Sex and Gender in the Australia Federal Election

photo by Rob Inh00d

We heard from a reader in Australia this week who wanted to alert us to all the sex- and gender-related craziness that is going on in the federal election Down Under. Because we, ahem, don’t have a reporting staff based over there, we thought we’d just share Courtney’s letter with you. The federal election in Australia takes place on Saturday, August 21st. Throw another legal loophole on the barbie!

Dear Em & Lo,

Our two prime-ministerial candidates are, to put it bluntly, very boring. Both have been very conservative, either adamantly believing that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” or too afraid of distancing voters to argue otherwise. To my disgust, even our only openly gay cabinet minister, Penny Wong, won’t contradict her party and support gay marriage. On the abortion front, neither are going to make it MORE difficult to procure a legal abortion in Australia, but they are certainly not going to make it easier, so that women must continue to take advantage of legal loopholes if they want an abortion. What’s worse is that the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has previously shown an extremely anti-abortion stance when he was Minister for Health in 2005, allowing his personal and religious beliefs interfere with his duty to act in the best interests of Australian women when he refused to approve the use of the drug RU-486, the cheap, safe, and less traumatic alternative to surgical abortion.

Abbott has also previously discouraged young men and women from having sex before marriage, and said that women should regard their virginity as a “precious gift.” You can probably see why I, as a 20-year-old woman, am not enthusiastic about this man having any sort of power over me and my rights. “Get Up!”, an independent community advocacy group, feels the same way, and has produced a fantastic and very effective ad featuring women reciting Abbott quotes on matters such as women in the workplace, the cervical cancer vaccine, and abortion.

Outside of the main two political parties, however, an even fiercer battle is raging, and that’s the one that’s captured my attention the most. It’s between two minor parties: The Australian Sex Party (a.k.a. good) and Family First (a.k.a. evil). The Australian Sex Party supports same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of abortion, a national sex education curriculum, stem cell research, and the overturning of mandatory internet filtering (more here on their policies). Family First opposes all of these things. A debate on these issues between Fiona Patten of the Sex Party and Wendy Francis of Family First aired on morning television last week, and wow, it was quite something. If you have a few minutes, it’s here. The good news is that while Fiona Patten was very well spoken and argued her case excellently, Wendy Francis came off as a rude, homophobic, intolerant cow, and I really don’t see how Family First could have won itself any fans in this debate.

A couple of days ago that same Wendy caused quite a stir with some very homophobic tweets — apparently letting children have gay parents is child abuse, and will result in a generation of sad deprived motherless or fatherless teens, and high rates of depression and suicide. Who knew? I could rant to you all day about how much I loathe this awful woman, but I think you get the picture.

Well, Em and Lo, I think that’s quite enough for now! If you made it to the end of this email, thanks for paying attention, and I hope you are suitably informed, interested and outraged.

— Courtney in Brisbane, Queensland (the state in which Wendy Francis is a candidate for the Senate, more’s the pity)