Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why I’m Defending Prime Minister Gillard against Alan Jones

The Prime Minister with her father, John Gillard.

On Saturday afternoon, news broke that 2GB shock jock, Alan Jones, had been recorded saying that the Prime Minister’s late father, John Gillard, died of the shame he felt at having her for a daughter.

This is, of course, a gross distortion of the truth.  Whatever we, as voters, might think of Ms Gillard, it is clear that her father was always incredibly proud of her. It is a matter of public record that his death, as a very elderly man, came after a long illness.

Jones’ ghastly, insensitive remark pays no heed to the incredible hurt his words might cause to Ms Gillard, nor to her elderly mother. Having lost my own father, I can only imagine how I would have felt if, during those early days when I was still raw with emotion and grief, someone had sneered that my father did not die of a sudden heart-attack, but because he was ashamed – of me. That his death was my fault.

And, as I try to imagine how that insensitivity would have compounded my own grief, I can only believe it might have come close to killing my mother;  already distraught to the point of collapse at the loss of her husband.

What kind of a monster would say such a thing?

To their very great credit, the majority of Australians have responded  to Jones’ remark with complete and utter disgust. Already there are calls for a boycott of Jones’ employer, 2GB and its sponsors and a petition calling for his dismissal.

But, some are aguing that Jones’ attack on Ms Gillard was acceptable given her policies/lies/treatment of Julian Assange/hard line on asylum seekers etc.  For some, there is a sense that Gillard’s own failings have made her ‘fair game’.

And, to some extent she is ‘fair game’. As Prime Minister, Ms Gillard should certainly not be protected from fierce opposition to her policies. And, of course, she should held to account for the honesty of her statements, promises made and broken and the hypocrisy of her position on same-sex marriage. Let me make it clear. I am not defending Ms Gillard because I like her – far from it! I am defending her because she is a human being.

Whatever Ms Gillard’s past actions, whatever her sins against the Australian people – it is NEVER acceptable to desecrate the memory of a recently deceased father in order to  hurt, ridicule, damage or demean his daughter. NEVER. JUST. NEVER.

Never an edifying voice in the political debate, Alan Jones has brought civility in this country to its knees. This is beyond gutter politics. This is sewerage politics.  Splashing around in his cesspool of censorious cynicism, Jones besmirches us all with his putrescent propaganda.

I am no fan of Julia Gillard’s. In fact, I have publicly criticized her online, in the national press and on air. But, in this scenario, Gillard is not a politician; she is a grieving daughter.

No daughter – regardless of who she is, or what she has done – should have to endure the indignity of her dead father being used as a weapon against her. And no Australian should condone that kind of vicious, personal abuse – regardless of their personal feelings about Ms Gillard or her politics.

Listening to the audio of Jones’ speech, I was shocked to hear guests at the Sydney University Liberal Club laugh in response to his  vile attack on the Prime Minister. On reflection, I realised I should not have been surprised. This is the kind of misogynistic, pugilistic, bully-boy bastardry that has become normalised within the Liberal party under Tony Abbott’s leadership. When this is the kind of behaviour consistently modeled by the leadership,  it is easy to understand why  Jones’ egregious remarks brought only the following response from his young Liberal hosts:

Mr Abbott and his Catholic cronies have been very concerned of late that legalizing same-sex marriage will ‘normalize’ homosexual behaviour. I think Australians should be a great deal more concerned that the behaviour of Tony Abbott and his cabinet henchmen creates a toxic political culture in which remarks like Jones’ are considered so normal – so firmly within the acceptable bounds of human decency – that they warrant laughter and post-speech accolades.

Let me reiterate. There is nothing Julia Gillard has done, or could do,  that could justify Jones’ behaviour. There is no sin Ms Gillard may have committed, no lie she may have told that would mitigate the sheer, malevolent bastardry of using a dead man as a weapon against his grieving daughter. None.

And now, to those who will inevitably scream that the firestorm of criticism Jones will wake up to today somehow endangers his right to free speech.

As much as it disgusts me, Alan Jones has an absolute right to say what he did. No question. No matter how hurtful, how spiteful, how crude or revolting – Jones’ right to be a complete and utter moron should be sacrosanct.

But, Jones’ right to free speech does not make it encumbent upon radio 2GB to pay him vast sums of money and provide him with a forum for his venomous, misogynistic vilification of the Prime Minister. Further, the companies which support Jones and his station  with their sponsorship, have no moral, ethical or legal obligation to place advertisements with 2GB. These are commercial arrangements which have nothing, whatsoever, to do with Jones’ freedom of speech.

Nor does free speech come with any right to be absolved from public censure. While Jones has the right to speak his mind, the public is perfectly justified in shouting him down in disgust.

If 2GB were to sack Jones, it would, in no way, compromise his right to free speech. Having your own radio show is not a ‘right‘ it is a privilege – and Jones has abused that privilege more than once. Indeed, as recently as October Jones admitted to The Age that in saying the Prime Minister should be put in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea, he had failed to respect ‘the office’ of the Prime Minister and  ‘to meet the standards that would be expected of people who listen to the program.’

That apology can now be seen for what it is. Spin. Jones learned nothing from the incident and his remarks about Ms Gillard’s father show what little respect he has for either the office of the Prime Minister or the common decency of the Australian people.

The fact that this latest assault on the Prime Minister was not made on air, but at a Liberal party event, is no excuse for Jones’ employer to show  leniency. The attack on Gillard speaks to his character, his judgement and his honesty. On all three counts, he is not a fit person to enjoy the privilege and power accorded to him in his role with 2GB.

I am no fan of  being ‘nice’ or polite in the face of liars, cheats or frauds. I completely accept that some people believe that Julia Gillard is all three. But even if this is true, we are greatly diminished as Australians and as human beings if we condone Jones’ particular brand of bastardry.

Is this what we should aspire to as Australians; to rationalise despicable behaviour because someone else has acted disreputably? To paraphrase my friend Vicki O’Brien, “What? Are we fucking five?”

Is this how Australians will be acculturated under an Abbott-led government? Will we become a nation in which ‘an eye for an eye’ is the ethics du jour?  Do we aspire to become a nation in which ‘strength’ is defined as making yourself every bit as bad as those you oppose? Is this what we want to teach our children about what it means to be ‘Australian’?

This is not what Australians stand for and I was heartened to see that the vast majority of Australians on Facebook and Twitter last night stood up for decency, civility and fair play – regardless of their personal views about Julia Gillard, her personal integrity or her policies.

Alan Jones must lose the power and privilege he has so frequently and wantonly abused. 2GB’s sponsors must insist on his dismissal. And, more broadly, the Liberal party must take a critical view of the monster that Tony Abbott is creating.

How long before Abbott leads the party into a political storm the size of that swirling around Alan Jones today?  As the storm rages, Liberal powerbrokers should be out in the weather,  licking their fingers and testing the winds of public opinion because this  is the kind of tempest which forbodes unloseable elections lost and defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory.

Chrys Stevenson

Sign the petition asking 2GB to dismiss Alan Jones

Tell Alan Jones’ sponsors what you think of them financially supporting his program.,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Breaking: Jones has apologised for his remarks, bizarrely intimating that he plagiarised the offending remark from someone else!

“Jones said he had repeated remarks made to him at his godson’s birthday party earlier in the day.

‘I should not have repeated those remarks,’ he said.

“There is no excuse, I have to cop the blame.”

But ‘copping the blame’ without accepting the consequences is just more spin. Jones must be dismissed or step down. This is not a case of one, unwise, ‘out of character’ statement. This is, according to NSW Labor MP, Dr Meredith Burgmann, entirely consistent with Jones’ pathological pursuit of Gillard.

Prior to this, Jones has said of the PM, ‘She’s brain dead”, ‘a lying bitch”,  ‘bring back the guillotine’, ‘I’m over this lying cow’, and ‘What a horrible mouth on legs she is’. This is not thoughtful political commentary. Jones has made a habit of making gendered and misogynistic attacks on the Prime Minister. It’s not good enough. A mild apology is not good enough. And ‘copping the blame’ isn’t good enough. He must accept real consequences for the real harm he has caused, not only to Ms Gillard and her family, but to the sensibilities of the Australian people.

