b) Gay Australia
Kennett gets in on the act
Why does the Victorian Government care about what happens to gay Tasmanians?
(published in Brother Sister, August 1996)
Ever heard the term "Vandemonian"? It was a word that was used in the nineteenth century to refer to people on the bottom rung of the Tasmanian social ladder: convicts, aborigines and their descendents.
In the 1860s the Victorian Parliament passed what became known as the Vandemonian Acts. These laws restricted immigration from Tasmanian to Victoria at a time when more and more people were sailing north across Bass Strait to try their luck on the Gold Fields. The newly enriched Victorian elite cringed at the idea of their colony being morally tainted by slovenly ex-convicts from the south, many of whom were sodomites, so they simply banned them from landing in Melbourne. The Tasmanian elite colluded. An mass exodus would undermine the highly repressive political system upon which its priviledge was based, and with the end of convict transportation it needed to keep as many abled bodied workers as possible in Tasmania.
130 years on its seems that history is repeating itself. In June the Victorian Government intervened against the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group in our High Court challenge to Tasmania's anti-gay laws. In effect the Victorian Government is again helping the Tasmanian establishment to keep marginalised Tasmanians under the thumb.
The Court challenge itself was launched in November last year and is the latest stage of our 8 year battle to rid Tasmania of laws which stigmatise gay, lesbian and bisexual people as criminals. The case we have lodged asks the Court to find that Tasmanian anti-gay laws and the 1994 federal sexual privacy law are inconsistent and that therefore the Tasmanian laws are invalid under the Federal Constitution.
A High Court decision in this case is important because the sexual privacy law was too vague to directly over rise the Tasmanian laws, and until a Court invalidates these laws the Tasmanian Government will continue to use them to justify its many acts of discrimination against the gay and lesbian community.
So that it can continue its regime of homophobic discrimination the Tasmanian Government has opposed our case. Its' argument is that the case should not proceed because no-one has been arrested for private consenting adult gay sex for almost 15 years and there is no real issue at stake.
Our response is simple. Even when the laws are not used to arrest people they create a climate of fear and intimidation. Furthermore, they continue to be used to justify everything from the banning in schools of any discussion of homosexuality, through to Hobart's annual gay and lesbian film festival.
The Human Rights Commission will appear along side us in Court to back up this claim, and much to our surprise even the Commonwealth Government has decided to make representations to the Court in support of our right to challenge the Tasmanian laws. But list of powerful allies has not detered Jeff Kennett from throwing his support behind Tasmanian Premier Tony Rundle. When the Court sits on September 10th legal counsel representing both Premiers will be standing shoulder to shoulder in defence of gay and lesbian oppression.
When it was revealed that the Victorian Government has become involved in our case the State Attorney-General, Jan Wade, was quick to point out that her lawyers will be defending State's Rights and not the Tasmanian laws.
What this means is that the Victorian Government wants to be able to violate the rights of its citizens with impunity. In Jeff Kennett's perfect world, neither the United Nations nor the Federal Government, and certainly not the High Court, should be able to intervene to protect the rights of ordinary Victorians from the predations of his Government. "We want to manage our own affairs free of outside interference" - it's the kind of argument that is run by despotic regimes the world over to get the international community out of their face.
If this was the whole story it would be enough to warrant outrage and protest. But the scandal runs deeper.
The fact is that the Victorian Government could have chosen any number of other cases as a hook from which to hang its State's Rights hat. Equally it could have chosen to quarantine this case from its war to the death with Canberra's reformers. It knows full well that the welfare of an untold number of gay and lesbian Tasmanians rests on the outcome of this litigation. But it is callously indifferent to such concerns. The fact is that it is happy to contribute its influence to the continued persecution of gay and lesbian Tasmanians.
Jan Wade may employ rhetoric that dehomosexualises the issue. But whatever the professed goal of her Government, the effect of its intervention in our High Court case is the maintenance of sexual apartheid below the fortieth parallel. For this reason the Victorian Government's action is blatantly homophobic.
Gay and lesbian Tasmanians are latter day Vandemonians. Despised and supressed by the Tasmanian elite we have risen up to take control of our own destinies and now this elite has called on and received the assistence of the Victorian establishment to put us back in our place.
To make sure they do not succeed we need the help of our sisters and brothers in Victoria. Jeff Kennett's strategy relies on public apathy. Human rights test cases make poor copy. But it is possible to over turn this apathy if gay and lesbian Victorians shout loud and long enough.
The kind of public revulsion over Tasmanian's anti-gay laws that made Melbourne pivotal to the success of the boycott of Tasmanian produce in 1994 still has some resonance two year's on. In particular, the fact that Victorians will be spending $15 000 every day that their lawyers appear in the High Court to oppose our case should be enough to stir ripples of discontent in a State starved of essential public services.
When our opponents form alliances to oppress us, we too must work closely to ensure our freedom. Join with us to talk, write, fax and march and just maybe our Government's will think twice before they try to with hold the freedom that is rightfully ours / try and steal this freedom away.
Rodney Croome, 29.8.96
This article was first published in Brother Sister in August 1996.
[ Email This Article ]
Tiffanysjewellery.co.uk provides our customers with various kinds of fantastic, handcrafted linksoflondon which are appealing to their refined tastes. Feel difficult to find your favorite Tiffany jewelry like earrings? United Kingdom online store Tiffanysjewellery.co.uk is your best destination. Necklaces are well known for their highest quality and characteristic designs. Bangles are typical bracelets which are made without clasps or closures. They can be elegantly worn singly or in bunches. Necklaces are now worn by young girls who are running after every new fashion, with as much style as their mothers and grandmothers wore as part of ritual and tradition.
Years may wrinkle the skin,but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.