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WA Liberals will recriminalise homosexuality

By Brian Greig - posted Wednesday, 2 February 2005

In 1990, Ronald Reagan allowed the CIA to back the Contra Rebels in Nicaragua and overthrow the elected government of Daniel Ortega by military coup. The regime that followed recriminalised homosexuality.

No government around the world has since recriminalised homosexuality, but this may change on February 26, 2005 if the West Australian Liberals win the election.

State Opposition Leader Colin Barnett, is going to the polls with a policy to undo the gay and lesbian law reforms implemented in 2001, and which dragged WA from having some of the worst anti-homosexual laws in the world, to having some of the best.


The Liberal policy position “Families First” lays out a plan of human rights rollback never before seen in Australia. A Barnett Government would recriminalise male homosexuality, ban gay adoptions, deny lesbians access to IVF, and shut the door of the Family Court to separating same-sex couples.

The proposals, which Barnett claims, “are only position statements and not policies,” were written in 2001 after law reform was achieved. The webpage contains several factual errors and seems unduly harsh given recent polling that shows the electorate is supportive of the new laws.

If Barnett goes ahead with plans to push up the age of consent for gay males to 18 (16 for everybody else), WA will have the highest age of consent in Australia and become the only place in the country where different age of consent laws apply to heterosexual and homosexual people. Young gays and their partners will return to living under the shadow of criminal sanctions.

This proposal is opposed by the World Health Organisation, the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations on health grounds alone. Criminalisation hinders health education, drives behaviour underground and exacerbates HIV/AIDS.

Amnesty International opposes criminal sanctions, and any attempt to stigmatise young gays with punitive measures runs counter to both State and Federal youth suicide prevention programs.

Mr Barnett has stated his belief that, “gay and lesbian people are born that way,” and that his laws are simply aimed at protecting boys from abuse. This ignores the fact that girls are overwhelmingly the victims of child sexual abuse; that there is no correlation between sexual abuse and age of consent laws; and that pre-pubescent children are the targets of pedophiles, not teenagers. Barnett's proposal serves only to reinforce the myth that homosexual men are inclined to molest boys, which in turn contributes to anti-gay prejudice and violence.


Contradicting his leader, State member for Kalgoorlie, Matt Birney, supports recriminalisation to 18, arguing that, “boys can be confused and need a couple more years to sort themselves out”. Birney has not explained how deeming young males to be criminals and threatening them with jail helps them to “sort things out”.

More alarmingly, as Opposition Police Spokesperson, Birney is ignoring the recommendations of the Wood Royal Commission into Police Corruption (NSW, 1997) which found that gay criminalisation was used as a blackmailer's charter, and is at odds with State, Territory and Federal Police Commissioners and Attorneys' General, all of whom endorse a national, uniform criminal code on this matter.

On the question of adoption, the Liberals have failed to grasp the difference between General Placement Adoption (GPA), and Known Child Adoption (KCA), and have called for the banning of both. GPA refers to placing an orphaned child from relinquishing parents, while KCA allows a lesbian or gay partner to “adopt” the existing children in a same-sex relationship to ensure legal protections for that child. Until recently, the non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship was regarded legally as a stranger in that family, and had no rights over the children in the event that his or her partner was killed or incapacitated.

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About the Author

Brian Greig is a former Democrats’ Senator (1999-2005), and long time gay rights campaigner. Today he works in public relations, Perth.

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