Crimwife by Tanya Levin

It’s a rare woman who hasn’t, at least once in her life, fallen for the wrong man. So, late last year, when my friend Tanya Levin PM’d me in a panic over the book she was working on, I was happy to reassure her.

“No, Tan, really – people won’t hate you. People won’t think you’re a freak. OK, we haven’t all fallen in love with an armed robber, but there’s a bad ‘un lurking in pretty much every woman’s past. I think an awful lot of women are going to relate to this.”

And now, having mustered the courage to put her life on the line for public consumption once again, Tanya’s second book, Crimwife: An Insider’s Account of Love Behind Bars, goes on sale next week. If the Kindle store had doors, I’d been battering them down to be the first to read it.

I first heard of Tanya Levin during the media circus that surrounded the publication of her best-selling book, People in Glass Houses: An Insider’s Life In and Out of Hillsong. (Yes, if you haven’t heard of Tanya – what? where have you been living??? – she is an escapee from Brian and Bobbie Houston’s happy clapping, card-swiping, money grabbing goldmine – Hillsong Church).

A month or so after seeing Tanya talk about the book on television, I happened to be in an ABC bookshop. When my eye fell on People in Glass Houses, I thought, “That’s a book I want to read!” and promptly plucked it from the shelf and plonked it down on the counter.

The book was extraordinary. Tanya’s writing is clear, funny, self-deprecating, insightful, intelligent and engaging. Even now, I still find myself picking my copy of People in Glass Houses off the bookshelf, just to randomly flick through a chapter. It’s that good.

A couple of years after People in Glass Houses came out, an internet friend mentioned in passing that he knew Tanya and could put us in touch with each other. I was mightily impressed but I wasn’t going to hassle her like some fan girl, so I politely demurred.

But, when Warren Bonnett (Embiggen Books) and I started putting together The Australian Book of Atheism in 2009, Tanya’s name immediately sprang to mind. I knew she was out of Hillsong but I wasn’t quite sure if she had blossomed into a fully blown heathen. Still, I thought, she’d be worth approaching and what a great coup if she’d agree to write for us. It turns out she was (a heathen) and she did (write for us) and, in one of those surreal events which hit you every so often, having grown to know and love me during conversations about the book, Tanya asked if I’d do the edits on her chapter.

Tanya’s chapter for The Australian Book of Atheism is one of my favourites. It’s called “Far Above Rubies” and tells the story of how little girls in fundamentalist Christian churches are taught how to be ‘Proverbs 31 women’. It’s a concept my friend, Jane Douglas (another escapee from fundamentalism) wrote about recently on her blog, Putting Her Oar In.

In “Far Above Rubies” Tanya writes:

“Feminism for me was a natural progression, because at Hillsong women must love being treated like doormats. All in the name of a good marriage of course, for this is the essence of femaleness.”

And yet, somehow, despite having put all this behind her, Tanya walked into a situation which, at times, must have seemed like Hillsong on steroids; she became a ‘crimwife’. Now, the subject of her adoration (and subjection) was not Jesus, but a criminal with post traumatic stress disorder who, out of prison and living in Tanya’s house, began popping Xanax ‘like Tic Tacs’.

I finally met Tanya in person at the Global Atheist Convention in 2010 where she gave one of the best speeches of the convention. If only they had allowed her more time!

Since then, we’ve kept in touch and I’ve shared some of the growing pains associated with the birth of Crimwife. I take no credit for any of it, of course! My advice has been restricted to late night, impromptu motivation sessions along the lines of: “Keep going, you can do it”, “No Tanya, people won’t hate you”, “Shut up and keep writing” and “Finish the damn thing or you’ll have to give back the advance.”

And now, here it is! Well, nearly. Just a couple more sleeps to go until you can buy it in the bookshops. And I’m so proud of her.

Today, the Sydney Morning Herald published a wonderful pre-release story about Tanya by Greg Bearup. I like it. It shows what I hope readers of Crimwife will keep in mind; that Tanya is a real person. She is just like you and me. She is smart, funny, talented and, yes, flawed. Like all of us Tanya makes mistakes – and sometimes they’re doozies (really Tanya – a bloody armed robber????). But unlike most of us, Tanya has the courage and generosity to share her flaws and fuck-ups with the world in the hope it might help someone else. You really have to admire that.

So please, rush out (or rush to your computer) and buy Crimwife when it’s released next week because it will be compelling, funny, startling, emotional and brutally honest. I know this because its author, Tanya Levin, is my friend and she is all of those things and Crimwife is her story.

Chrys Stevenson

Buy Crimwife for Kindle

Now available for download on iTunes.

Now on sale at all good book stores.

Teresa Gambaro betrays 73 per cent of her constituents; so who does she answer to?

Teresa Gambaro MP, Federal Member for Brisbane

In November 2011, when independent MP, Peter Wellington, needed to impress on the Queensland Parliament the urgent need for Civil Partnership legislation, he devoted the greater part of his speech to reading a letter from Brisbane nurse, Phil Browne. The public gallery was silent as Wellington shared Phil’s unique perspective on the urgent need for legislative reform:

“I saw a case where man in his 50’s had been disowned by his family because he was gay. Decades later the family appeared at his hospital death bed. As legal next of kin, they ordered that the mans same sex partner of 30 years was not allowed to visit their son. Their son died without ever seeing his partner again in his final days.

If the man had an advance care directive, he could have nominated his partner as his next of kin, granting him visitation rights—however, like most people, this document was not in place.

This is the person he has spent 30 years of his life with—his partner in love and life. They had bought a house together, had joint bank accounts, their whole lives had been merged for decades, yet his partner was not allowed to be present when he died.

Regardless of your views on homosexuality, this is just plain wrong. It is only redneck hicks who consider this the right thing to have happened.

Had a Civil Union been available to this couple, the man’s partner would have been granted next of kin status and this cruel event would never have happened. … I urge you to do the fair and right thing and vote in support of the Civil Partnerships Bill. “

This month, when Adam Bandt’s same-sex marriage Bill was debated in the Federal Parliament, of all the thousands of submissions to the Senate Inquiry, Senator Larissa Waters chose to read a simple letter from Arthur Browne, Phil’s Dad:

“I love both my children equally and I want them to be treated equally – this is a matter of basic human dignity. A person’s fundamental rights, including the right to marry, should not be affected by their sexual orientation.How can I tell my son that he has less rights than my daughter has? Could you tell your own child this? I can not justify this.

Society is stronger when couples make vows to each other and support each other. I want this for my gay son.”

This same letter was read into Hansard this week by Ivan Dean, the independent MLC for Windermere, during the same-sex marriage debate in Tasmania.

The Browne family has a lot to say on the subject of same-sex marriage. Phil’s own experience as a gay man and a health-care worker (most recently providing peer education on HIV reduction to gay men) and Arthur’s personal battle to overcome his religious prejudices to embrace his son’s sexuality, means they have important insights to share. And some politicians are listening. Between them, Phil and Arthur have had their words read into Hansard three times in the last 12 months. Why? Obviously because politicians like Peter Wellington, Larissa Waters and Ivan Dean believe they have something very important to say.

So it is passing strange that Phil Browne’s own Federal MP, Teresa Gambaro, will no longer meet with him; or even answer his emails. And she should, because, frankly, Teresa’s ‘got some ‘splainin’ to do’.

As Phil notes in a media release issued this week, despite 73 per cent of Gambaro’s constituents in the Federal Seat of Brisbane supporting same-sex marriage, she failed to vote in favour of it. Further, she did not even speak up for the views of her constituents as some of her fellow Liberal party members chose to do.

“Liberal party members Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Sue Boyce spoke in Parliament strongly supporting same sex marriage,” says Phil.

