A federally driven crackdown would be significant in Australia, where attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexuality or gender identity continue to exist but have largely been driven underground.Stamping out gay conversion therapy across Australia would be a “personal priority” for shadow health minister Catherine King if Labor wins the next election.
Ms King has urged the rest of the country to follow Victoria’s lead and ban the “discredited and dangerous” practice.
“If this issue isn’t resolved before the next election, and I’m lucky enough to serve as health minister afterwards, it’ll be a personal priority for me,” she told The Age on Saturday.
Victoria has a Health Complaints Commissioner, which gives the state powers to crack down on unregistered practitioners making unproven claims, including those who purport to be able to ‘convert’ gay people.
Earlier in the week, Victorian Liberals president Michael Kroger intervened to stop a motion on gay conversion therapy being debated at the party’s state council meeting.
The motion had called for state legislation to allow health practitioners to “offer counselling out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning to patients who request it” and was up for debate at the party’s annual state council meeting later this month, The Age reported.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said there was “absolutely no chance” the motion would get up under his leadership.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also came under fire over the issue on Tuesday, following a bizarre interview with ABC journalist Patricia Karvelas in which he repeatedly questioned whether she believed in free speech after he was asked about gay conversion therapy and the Liberals’ motion.
It is not the first time Mr Hunt has been unwilling to address the issue – last month, following Fairfax Media’s investigation, The Age asked the minister whether
he was concerned that conversion practices remained prevalent in Australia, to which he replied through his spokesman: “This is not something which is funded, supported or practiced under the Commonwealth. Therefore by law this is a matter for states.”
On Saturday, his spokesman stressed that Mr Hunt “remains utterly opposed to gay conversion therapy. It has not, and will never be, policy under a Coalition Government”.
Ms King said as a health minister who is also responsible for mental health, Mr Hunt should work with the states and territories on solutions.
“Greg Hunt was willing to lead a national process to ban dodgy cosmetic surgeons – why not gay conversion therapy? The minister either supports conversion therapy, or he’s kowtowing to the extreme right of his party at the expense of LGBTI Australians,” she said.