I sit down to write having just returned from a meeting with the federal shadow minister for health, Catherine King (left), in her Ballarat office, where I accompanied a friend who wished to register her concern for the alleged bullying of staff at Ballarat Hospital, late-term abortions, and the introduction of the Safe Schools Program. I sat quietly whilst my friend tried to air her concerns for the first two issues, and was placated by the shadow minister breezily talking through her with information about a new administrator having been appointed at the hospital and that any late-term abortion would only be performed if the health of the mother were at risk.
Then, after about ten minutes, the issue of Safe Schools came up and the shadow minister dismissed the furore surrounding the program, as absolutely unfounded, and that the program was simply about anti-bullying. She said that most of the people making the fuss had not actually read the program and were just making things up. She made a big deal about supporting the LGBTI ‘community’, and made no bones that federal Labor supported the Safe Schools Program.
At this point I took my opportunity to speak, saying I had read the Safe Schools Program material carefully and adding that all sorts of issues concerned me. The instructions for breast-binding and penis tucking, for example, and role-playing of homosexual relationships. The references to gay websites and encouragement to visit them, I noted, were all presented as if homosexuality is the norm, and heterosexuality, well, just straight and boring.
I had to talk through Ms King at the same time that she was talking through me. I was rebuked for even daring to speak, as it was my friend who made the appointment with her. Several times Ms King informed me that she had taken “offence” at my comments. I referred to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and the distress it has caused in Ballarat and ventured the view that the introduction of any program dealing with sex and gender, such as Safe Schools, must tread very carefully, as such a syllabus might easily be used to ‘groom’ children.
My local member’s reaction? She spoke darkly of the legal consequences to which I might be subjected for uttering such unacceptable thoughts.
Yet my points remain valid. Much of the testimony presented to the Royal Commission documents the sly and insidious ways abusers traded on the innocence of children and Safe Schools strikes me as offering infinite possibilities for more of the same. Many of those young people will have zero sexual experience, and the program itself encourages experimentation. This is fertile ground for pedophiles pushing the line that a lack of interest in the LGBTI lifestyle is tantamount to intolerance. Pedophiles, I told Ms King, will be delighted that politicians are doing so much to help them identify potential victims and, perhaps, exploit them.
While Ms King huffed and puffed at my politically incorrect sentiments, what she didn’t do was refute that Safe Schools is an ‘enabler’. Set to be compulsory in all Victorian school children by 2018, it demands that children not criticize or ‘bully’ those who might display divergent sexualities. It preaches that gender is a ‘social construct’ (even though the evidence for this is poor and contested) and that we should live in a society where homosexuality is considered ‘normal’ ( even though 94% of the population is heterosexual). Within the hothouse confines of the Sociology Department at La Trobe University, where theoreticians of alternate sexuality romp in a landscape of their own academic creation, things are not as they are in the real world. The proof of this came only late last week, when Safe Schools’ chief architect, the avopwed communist Roz Ward, “resigned” in a hurry from her advisory role with the Victorian government after captioning a picture she posted on Facebook of the rainbow flag flying over Victoria’s parliament building. Her comment: “Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done.” Why would any reasonable person doubt Safe Schools’ potential for abuse is a grave concern?
Alas, my perception is that Ms King is anything but reasonable. Her monologues were punctuated by continual attempts to silence me with accusations of ‘offense’ (for claiming that homosexuality was not ‘normal’ in our, pardon the academic jargonese, “heteronormative” society). I’m sure my memory has not failed me when I say that, at one point, she even mentioned defamation proceedings as a possible repercussion for my intolerant and unacceptable opinions.
As my friend and I left Ms King’s office the encounter prompted the thought that I had arrived with one concern, Safe Schools. Now I was heading home with two: where can a citizen turn when his elected representative rejects out of hand as inappropriate, and hence unworthy of civil discussion, a perspective widely shared in the community it is her job to represent?