“Despite not crossing the floor, their speaking up for marriage equality show they support equal treatment under law, and that they value all members of society equally.

Ms Gambaro on the other hand, has remained silent.”

 According to Phil:

“Ms Gambaro’s silence is sending the message that her gay constituents, plus their families and friends, are inferior and do not deserve to have their elected representative speak out in their support.

Bishop Desmond Tutu sums it up perfectly when he said –  ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’.”

 In her maiden speech , Phil reminds us, Ms Gambaro made a vow to her constituents in the seat of Brisbane:
“I will always listen to your wishes and display the courage to stand up and speak for these aspirations as your federal member. I will work tirelessly on your behalf and be your voice in Canberra.”
Ms Gambaro might have been more honest had she said:
“I will always listen to your wishes and display the courage to stand up and speak for these aspirations as your federal member. I will work tirelessly on your behalf and be your voice in Canberra, provided, of course, that your views accord with those of the Pope and his minions in the Liberal Party leadership.”

Because, it seems that, just  like Liberal leader, Tony Abbott,  Ms Gambaro does not so much represent the people of her electorate (73 per cent in favour of same-sex marriage), the people of Australia (64 per cent in favour [Galaxy, 2012]), or even Christians (53 per cent in favour [Galaxy, 2012]) as her own, narrow, Catholic views.  It does seem a rather major omission that, in her maiden speech, Ms Gambaro did not flag her intention only to represent the Catholics in her Brisbane electorate.

The Cardinal with his Abbott, Paul Batey

Indeed, even if that were the case, Ms Gambaro may still have been honour-bound to vote for (or at least speak out in favour of) same-sex marriage. Because, (while I have no specific figures for Brisbane), some major polls from America suggest the majority of the Catholic laity also support same-sex marriage (Gallup, May 2012, Pew 2011, Public Religion Research Institute 2011). Given Australia is a far more liberal country than the USA it seems very likely that Catholic support for same-sex marriage in this country may be even higher.

So, if Ms Gambaro does not represent her constituents, the wider Australian population, or even Australian Christians on this issue, who does she represent? The answer should concern all Australian voters. Because, Like Tony Abbott, Ms Gambaro’s position on same-sex marriage seems to be channeled direct from the Vatican – and to hell with the 73 per cent of the constituents she pledged to represent.

Quite correctly, Phil Browne chides his elected representative:

“I’m not hearing you stand up and speak for my aspirations, as you pledged to do – nor the aspirations of the 73% of your constituents who support same sex marriage. I do not hear you being our voice in Canberra.”

I am not one who believes that politicians should always represent the majority view. Sometimes, the public does not have all the facts or the technical know-how to make the right decision. Sometimes, respecting the public’s long-held prejudices may hold back policies designed to protect and empower persecuted minorities. But, this is not the case with same-sex marriage. There is no good reason to oppose it and every good reason to approve it. Gay marriage will hurt no-one, but it will vastly improve the lives of many – including the children of same-sex couples.

Bernardi the libidinous bulldog

It’s been said ad nauseum but same-sex marriage will not devalue anyone else’s marriage, it will not endanger children, it will not force churches to marry gay couples, it will not inevitably result in the legalisation of polygamous or incestuous marriages and it will not mean that your sexually frustrated, maiden Aunt Matilda will be able to enter into holy matrimony – and all that that entails (pardon the pun!) –  with Bernardi, her libidinous bulldog!

Sometimes politicians need to lead rather than follow in order to effect the best outcomes for everyone. In this case, Gambaro didn’t even have to do that. Seventy-three per cent of her constituents would have backed her if she had done the right thing and supported same-sex marriage!

I have spent the last week conversing with my gay friends, including Phil, about this month’s decisions in Federal Parliament, the Senate and, now, the Tasmanian Legislative Council. They are, quite frankly, at the end of their tether. They are angry, teary, depressed and astounded that the people who are supposed to represent them have sold them out; that politicians like Teresa Gambaro, who take a hefty pay cheque to represent the views and aspirations of her constituents, are answering to long-held religious prejudices instead. My gay friends feel – and politicians like Ms Gambaro have made them feel – like second class citizens.  But they are strong and they have the support of the majority of Australians and I know they will go on fighting for what is right.

As for Phil, I know he was distraught earlier in the week – his emotions were running high. Frankly, I was worried about him.  But when it became clear his own political representative was determined to shut him out, he mustered his resources and made a video. Somehow, some way, Phil was determined that Teresa Gambaro should hear what he had to say.

Gambaro – up close and personal with Cardinal Pell in 2004

I think Phil deserves an explanation from Ms Gambaro but she has, apparently ‘gone to ground’.

As Ms Gambaro won’t answer Phil’s questions, I doubt she’ll answer mine either. But, I’d like to presume on an old acquaintance with Teresa and ask them anyway:

Who do you represent? Who do you answer to? Do his initials, perhaps,  begin with the letters “Joseph Ratzinger”?

If this is the case, Teresa Gambaro has betrayed her position as a political representative, her constituents and her country. She was not elected to represent the views of the Pope, the head of a foreign state. She was  not elected to represent her own religious views. She was elected to speak up for her electorate and to make policies that will make her constituents’ lives better. On the issue of same-sex marriage, she has manifestly failed to do this.  And, in refusing to deal with Phil Browne, she has simply compounded that betrayal.

Teresa Gambaro should be ashamed and she should certainly never be re-elected.

Chrys Stevenson

If you are one of the 73 per cent of constituents in the Brisbane electorate who support same-sex marriage, please consider sharing this blog post. Perhaps you might also like to contact Ms Gambaro’s office and ask her, “Why won’t you meet with Phil Brown? Why did you not represent our views in the Federal Parliament? Who DO you represent?”  Both Phil and I would love to know the answers.

Phil Browne’s media release

You can contact me at and I’m happy to pass messages on to Phil.

You’ll find all of Teresa Gambaro’s contact details here.

‘Doing a Deveny’ on Dying with Dignity

“I’m offended by that remark!”

The man glowers at me;  obviously expecting an abject apology. Surely it is due to him for I have committed the most heinous of social crimes; I have accused a theologian and ethicist, no less, of telling lies.

“Well, I’m offended that you stood up in front of these people and lied!” I respond, refusing to back down from my allegation.

His face turns white with barely controlled fury.

I study the man with interest. His expression is a strange mixture of rage, indignation and confusion. He’s been doing this schtick for years and while he’s surely had his facts challenged before, it seems no-one has actually called out his propaganda for what it is – a lie.

For the second time that evening, I remind him of his words. I knew exactly what he’d said; I wrote it down as he was speaking.

“You told this audience that, in 1996, [before voluntary euthanasia was formally legalized in the Netherlands*] there were ‘genuine safeguards’ in place; that there was, at least, a ‘process’ in place and doctors wishing to hasten the death of a patient had checklists to complete. Then you told them that, after euthanasia was legalized in 2002, ‘the safeguards disappeared’ and ‘doctors were left to their own recognisance’. That’s not true is it? You lied to these people!”

I gesture at the audience, now mostly mingling around the supper table, although a few interested souls have formed a tight circle behind me, curious to watch the mad woman with her Irish up hoe into the invited speaker.

The man holds up his hand. I am the harridan whose presence can no longer be borne.

“I’m leaving! I’m not listening to this!” he says, as he storms out the door.

I have just ‘done a Deveny’. Like Melbourne comedian, Catherine Deveny,  in her famous face-off against Archbishop Peter Jensen on ABC’s Q&A, I have refused to be ‘nice’ in response to a religious person bearing false witness. I have refused to observe the social conventions when dealing with someone using  propaganda and misinformation to rationalise their right to restrict my freedom and autonomy in order to appease their god. In the words of the late, great Australian actor, Peter Finch in the movie Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

In retrospect I’ve wondered if  I was too harsh – too blunt. I’ve been turning it over in my mind for a week now. Was he really ‘lying’? What is a lie? Is it a lie if you don’t realise you’re lying? Is that any excuse? Perhaps. But, then again, if you stand up in front of a paying audience, representing yourself as an ‘expert’, isn’t there a standard of truth to which you should be held? Is ignorance of the truth an excuse under such circumstances? Should there be a ‘get out of jail free’ pass for pretending to be something you’re not?

