The ALP and its disdain for the general public

I have been thinking a lot about the behaviour of the ALP in recent weeks.
At a moment when they are dominating the polls and seemingly assured victory at the next election, the ALP have conceded ground on a range of issues. They voted through a bill that will stop migrants getting access to welfare for four years, they capitulated on the data encryption bill (#aabill), the left is now saying it wont force a debate on boat towbacks at the upcoming national conference, and despite increasing pressure they are still on the fence about Adani.
For the left they continue to disappoint, disappoint, and disappoint some more.
Why? Why not take some bold stances at a time when the Government is in disarray and victory looks almost inevitable. There’s two real answers I’ve come to as to why.
First, maybe the ALP actually just believes this stuff, and we should finally, once and for all, abandonen the idea that they are some bastion of social justice who just continually get wedged into positions they hate. If even at this moment the ALP cannot spend any political capital on bold left-wing policies, then maybe we should never expect it of them.
But second, I think it really shows what the ALP think of the voting population. It’s notable that the party continue to cave on issues such as migration and national security. It harks back to the Howard era, who dominated on these issues for many years, creating a narrative of a regressive voting population that turns on parties (primarily the ALP) if they are weak on these issues.  
What recent moves by the ALP show is that they are still stuck in this era, seeing much the population as a group of ‘bigoted masses’ that they must continually appeal to through regressive social policies. They pass these policies out of fear of backlash. They view the population as a group of right-wing reactionaries, forcing them to take positions they just wish they wouldn’t have to do.
This reminds me a lot of the debate around the plebiscite on marriage equality. Again, in this instance, it was determined that the plebiscite must be opposed because the bigoted masses of the population simply should not have been trusted with a vote of this magnitute. There were fears for weeks leading up to the vote that there would be a huge no — that the real, bigoted, sentiment of the population would come out once given an opportunity. Only the elites in Parliament could be trusted with such a thing.
The problem with all of this though is that there is very little evidence that the population actually reacts in this way.
The huge vote in favour of marriage equality should be one indicator of this, but it’s true for other issues as well. While security questions certainly dominated political debate in the post-9/11 era, this is no longer true. It’s hard to remember that in 2007 for example the ALP, under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, took a radically different approach to asylum seekers than seen by the party in recent years. Rudd promised to shut down the Pacific solution and to bring asylum seekers back to Australia. He won easily.
The same can be said about other issues. Polling for example has frequently shown strong opposition to the Adani Coal Mine, alongside a continued desire from the general population for Governments to take action on climate change. Concern about the encryption bill was extremely strong during its passage — with big business, data experts and tech companies alike arguing against the bill. This would have easily been enough to back up the ALP in blocking the legislation.
In fact in each of these areas the ALP has the potential to wedge the Liberal Party quite strongly. The health and well being of asylum seekers, alongside climate change, has clearly become a concern for Liberals in more socially conscious and wealthy seats, highlighted both by the results in Wentworth the Victorian state election. Both events resulted in the loss of blue ribbon seats, with incumbent Liberals blaming the federal party’s positions on these issues, at least in part, for the results. On the #aabill, the Labor Party could have easily used the legislation to talk about civil liberties and freedom of speech, something that is notionally of concern for many more libertarian minded Liberals. The ALP could have easily used these issues to further the current splits between moderates and conservatives within the Liberals.
Yet in each case the ALP has wavered. It has done so out of old fears, ones based in an idea of a bigoted mass of the Australian public that could easily turn against them if they take any bold approaches. It has shown how weak the party is, but also how they perceive themselves, and the people who vote for them. Both portend to a worrying approach if and when they enter Government.

On Richard Flanagan’s article that he didn’t want to write

Over the weekend Richard Flanagan wrote an article he didn’t want to write about the nature of debate in our society, particularly following the canning of Germaine Greer and Bob Carr from the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. It has caused quite a stir!

Here are some thoughts I have on the piece. I wrote this as a tweet stream, so it may look a little disjointed, but I thought I could post here for people who don’t want to read the Twitter thread!

Continue reading On Richard Flanagan’s article that he didn’t want to write

Do some queers subconsciously want to lose the marriage equality vote?

Earlier this week the vote yes campaign received some amazing news. New polling from Essential Research highlighted a significant enthusiasm gap between yes and no voters. As The Guardian wrote:



Continue reading Do some queers subconsciously want to lose the marriage equality vote?

Is our response to the plebiscite making us more vulnerable than the existence of the plebiscite itself?

“Stop the fags”

This week, many of the direst predictions of those opposing the marriage equality plebiscite came true, as an awful anti-equality poster appeared in parts of Melbourne. The poster, which spread across social media, was pointed to by many as an example of the sort of hate-speech so many have feared with a plebiscite campaign.

This is not the first time a flyer or statement of this sort has received this sort of attention. In fact, especially since the decision by the Coalition to have a plebiscite, it feels like every instance of homophobia such as this ends up making big news, with queers spreading material across social media, lamenting how terrible this sort of stuff is for the mental health of our community.

While there are certainly discussions to be had about whether sharing this material is good or not, we also have to ask ourselves, are our collective responses to this sort of homophobia, and even the plebiscite itself, making us more vulnerable as a community?

Continue reading Is our response to the plebiscite making us more vulnerable than the existence of the plebiscite itself?

