record straight, there’d be complaints about how nobody was allowed to criticise the VCE rather than an acknowledgement that, unlike the previous reports, schools did not have to allow a student to satisfactorily complete even if they’d completed no work.

So, in a similar way, today Cory Bernardi releases his book and says that it’s the responsibility of MPs to speak out and to raise debate. (During his interview, he failed to mention that he thought that Malcolm Turnbull should resign from the ministry for doing just that on gay marriage. Something about party solidarity, which evidently doesn’t include backbenchers.) Yet, when he encounters a debate, that’s “political correctness” and he’s being “howled down”. That’s not “good for democracy”. In other words, it seems that he feels we need a debate where his view is allowed to stand without challenge.

But, as I wrote a few weeks ago, this seems to be a growing trend. Either you agree with me, or you’re part of the other side, and therefore your view is not worth listening to. So let me try to be fair to Cory.

He claims that there are too many abortions in Australia. Ok, I haven’t heard anybody argue that there are too few. (Retrospective abortion is not possible, so don’t go there.) We can agree. So what’s he suggesting? Well, he’s not suggesting banning or making it harder to get an abortion. Just that we should have fewer. Right, then Cory, you are entitled to that view. There now, you haven’t been howled down or called names.

So what exactly are you proposing, Mr Bernardi? That the single mother who finds herself pregnant will decide to marry the first man who’ll agree to it because “a traditional family is the best way to raise a child”? Or are you suggesting that we should increase sex education and availability of contraception so that there are less unplanned pregnancies? Perhaps we could go back to the fifties where many women had the baby, but gave it up for adoption? Or possible we could introduce sharia law and stone adulteresses to death? Oh, that’s right you don’t think extreme Islamic religious views should be imposed on the community – just your own! What’s that – you want an inquiry into how we can reduce the number of abortions? Who’d do the inquiry and what would they ask?

There now, I’ve allowed your idea to stand and be examined. I haven’t even raised your idea about gay marriage leading to people marrying animals, and put forward my argument that if anyone can find an animal that says, “I do” and can fill in the paperwork, then I don’t have a problem with that at all.

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