This altercation took place last week, immediately following the “Your Right to Die” debate on voluntary euthanasia, organised by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties. The event pitted Catholic theologian and bioethicist, Yuri Koszarycz against Neil Francis, CEO of Australia’s peak body for aid-in-dying  law reform, Your Last Right.

To give him his due, Koszarycz seems an affable enough man. Casually (some might say geekily) dressed, (in stark contrast to Francis’s polished, urbane sophistication), Koszarycz began his argument against voluntary euthanasia with a rather awkward joke – as if working, I thought,  from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Public Speaking. I could almost see the thought balloon hovering above his head, “Put your audience at ease and win their confidence with an opening joke ….”

Thereafter, Koszarycz effected a slightly nervous, self-effacing style of presentation. From time to time, as he recited yet another piece of long-since-debunked Catholic propaganda about the the rampant abuse of euthanasia in the Netherlands, he cupped his hand over his mouth, his thumb resting on his nose, then slowly dragged his hand down his chin; a nervous gesture which only served to undermine his credibility.

Careful never to refer to assisted dying as voluntary euthanasia, Koszarycz tried his very best to paint a grim picture of the Netherlands as a nation in which progressive legislation on aid-in-dying has dissolved into anarchy; where ‘death vans’ now roam the countryside searching out yet more victims to kill, while doctors make arbitrary decisions on who should live and who should die. Really, it’s a miracle there’s a person over 60 still alive in Holland!

Fortunately, Neil Francis was on hand with a calm, professional rebuttal and PowerPoint presentation. Francis’s fully referenced graphs and statistics showed, unequivocally, that Koszarycz’s argument was based more on propaganda than proper research. And this was surprising because Koszarycz’s CV is impressive. The paying audience had a right to expect much better from him.

Formerly a senior lecturer in bioethics at the Australian Catholic University, Koszarycz has degrees in philosophy, theology and education. According to the biographical material distributed at the debate:

“ In 1996 Koszarycz spent a month at the Akademisch Medisch Zentrum in Amsterdam interviewing physicians, nurses, families of patients and some of the patients who were requesting euthanasia. In 2000 he debated Philip Nietschke on the topic of voluntary euthanasia versus excellent palliative care in a forum for nurses in Brisbane. He has also presented a six-lecture series on Death & Dying for staff at the Wesley Hospital.”

If Koszarycz has ever been an expert on assisted dying in the Netherlands, it was not on show at the Irish Club last Wednesday night. Rather than providing a cogent argument against voluntary euthanasia based on hard facts drawn from the extensive and readily accessible medical, academic and governmental literature, Koszarycz simply reeled off a litany of clearly false, outdated and slightly hysterical arguments – all easily debunked by a quietly amused Neil Francis.

The result was that Francis got a free pass while the audience was short-changed. No criticism of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties should be  implied; I believe they got the best speaker against voluntary euthanasia available. It’s just a pity that ‘the best’ was quite frankly, appallingly bad.

Instead of a carefully reasoned, thoughtful argument against euthanasia, Koszarycz lazily trotted out all the tired old canards and concluded with a rather insulting lecture on what the Pope thought was appropriate for our end of life care. As I thought of my 88 year old mother, who has repeatedly begged me not to let her suffer the indignities of advanced Alzheimer’s, I wondered why I, a non-Catholic and n0n-believer,  should give a flying fuck what the Pope thinks!

As I found out later, there was good reason why Koszarycz’s information was so woefully inadequate and out of date; but he did not disclose this to the audience.

Based on the biography Koszarycz had, presumably, supplied to the organizers, the audience could be excused for expecting to hear an expert on the subject of voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. I know when I picked up the leaflet left on my seat and read his CV I thought, “This should be good!”

Indeed, I would argue that, simply accepting an invitation to publicly debate the CEO of the peak body FOR euthanasia in this country before a paying audience, signifies an implicit claim about one’s expertise on the subject.

But, it was only after the debate when I challenged Koszarycz on a minor issue of interpretation that he confessed, “Well, there are likely to be some gaps in my knowledge …. I actually haven’t been closely involved in this [euthanasia research] since 1996.”

That’s right!  This man who presented himself as an ‘expert’, this man who claimed the moral high ground in the voluntary euthanasia debate, this man who, essentially, represented the views of the Catholic Church – presented an argument that was 16 years out of date!

The burning question for me, of course, is, “Was I unfair? Did Mr Koszarycz really ‘lie’?”

There is no doubt his statement that ‘the safeguards disappeared’ when VE was legalized in the Netherlands in 2002 is fundamentally untrue. In fact, as Neil Francis pointed out, after VE was legalized the ‘processes’ and the ‘genuine safeguards’ which previously existed were not abandoned, but entered into statute. There were not less safeguards, there were more. Further, being legal, VE is no longer practiced under cover as it is here in Australia; it is better reported, better investigated and the safeguards are more strongly enforced.

Perhaps – and I am bending over backwards to be kind here –  it wasn’t actually a ‘lie’. Perhaps Mr Koszarycz genuinely didn’t know anything about voluntary euthanasia law in the Netherlands. Perhaps he genuinely believed what he was saying. I am willing to concede that point.

But,  if that is true, Koszarycz appeared at last Wednesday’s debate under false pretences. He clearly attended the “Your Right to Die” debate representing himself as an expert on the subject of voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. That expertise was implied both by his acceptance of the invitation to speak and by his CV. He certainly made no disclaimer before speaking (as he did, to me, after the fact) that his knowledge of the subject was 16 years out of date!

The fact is, if Mr Koszarycz didn’t know his statement (that safeguards had ‘disappeared’ after 2002) was demonstrably false; he should have.

During the audience Q&A I gave Mr Koszarycz the opportunity to resile from his statement. Instead, he was evasive. In reply, he launched into a tirade against ‘the death vans’ –mobile vans carrying medical staff to offer aid-in-dying  to people in regional areas where the only available doctor may, for various reasons (including religious), refuse to provide this final act of compassion.

“No! Answer my question!” I insisted – channeling Deveny to the max.

“Do you stand by your assertion that there are now no guidelines, no process, no rules that guide the practice of voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands and that doctors are free to do as they please?”

His response was to the effect that , “Well, er, there, er, may be er, laws and er requirements but er they are er routinely ignored and abused.”

That isn’t so. But, even if it were, that is a far different argument from saying that, after legalisation in 2002, ‘safeguards disappeared’ and doctors were ‘left to their own recognisance’!

Mr Koszarycz is a highly educated man. You cannot tell me he does not understand the difference between safeguards ‘disappearing’ or not existing and laws ‘being broken’.

One might equally argue that after automobiles were introduced to Australia, all the safeguards for driving vehicles on public roads disappeared. To the contrary, as we know,  Australia has a raft of strictly enforced laws designed to safeguard road users. The fact that some people break those laws, in no way supports the argument that safeguards are not in place!

As Neil Francis generously concedes in his own post about the debate, “Anyone under the pressure of a live public presentation can get an isolated detail wrong … we’re only human after all.”

But, if Koszarycz meant to argue, not that safeguards were abandoned, but that Dutch VE laws are routinely being broken, it is strange that he failed to mention even one case – one court action – where charges have been laid. Strange, indeed, that he failed to name even one doctor who has been jailed for breaking the law.

In fact, as Mr Kozarycz well knows, every case of VE in the Netherlands is closely investigated. If there is widespread abuse there would be a long list of criminal convictions and these would be jubilantly shared within Catholic networks. So, if this is truly what Koscarycz meant to imply, why did he provide no examples of this systematic abuse of the statutory safeguards?

