A YOUNG gay man has confronted politicians on Q&A, saying he was targeted by bullies who said being gay was ‘no better than being a paedophile’.
The Nationals senator, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, was slammed for “belittling” the man and for “splitting hairs” over LGBTI attempted suicide statistics.
The young man, Gordon, said he had endured “slurs on a daily basis” at high school and was spat upon by more aggressive bullies who accused him of being “riddled with AIDS”
“Mr Canavan, I’m a young gay man who had the misfortune of attending an underprivileged public school,” he said.
“I endured slurs on a daily basis, was spat upon by more aggressive bullies and found countless numbers of notes stuck in my locker, decrying me as bringing shame to my family or being riddled with AIDS and telling me that I was wasting my life.
“I was also told that I was threat to children and that being gay was no better than being a paedophile.
“Now you, Mr Canavan, have criticised my community as being delicate little flowers who need to grow a spine in the face of abuse. Isn’t the role of leadership to support society’s most vulnerable, rather than kick them while they’re down in hopes of some political point scoring?”
Viewers took to social media to express their disgust, with one writing: “Never thought I’d see Matt Canavan on #qanda belittle a gay questioner and say ‘only 2800 LGBTQ suicides last year’.
Another said: “Matt Canavan you are a disgrace ‘only 2800 suicides’ my god”.
Senator Canavan responded that he had been speaking about both sides of the debate, and was concerned about the fact Australians, in a modern democracy, were struggling to respect other people’s opinions in a debate over whether to legalise gay marriage.
“What I’m saying is I think there’s delicate little flowers on both sides who can’t seem to be able to accept that some people have a different view to you,” he said.
“It’s frustrating when others seek to shut your view down, just because you hold a particular view.”
Nationals senator Matt Canavan says people worried about the same sex marriage debate should 'grow a spine'.
He was then asked by fellow panellist, Greens senator Richard Di Natale, about whether he had tried to silence bank Westpac, after it sent an email to staff urging them to vote Yes.
The email had included estimates on suicide rates in Australia and experts’ opinions that a Yes vote would reduce the number of LGBTI people taking their own life.
The bank later clarified that the research showed it would reduce attempted suicide rates.
After the two senators clashed over whether Mr Canavan had accused Westpac of blackmail, he said: “Let’s go with the facts — that particular note you’re referring to, they accuse people who support traditional marriage, they accused them of causing 3000 suicides in Australia every year when last year there was only 2800 suicides.”
Research released earlier this year found that suicide rates among gay and lesbian adolescents dropped by 14 per cent where same-sex marriage was legal.
The US study also found that regions with same-sex marriage policy were linked to a 7 per cent decrease in suicide attempts across all high school students.
Labor MP Amanda Rishworth said splitting hairs over the numbers wasn’t helping.
Westpac was trying to make the point that there was research to show young LGBTI Australians were struggling with their sexuality and did not feel included, and that a Yes vote would go some way to reducing that.
Senator Canavan was given a final chance to explain his view but it didn’t appease his questioner.
“What is very concerning I think in this debate is that it is clear that lots of people that want to change the Marriage Act and I fully respect someone having a view to do that, there’s some good arguments for it, but quite often you hear through the allegations that are made that support traditional marriage — something that’s lasted thousands of years and is still the case in 88 per cent of countries around the world — that view should not even be allowed to expressed.”
“What I’m very concerned in the case of a Yes vote, is that there is no Bill before the parliament about what type of protections will be put in place to protect parents, to allow their children to be taught a version of marriage that they support in schools, to protect those of religious positions or other persuasions that want to have another view.”
“In the case of a Yes vote, there may be no protections put in place for those viewpoints.”
Host Tony Jones then gave the young man the chance to say whether he accepted Senator Canavan’s arguments.
“Not really, no,” he said. “We’ve lived in a democracy for more than 100 years — why is this one debate as you call it, which is about people’s lives at the end of the day, why does it need a different brand of democracy to every other law we’ve ever passed?”
Meanwhile, Senator Canvan and Richard Di Natale clashed over renewable fuels and Adani. Mr Di Natale, who was wearing a #Stop Adani T-shirt, lashed out at Labor and Liberal senators for their position on renewable energy.
“Look at what the business community is doing. Don’t look at what we’re [the Greens] saying,” he said. “The business community is saying we know where the future is — it’s not in coal, it’s in renewables.”
“When Malcolm Turnbull said to AGL ‘We want you to keep open that dirty coal-fired power station for another few years’ — that thing that belongs in 1960s Russia — AGL said ‘Nup, we don’t want this thing. We’re a renewable energy company, we want to build more solar, more wind, battery storage technology.’ That’s where AGL see the future ... It’s politicians who are getting in the way,” the Greens leader said.
Senator Canavan disagreed and said the focus should be on lowering energy prices, arguing that the reason prices had skyrocketed was because coal stations were being shut down.
“We need to be focused on lowering prices. That’s what people want. It’s clear that the removal of those coal-fired power stations increased prices,” he said.
Mr Di Natale also said that if the proposal for the Adani mine goes ahead, that’s the end for the Great Barrier Reef.
“The reality is if this mine goes ahead we lose the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Di Natale said.
“This mine can’t go ahead,” Mr Di Natale said, adding that Adani was a company that has “left a toxic environmental legacy wherever it’s gone”.
“All of you will be paying for this, through your taxes, because the government wants to throw a billion dollars at it.
“If Labor is elected the mine will be dead because no one will invest in it.”
Viewers responded on Twitter, criticising Mr Canavan for inflating job numbers in relation to Adani, with one saying “15,000 jobs? Not even the most ardent supporters of Adani are quoting that figure”, while another suggested we have a postal survey on Adani rather than same-sex marriage.