The Handmaid’s Tale is a relatively accurate depiction of modern sexual relationships – just not in the way you think

Last week the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was released on SBS. In doing so the show has revilatised Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 novel, being considered in many ways a prescient story to tell in our current political climate.

I’ve watched the first four episode of The Handmaid’s Tale so far, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve found the storytelling really engaging, and in particular am loving the juxtaposition between Offred’s internal monologue versus the society in which she has found herself. It is often rare to see an example of a dystopian future where a character has moved so cleanly from society to the next, and I think the Handmaid’s Tale has portrayed that transition exquisitely.

However, there is another reason I’ve found the show so fascinating — that is how clearly it describes, even if in an exaggerated manner, the deep roots of sexual relations, and in turn sexism and women’s oppression, within liberal societies. It does so however in a way opposite to what many think.

Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale is a relatively accurate depiction of modern sexual relationships – just not in the way you think

Freedom and the injured subject

Over recent times, particularly since the plebiscite and Safe Schools debates within Australia, I have noticed a strong narrative of ‘suffering’ and ‘vulnerability’ within large parts of the queer community. Mainstream queer discourse has increasingly turned towards defining queer people as ‘vulnerable’, ones who have ‘suffered’ a great ‘injury’, and whose main quest is for those injuries to be fixed in some way. I have spoken about this issue in my podcast Queers with Benjamin Riley, and in Archer Magazine Fury wrote spectacularly about the same issue, stating that:

we queer folk have only been given the option to understand ourselves through the lens of pain. Because of this, it’s hardly a surprise how much we judge and police queerness by its proximity to suffering.

Fury continues, stating:

Oppression and its relevant experiences have become an important tool to define what makes us different to the mainstream and to each other. This, in its turn, has been important to ferry resources to the most in need. However, it is not without its downsides. It is easy to process the conversation around oppression like it, in itself, is a tangible metric instead of a shared context which yields statistical trends.

Given this recent turn I thought it would be interesting to have a quick look at one of the key texts I have discovered for my PhD over the past months, Wendy Brown’s “States of Injury”. Written in the 1990s, this book is a collection of essays , asking the provocative questions, how has injury become the basis for political identity in contemporary life, and how have law and other state institutions come to be seen as redressing such injuries rather than as perpetrating them? It would be possible to go through each and every essay with a blog post (maybe not a bad idea!). But for today I want to start by looking at the first chapter, which as an introduction presents Brown’s thesis as a whole.

Continue reading Freedom and the injured subject

Marriage equality, capitalism, and gay identity

This lecture was given to the GEND1001 class at the Australian National University in 

May 2017. 

What I am going to do today is take a brief look at the history of homosexuality and the homosexual, or queer, movement in the modern era. In doing so I will be specifically focusing on gay identity as it exists today, in particular examining the movement for marriage equality and what that says about gay identity.

I’m going to do this in the following way:

  1. First I am going to briefly examine the history of the same-sex marriage movement, starting from about the 1990s.
  2. Second I will look at two of the major critique of same sex marriage, being feminist critiques of marriage and assimilationist critiques.
  3. Finally I am going to bring this together into my particular field of interest, examining same-sex marriage as a tool for the incorporation of gay, lesbian, and increasingly trans* people into our capitalist economic system.

Continue reading Marriage equality, capitalism, and gay identity

Newsletter #10: Just keeping on moving on

Check out my latest newsletter below. You can sign up to get my newsletter straight to your inbox here!

Hello all!

It’s been a couple of months, so it feels like time for another newsletter on everything that’s been happening in my world of writing and research.

As Winter hits in Canberra I am thoroughly enjoying being able to hole myself up into my new office with some good books and some good writing. What a better way to spend the cold days. But here are some updates on things that have been happening.

Continue reading Newsletter #10: Just keeping on moving on

Gay Sex is Fun

This speech was presented as part of the Noted Festival Event on Thursday the 5th of May: ‘AIDS Action Council presents Gay Sex is Fun’.

Thank you to Noted for inviting me to speak and for the AIDS Action Council of the ACT for putting on this excellent event.


Growing up as a man who is attracted to men I very early on became aware that my life was supposedly going to be a lot harder than many others.

When I came out to my mother for example she said her only worry was that my homosexuality would make my life harder. My first relationship with a boy, one that lasted a huge three weeks (that’s a long time for a teenager), ended after he decided that he could not be gay and that he would be straight from now on. Based on his regular appearances on my Grindr feed I assume that has not worked out. But I still remember thinking that that would never occur if I were straight. And even now, when insisting we’re all ‘born this may’ many gays demand that “of course I’m born gay, who would choose this?” It’s like homosexuality is exactly what our protractors say it is; a disease from which we should all wish we were cured.

Now, I do not want to deny that gay lives have been and remain hard. Discrimination, repression and violence towards gay people remains rife.

Yet, at the same time, I feel an intense need to say, fuck that! Fuck this idea that being gay is a thing that’d we’d all want to avoid like the plague. Fuck the idea that it is something no one would choose.

I say this not just because gay sex — that which happens between a monogamous couple with the hope that one day this sex will be legitimised by the state and that next time the wedding rings will have to be taken off before the fingering begins — is fun, although I am sure it is.

I’m saying it because the very nature of being gay has the potential to open up a range of sexual possibilities, ones that I know I likely would never had explored if I were straight.

Continue reading Gay Sex is Fun