Mr Koszarycz, I understand,  has recently retired  as a lecturer in ethics. Perhaps Catholic ethics and atheist ethics are somewhat different. But, I assume, there are some significant overlaps.

For example, I assume that Mr Koszarycz knows that when an audience has paid, in ‘good faith’, to benefit from your ‘expertise’, making misleading, uninformed statements about your subject is unethical.

I can only assume that in the Catholic faith, as elsewhere, presenting oneself as an ‘expert’ without disclosing that one’s knowledge is 16 years out of date is, similarly, unethical.

I also imagine that, as an academic, Mr Koszarycz is well aware that using hyperbole in an argument with the intent of swaying a largely uninformed, general audience to your point of view is also unethical. It’s certainly something that was hammered into me as an undergraduate – although, admittedly, at a non-Catholic university.

I can’t help but wonder just how many naive audiences – church groups, senior citizens groups, service clubs –  have heard and swallowed every bit of Mr Koszarycz’s ‘spiel’ on the basis that he  is a ‘nice guy’, a theologian, an academic and a ‘good Catholic’.

In fact, after reading Koszarycz’s CV to my 88 year old mother tonight I repeated his claim about the lawlessness of VE in the Netherlands.

She gasped, “That’s terrible!”

When I told her it wasn’t actually true, she was even more appalled.

“People shouldn’t be allowed to do that!” she said, “I would have believed him!”


Let me make this clear. In 2002, when euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands, the safeguards did not ‘disappear’ as alleged by Mr Koszarycz. In fact, they were written into statute and enforced as law.

What Mr Koszarycz did last week was, in my view, unconscionable. He misrepresented his level of expertise, he failed to disclose that he is not up to date on current VE research, administration and law, and, (among others) he made a bald and hyperbolic statement about VE in the Netherlands that was not only grossly inaccurate but which anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about the subject should have known was false and misleading.

This is not the kind of behaviour that deserves respect and deference. This is the kind of behaviour that deserves to be called out in the strongest possible terms. This is the kind of behaviour that justifies ‘doing a Deveny’.

Yes, of course we need to be sure of our facts before publicly embarrassing someone. But I was sure of my facts and I feel strongly that ‘respectful discourse’ is not the appropriate response to people like Koszarycz who are either intentionally or negligently untruthful.

Mr Koszarycz embarrassed himself, his church and the anti-euthanasia position last week. I hope that next time he is invited to speak on this subject he will have the humility to politely decline the invitation and explain that, while he may once have been an expert on voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, he is no more. It would be, I think, the only ethical thing to do.

Chrys Stevenson

*Throughout this post, for ease of communication,  I have referred to VE in the Netherlands as having been ‘legalized’ in 2002. The word ‘legalized’ is used in common parlance but, in fact, as the website Exit International explains:  “While assisting someone to die is still a crime under the Dutch penal code, the 2002 Act makes VE legally permissible.”  It is not ‘quite’ legal but euthanasia and physician assisted suicide ‘are not punishable if the attending physician acts in accordance with criteria of due care’. I hope my readers will forgive the simplification in the service of readability.

Disclaimer: Chrys Stevenson speaks independently. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of organized lobbyists for aid-in-dying law reform.

An Open Letter to Alex Somlyay MP – Fairfax, Queensland

Dear Mr Somlyay

I am one of your Fairfax constituents. Your recent vote against same-sex marriage was no surprise. You were, after all, a member of the Lyons Forum – a group known for its mission to impose the religious prejudices of its members upon the Australian population. I am, however, delighted to see that your narrow minded bigotry has been recorded for posterity on the website “The 98 Against“.

As a Federal representative with a less than stellar career, you have, until now, done little to cement your place in Australian political history. Now, at least, you have written the Somlyay name indelibly into our nation’s chronicles. Now, future generations will be able to look back on the “98 Against” list, see your name, and wonder how politicians like you could have been so blind, so bigoted, and so misinformed that they could stand in the way of an important vote for social progress and full equality for all Australians.

One day, Mr Somlyay, your grandchildren and great grandchildren will find this information and be shocked and ashamed.

Imagine researching your family history only to find that an ancestor voted against women’s suffrage, racial integration, or citizenship for Aborigines. Imagine finding a great-grandfather who voted against the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, or who actively participated in the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany or Hungary. You have joined this proud political tradition, Mr Somlyay.

When I think of politicians like you, I think of a young, gay, Christian man called Bobby Griffith. Griffith, 20, left a note in his diary before he threw himself off an overpass into the path of a tractor-trailer:

“I can’t ever let anyone find out that I’m not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me. They might even want to beat me up. And my family? I’ve overheard them….They’ve said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. Gays are bad, and God sends bad people to hell. It really scares me when they talk that way because now they are talking about me.”

As he fell 25 feet to his death, had his clothes torn from his body and died instantly from the terrible impact, do you really think homosexuality was Bobby’s ‘lifestyle choice’, Mr Somlyay?

Somewhere in Fairfax, Mr Somlyay, there is another ‘Bobby Griffith’ who has noted your disdain for his right to equality. Your vote against his right to marry the person he loves and raise a family – a right accorded to all other Australians, regardless of their character – has inflicted yet another cut in his ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’. You have made him feel sick to the stomach as he realises that the person who is meant to represent him in parliament has sold him out. And, as one small indignity is piled upon another, one day the Bobby Griffith who lives in Fairfax will not be able to stand it any more and he will commit suicide. And you, Mr Somlyay, will be complicit. You, the person elected to represent him, will have blood on your hands.

Suicide accounted for approximately 23 per cent of all deaths for young people aged 15 to 24 years in Australia in 2010. I do not want to engage in hyperbole, Mr Somlyay – it is true that statistics on the suicide rates of gay teens in Australia are sketchy. In practice, it is impossible to assess accurately; young people who feel they will be persecuted for their sexuality may not even come out before taking their lives. But, it is now widely acknowledged in the academic and medical literature that a link between an increased risk of suicide and discrimination or bullying due to homosexuality is emerging.

Your vote against same-sex marriage, Mr Somlyay, has put a political imprimatur on that bullying. You and your party, in particular, have said plainly to the Australian people: “These people are not normal. These people are not acceptable. These people are not worthy of equal treatment in our society.” That is the message which rationalises and ‘normalises’ the continued discrimination, bullying and persecution of gay people in Australian society. Your message, Mr Somlyay.

As Gregory Storer, one of my many gay friends who are in stable, loving, same-sex relationships, wrote:

“It’s been one hell of a week … The impact on my well-being is quite astounding. I can certainly see how it could have a huge negative impact on a young gay person who may not have built up a life-time of resilience.”

Mr Somlyay, I doubt whether you will have the decency to consider a video response to your vote from my friend, Troy Simpson but I challenge you to watch it.

Like Gregory, Troy is not a vulnerable gay teenager. He is a mature, well-educated, accomplished, successful gay man in a stable same-sex relationship. He is a survivor of the toxic environment you and your Lyons forum cronies have worked and prayed so hard to create. Consider this, Mr Somlyay, as you listen to the pain in Troy’s voice – the raw emotion – as he talks about the unfairness and false reasoning that led to your vote against same-sex marriage last week. If this is the affect on someone like Troy, Mr Somlyay, my eyes sting with tears at the thought of what your actions have done to younger, less stable, less resilient gay men and women – not only in Fairfax, but throughout Australia.

I am ashamed to have you as my political representative Mr Somlyay. I understand that you will retire at the next Federal election. I have no doubt you will be replaced with another homophobic bigot from the Liberal party. But, times will move on, and, despite your failure to shine on the political stage, you have ensured your name will go down in history. It is such a shame, don’t you think, that it’s a record that will bring disgrace on your family, your descendants, your party and you for as long as the records survive.

Chrys Stevenson

The 98 Against

Troy Simpson: A Response to Denying Same-Sex Marriage

Exposed – politicians’ ethically bankrupt argument against same-sex marriage

Meet Troy Simpson. Troy has a  law degree,  he is a  published author, and he has  run a multi-award winning small business which was named ACT Business of the Year and the National Micro-business of the Year.  An ACT resident, Troy recently announced he will stand as an independent for the seat of Fraser at the next Federal election. It would be hard to find a more talented, respectable, contributing member of our community.

And yet, despite his many contributions to our society Troy is a second class Australian citizen.


Because Troy happens to be gay.

Here is Troy’s video response to the defeat of the same-sex marriage bills in the Parliament and Senate last week.

Anyone who opposes same-sex marriage on the basis of the arguments offered up by ill-informed politicians last week, should be required to watch this. It is honest, articulate, compelling and immaculately well-reasoned. Spoken with a raw edge, straight from Troy’s heart; it broke mine.

In the video, Troy says he felt a need to express his ‘raw thoughts and feelings about the way … the Australian parliament has voted against recognizing same-sex marriage’.  This, he insists, is an issue of basic equality.

“The exclusive, committed relationship that I have with the person I love, is no different in any relevant way from the exclusive, committed relationship that you have with the person you love. Yet we are treated differently. You can marry, and I cannot. That is basic unfairness. And it is a first order priority of government to address basic unfairness.”

Recognising same-sex marriage will cause no harm. Troy Simpson explains this calmly and cogently. But he urges politicians to consider the real harm caused by denying that recognition.

“IT. IS. A. FACT. that your denying recognition to my relationship with the person I love causes real life pain …”

Please, watch the video and, if your senator or local member voted against same-sex marriage, why not send them a link to the video or to this blog post?  They probably won’t change their minds, but they might just realise that we know the harm they are causing by their intransigence on same-sex marriage. Perhaps they might understand, at least, that their role in perpetuating inequality makes them complicit in causing real life pain to real people like Troy – for no good reason. I think that’s unconscionable – and I hope you do too.

Chrys Stevenson


Troy has started a petition calling for Tony Abbott to remove Concetta Fierravanti-Wells from her position as Shadow Minister for Mental Health.

(Ms Fierravanti-Wells, you may recall, was the Q&A panelist who so eloquently denigrated Catherine Deveny as one of the ‘chattering classes’ and hissed at agnostic  Anna Krien that she was a ‘fence sitter’.)

In her senate speech on same-sex marriage, Fierravanti-Wells continued the insults, questioning whether gay couples “even intend on staying in a monogamous relationship” and linking gay marriage with “concepts repugnant, abhorrent and destructive”, such as polygamy. As Troy points out, her attitude towards same-sex marriage is one of ‘open hostility’.

This, he reminds us, is starkly at odds with the views of mental health experts:

“Decades of psychological research links marriage to mental health benefits and, conversely, highlights the harm of social exclusion to people’s mental health. As a result, the Australian Psychological Society (and other mental health groups) support the full recognition of same-sex relationships. Yet our Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, not only opposes same-sex marriage, but also speaks with open hostility on the subject.”

Given her arcane and destructive views, it is dishonest for Ms Wells to pretend she is concerned about the mental health of all Australians. Further, it is clearly untenable for her to continue in the role of Shadow Minister for Mental Health.

Please consider signing and sharing Troy’s petition with your own social networks.

Queensland’s LNP gay health policy ‘lethal’

Dr Wendell Rosevear, O.A.M., M.B.B.S., Dip. RACOG., FRACGP., J.P. (Qual.) is a highly qualified and widely recognized expert on gay and lesbian health. A respected member of Queensland’s gay community, Rosevear helped establish the Queensland AIDS Council (now Queensland Association for Healthy Communities) way back in 1984. Boasting nearly 30 years’ experience in addressing and advocating for better health outcomes for the gay and lesbian community, Rosevear’s work as a GP means he has first hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, suicide, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction.

It’s not surprising that when Queensland’s new LNP government decided to convene a HIV/AIDS ministerial advisory committee in July 2012, Dr Rosevear was one of the nine people appointed.

Less than 8 weeks later, Rosevear has resigned in disgust, comparing the actions of the Newman government to those of “a homophobic schoolyard bully”.

So incensed is Rosevear at the ill-advised and potentially lethal policy changes enacted by the LNP, he has agreed to the public release of his letter of resignation to Queensland Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg.

This letter is important. Of course, it is important for the GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual and intersex) community because it supports my argument that the Newman government prioritises the religious ideology of its Christian right faction over the health and lives of its GLBTI consituents. That, in itself is appalling.

But, more broadly, all Queenslanders should be concerned that Queensland’s public health policies are being influenced by the religious biases of Christian fundamentalists while the specialist advice of medical experts is ignored. When governments start making policy decisions based on ideology rather than evidence, we all suffer.

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) referred to in Dr Rosevear’s resignation letter was originally the Queensland AIDS Council. Under often difficult circumstances, Healthy Communities  has worked successfully in combating HIV/AIDS in Queensland for 28 years. One of the first actions of the Newman government was to defund Healthy Communities. This was done with no discussion, prior notification nor even a letter or a phone call from the Minister’s office. Healthy Communities found the rug had been pulled out from under them when they read the story in the morning news.

Contrary to the claims of Messrs. Newman and Springborg (neither of whom have any expertise in this field), HIV/AIDS notifications for men who have sex with men in Queensland is significantly lower than other states which receive better funding for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Further, the efforts of Healthy Communities (among others) has significantly decreased the incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst gay men in Queensland. Because Healthy Communities adopts a ‘world’s best practice’, holistic, community-based, grass-roots approach to HIV/AIDS education and prevention, notifications of the disease in Queensland are substantially lower than in jurisdictions where the ‘public health’ policy approach (now advocated by the Newman government) has been implemented.

For an excellent rebuttal of Minister Springborg’s scurrilous claims against Healthy Communities, I recommend this excellent analysis by Mathew Burke. Healthy Communities have also set up a “Truth Watch” website to respond to the ongoing misinformation and propaganda campaign being waged against the organisation by Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg.

Please read Dr Rosevear’s letter to Mr Springborg. It needs to be far more widely circulated. I will have more to say on this issue in a later post.

Chrys Stevenson

Letter to Lawrence Springborg, LNP Minister for Health, Queensland

(Dated 12/9/12 and reprinted here with the kind permission of its author, Dr Wendell Rosevear)

Dear Mr. Springborg,

I write to inform you of my resignation from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on HIV/AIDS.

I acknowledge your expressed desire to end HIV in Queensland and that you have the power to do what you want.

I also have been committed to end HIV and care for affected individuals since the beginning of the epidemic in Australia and I am sad to resign.

Fundamental to Australia’s international success in preventing HIV is a cooperative, partnership approach between Government and the affected Community and I am committed to that. It is a core part of the Sixth National Strategy and Ottawa Charter for HIV Prevention and you have acted to threaten it.

I was shocked to learn that you de-funded Healthy Communities (QAHC) without talking to them.

I was shocked to learn that two of your Senior Staff are gay and yet you de-funded QAHC.

I was shocked to learn that your Chief of staff wrote to a constituent over the de-funding of QAHC saying that “many sections of the GLBT community, does not view as appropriate spending of the Queensland Health dollar” when referring to QAHC’s focus and programmes, when I have seen thousands in the Community rally twice to support QAHC including the “Rip and Roll ” HIV campaign that had Statewide attention and targeted Men who have sex with Men in many settings: young men, older men, leather men, men in relationships, Asian men and Country Men : David Graham was a Model for the campaign. It also proactively targeted men who seek sex via the internet, an increasing trend. I think you heard the criticism but not the extensive work they do and understand the treasure that is their volunteer and community credibility base.

QAHC also proactively sought to affirm Committed, Honest and Trusting Relationships which actually are a HIV Prevention Strategy. Your government opposed this.

A high percentage of men seek negotiated safety based on trust rather than condoms.

There are only two ways to prevent HIV, Condoms or Trust. Both can break and so understanding is needed if they are to work. Only people who value themselves get to use condoms or be honest, to achieve trust. Homophobia works against HIV Prevention.

Homophobia pushes people into denial where they may get married to prove they are not gay, they may seek sex in the “safety of Anonymity” and put their wives, themselves and others at risk.

Homophobia makes people are afraid to even test. Michael Kirby points out that Commonwealth Countries where Homosexuality is illegal have a higher HIV Rate and in homophobic Jamaica the rate of HIV infection in Gay men has risen from 10% in 1986 to 33% in 2012.

It is valid for QAHC to act against homophobia to reduce HIV.

Your actions have been to divide and conquer QAHC and now I see you also plan to Silence.

I say this, as it is public knowledge that you will write into future Contracts for Community Organizations getting 50% of funding from Queensland Health or other Qld Government agencies that they must not “advocate for State or Federal Legislative Change” or ” include links on their websites to organizations’ websites that advocate for State of Federal legislative change.”

That is undemocratic. To deliver a “king hit” by defunding without talking and then seek to silence parallels the actions of a homophobic schoolyard bully.

I have a long enough view of history to remember how the Qld AIDS Council -Now QAHC  was the home of the push for the decriminalization of Homosexuality in Queensland in 1990.Before that we had to do coded testing for HIV or men wouldn’t test for fear of going to prison. I cared for the last man imprisoned over homosexuality.

I have lobbied for justice despite which Government was  in power, to get Anti-vilification laws after my patient Michael was vilified and murdered. I have lobbied for and end to homosexual panic as a defence for murder but your Government has chosen since the election to not address this.  I lobby since 1990 for Condoms in prison rather than the hypocrisy of educating prisoners to use condoms and then banning them. I petitioned to change the Rape laws in 1997 as before that, only women could be raped and I have cared for 1,131 male victims of sexual assault. I lobby to respect committed, trusting recognised relationships as a way of ending toxic homophobia in our society.

If you don’t want gay men to have high risk sex in public toilets, you must support them to have sex in the bedroom of their homes. This is HIV prevention.

When your Government won’t change the law to end homosexual panic for a non-violent consenting sexual advance, won’t support committed, respected relationships and wastes money on police entrapping men having sex in toilets or sex workers, you are acting to feed homophobia which increases HIV transmission risk.

I know gay Christians who think taking a condom with them is to “plan to sin”. When they then have opportunistic, impulsive sex they believe they deserve to get HIV as punishment.

You can say “Use condoms” until you are blue in the face and it may make you feel good. However the truth is until people value themselves they don’t use condoms, don’t take tests, don’t take medicines once diagnosed and don’t tell others about their HIV status or risky behaviours.

It is vital you understand that the government and community must work together to support individuals valuing themself and each other and that was what QAHC sought to do. There are questions about QAHC’s “shopping list” for community development to Andrew Fraser, the Ex Treasurer, before the last election but did you ask them to show you their HIV funding requests to the Health Minister or talk to them to clarify before judging them?

When we went to the first MAC meeting the TV Advertisement using the Grim Reaper had already been made. The Website has been made without any consultation with MAC and every page of the website features the Grim Reaper as the only picture.

I think your strategy is to want MAC to give your prearranged agenda credibility.

I cannot be a rubber stamp.

Fear is a powerful short term motivator but can actually push some people further into denial where they don’t want to test as they don’t want to know. Many people are immune to fear as they think all they have to do is “take a pill” as they have not seen the multiple deaths as those of us who have been there from the beginning.

Love is a more powerful long term motivator, where people love themselves and each other and so are free to be honest, free to self care, free to talk, free to use condoms or trust.

I will not support a Fear based campaign. I will support a Love based campaign.

I acknowledge that the MAC committee wants to prevent HIV but I have seen the role of the committee is to give you advice without fear or favour and for you to decide whether to accept the advice.

While there was not a vote, there was a “strong consensus” ( See Minutes Page 5)  by the committee to support you and QAHC as the representative of the majority affected community to have a dialogue to re-establish a workable relationship and to fund QAHC even if you want to name the limitations of the use of the money. I had hoped you would be open to this as I once heard you speak at a Justice Mediation Conference about your belief in Restorative Justice and Mediation for Resolution.

I even offered to be or find a mediator for you.

However, I note two in the committee just “want to move forward” as they pre-empt your response to re-establishing a partnership with QAHC will be negative. When I placed these issues on the agenda, I was informed that because of “collaboration with the Senior Director and on advice from the Minister’s office” the agenda has been devised and “your issues have not been added on this occasion”.

Yesterday I receive your clear decision not to revisit or fund QAHC and so I will not raise it any further with MAC. I have no agenda to waste MAC’s time. My only agenda was to preserve a cooperative, respectful working relationship to prevent HIV.

Our society uses an adversarial process in Parliament and in Justice but when it comes to an epidemic called HIV we can’t afford to do anything but be cooperative. We can’t let personality conflicts, differences of opinion or Party Politics rob us of HIV Prevention. I invite you to question whether your action to de-fund QAHC and not talk to them and then silence them in the future is democratic or efficient in HIV prevention.

I also invited MAC to address HIV transmission in Prison as a Health rather than a political decision. It has been transmitted once and there is a risk prisons can become incubators of HIV like they are for Hep C. Sadly, I think governments of all colours are only likely to act if sued rather than act to prevent disease and save life. NSW and Canada have condoms in prisons without the problems some guards may fear in their prejudice.

I also believe no child should leave school without the knowledge to protect themselves from HIV through Condoms or Trusting relationships. Currently the difference in age of consent for boys and girls interferes with HIV education for males between 16 and 18. Education should be a right.

I see Sex workers as being at risk of going underground with the current practice of Police entrapment and believe that HIV education and empowerment is vital if sex workers are to prevent HIV transmission. I am happy to discuss this further.

I was surprised that MAC had to prioritize the employment of a Statistician and the funding of the Seroconversion Study (which analyses how people got infected) as these had lost their previous funding.

I was surprised in the MAC meeting to learn that the Health Department didn’t have a Heterosexual HIV prevention programme despite that being their mandate. It is unfair to blame QAHC for all of the rise in HIV in Queensland.

I was shocked when Qld Positive People QPP was asked to conduct the Periodic Survey which looks at risks behaviour to target prevention but as they didn’t have staff, asked if they could subcontract to QAHC Staff that you said “No”. It was then I realized you had strong opinions against QAHC. I know that the survey is going ahead now and respect that a resolution has been found using an ex QAHC employee.

My commitment to MAC is to not waste a minute of time of the committee once your decision is clear after hearing our suggestion, hence my resignation is appropriate as I believe in collaborative, cooperative partnership approach with dialogue to process differences of opinions.

I am open to future communication if you so choose.

All the best.

Dr. Wendell J. Rosevear.

13-9-12 Footnote:

The document that Mr. Springborg tabled in Parliament to “Show that Healthy Communities QAHC had lost their HIV Focus” was actually a Pre-election survey given to both the ALP and LNP to canvas their commitment to LGBT Health and Community Development. QAHC cooperatively developed another separate document with all the Non-government HIV Prevention agencies outlining the HIV Prevention expectations of whatever new Government was elected.  The one tabled was the LGBT Health and Community development document which was sent to Mr. Andrew Fraser, the Previous ALP Treasurer.

It would have been a more truthful picture and fairer to table both the ALP and LNP’s responses to that Questionaire, plus the Collective HIV Prevention expectation document,  plus QAHC’s  Freely available “Sexual Health Program Strategic Statement 2009-2014 which states as its first Goal : “REDUCE THE TRANSMISSION OF HIV,HEP C and STIs. He could have also tabled the detailed QAHC Contract with Queensland Health that outlines their HIV Prevention work and which is managed separately to all QAHCs other projects and reviewed every six months.  There is only safety in the whole truth.

Australian Christian Lobby – “a good haven for bullies”

Oh, how we need more of this kind of exposure on national television! The case for secularism was brilliantly argued by Drs Marion Maddox and Leslie Cannold and the Reverend Bill Crews this weekend on Seven’s Sunrise program.  At last, we see two Christians and an agnostic stand up to state plainly that the Australian Christian Lobby is a ‘small and unrepresentative group that doesn’t speak for the majority of Christians’ … and that religion is a  ‘good haven for bullies’. Politicians, please take note!

Here’s the video with a  transcript of some of the highlights, below:

Marion Maddox (at 2:22): “… we know for example, that over 50 per cent of self-identified Christians support a right to same-sex marriage.The Australian Christian Lobby want us to think that Christian faith and support for same-sex marriage are diametrically opposed. We know … we know that three out of four Catholics and four out of five Anglicans support a right to assisted death when life has come to an end and is only pain and suffering.

Bill Crews:  … and they do.

Marion Maddox:  … and they do!  The Australian Christian Lobby want us to think that the Christian faith is diametrically opposed to support for assisted euthanasia. Well, it just isn’t.

Samantha Armytage: So, it’s a very powerful lobby …

Marion Maddox:  Well … it’s a very small and unrepresentative group that doesn’t speak for the majority of Christians, but they have been very successful at creating the impression of a groundswell where, in fact, none exists.

Bill Crews:  And religion, in many ways is a good haven for bullies, because, if you believe God’s on your side, then you can do anything you like and say anything you like.

Leslie Cannold (at 3:48): … Marion is absolutely right that there is a disproportionate representation of very orthodox, religious, Christian people in our parliament that is completely disconnected from their representation in the wider community. And what we really need is sort of a secular GetUp. We need an organisation that very, very clearly expresses the views of minority religions, people of no faith, and moderate Christians (who are by far the vast, vast majority) to make sure that religious views are not imposed by one group on another and of people of no faith. Because you have to keep clear about this: that what religious freedom is, is the freedom of everybody to express their religion and not be discriminated against as a consequence of it and not to have one religion dominating another in the public space. And, at the moment, there’s a belief we have a separation of church and state, but, in fact, we really don’t, we have a soft theocracy.

Bill Crews:  That’s the strength of a good, tolerant secular society; that it keeps religions in their place. Because we all know the horrors that happen when religions get in charge of countries …

Natalie Barr (at 6:25) So, Leslie, what’s the message for politicians here? …

Leslie Cannold:  …. the reality is that there is a concerted push by people who are very orthodox and very conservative in their religious views to have a disproportionate say in terms of the way this country is run. And so, what we need to have happen is that the media needs to make sure we look at those politicians, and look at their beliefs. And whether or not – and this is the key – it’s not what they believe, it’s whether or not they want to impose those beliefs on everyone else. And when that’s the case, I think, as voters, we need to know that.

Bill Crews: ’cause religious people can go and live however they like in a free society. It’s just that they don’t have to kind of impose it on everyone else.

Natalie Barr:  Yeah, and that certainly sounds like the Australian way ….

Chrys Stevenson

Leslie Cannold

Dr Leslie Cannold is an award-wining author and columnist, as well as a qualified ethicist and researcher. She is regularly noted as one of Australia’s most influential thinkers. In 2011 Leslie was honoured as Australian Humanist of the Year. Her latest book is an historical novel, The Book of Rachael, published by Text. Leslie is President of Reproductive Choice Australia, which is running the “Let’s End the Stigma” Flashmob.

You can follow Leslie Cannold on Twitter:  @LeslieCannold or find out more about her on her website.

Innocence of the Muslims – a lamentable piece of digital doggerel

OK, I’ve been focused on Catherine Deveny all week so the Sydney riots kinda slipped past me. I’m just now catching up with the week’s news. First thing to do was to watch the trailer of this *shocking* film that has ignited protests throughout the world.

Seriously? SRSLY? THIS is what they’re rioting about? This piece of amateurish trash that would never have seen the light of day if they hadn’t made a big song and dance about it? SRSLY?

As one reviewer said:

“a third grader could have made a better looking movie. The scenes are obviously fake [and] the “so called” actors need to go back to their day jobs ….”

(For the record, I don’t agree with his criticism that the film is overly abusive of Mohammed – that’s the LEAST of its crimes against humanity!)

Anyone, ANYONE, who would riot, or, worse, kill over this lamentable piece of digital doggerel is obviously someone just waiting for the flimsiest excuse to make trouble. Clearly, their concern isn’t to limit the defilement of their beliefs but to spread the ‘blasphemy’ far and wide. If anyone is defiling Islam in this scenario, it’s the protestors who are making a mockery of their religion and causing international embarrassment to the Islamic community.

And if this post inspires anyone to issue a fatwa against me, you can back off.  I’m not worth the trouble. In fact, I’m generally a defender of the Islamic community here in Australia. In my view, they’re a lot less trouble than the fundamentalist Christians: they’re content to follow their religion without imposing it on others, they’re not stridently political like our friend Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby, and when one (or more) of their number steps out of line, they’re quick to condemn the transgression and disassociate themselves from the trouble-makers. If only Australia’s liberal Christians would do the same!

As far as this whole issue is concerned, I’m  having a hard time discerning what is most pathetic: the rabble-rousers who riot over a Z-grade YouTube video which has everyone laughing far more at the film-makers and actors than their target OR the talentless hacks involved in this tacky little film which has less technical merit than the wobbly-walled horror of the first series of Dr Who.

Fuck me dead, what’s the world coming to?

Chrys Stevenson

When Dev met the Rev – an amazing insight from a former Christian

Recommending: An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny  by Jane Douglas

During the past year I’ve had the great privilege of coming to know and love (in a strictly NON-Biblical sense) the amazing Jane Douglas. Jane is a writer, an editor, an artist, a photographer, an ex-wife, a mother of seven (yes, seven!), a student and a gay rights campaigner. She is, quite simply, an amazing, intelligent, articulate, feisty, switched on woman.

The story of Jane’s life is both bizarre and gruelling. It will be some time before Jane is ready to tell her whole story, but, oh, I do look forward to that day!

When I first heard just a little of Jane’s history I can vividly remember saying, “Fuck me dead, Jane!”

I also recall that she wrote back to me saying,  “Do you know how nice it is to have friends who say ‘fuck me dead’?”

You see, for 20 years, Jane was involved in the Quiverfull sect. It’s cultish but members attend mainstream churches so Jane’s religious life was not spent in some weirdo Waco-like compound. She has wide experience of the kinds of churches that everyday Aussie Christians attend.

As Jane explained to me, in Quiverfull, rather than the ‘church‘ being the cult, each family is its own little cult. Adhering to the kind of marriage Archbishop Jensen advocated on Q&A this week, in a Quiverfull marriage, the husband is the head of the household and the wife is submissive (hence the seven kids!)

Watching Q&A on Monday night ignited some pretty unpleasant memories for Jane and, after reading my blog post,  she felt compelled to write to Catherine Deveny.  Jane CC’d me in on her email to Dev and, because her letter was so powerful both Catherine and I encouraged her to share it publicly – providing she was comfortable in doing so.  In fact, as soon as I read it, I rang Jane and said, “You HAVE to publish this!”

And so, last night Jane published “An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny”  on her blog, Putting Her Oar In.

I note that someone who has already read Jane’s post has just tweeted: “WOW! – in the fullest appreciation & amazement that “WOW!” was invented for”

That was pretty much my own reaction.

Why? Because apart from being an excellent writer, Jane’s past experience gives her a unique perspective on the dynamics between Jensen and Deveny on Monday night. While some of us thought Jensen’s demeanor was oddly ‘creepy’ it was hard to put a finger on just what was going on between them that made (some) of us so uncomfortable. Dev has written about feeling that he was pure evil. (I must admit to having the same visceral reaction to Cardinal Pell!)

I’ll say no more, but simply recommend that you read Jane’s take on what might have been going on on Monday night. It’s certainly something that most of us would have been oblivious to but Jane makes a compelling case ….

Please read and enjoy the work of a brilliant, new, emerging writer – my friend, Jane Douglas.

 An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny 

Chrys Stevenson