Rev. Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) and member of the NSW legislative council made the following comment on September 17: "I am very concerned that week by week the ALP is adopting the permissive agenda of the Green political party — first the Homosexual Relationship Register Bill, second the homosexual Same Sex Adoption Bill, then the proposed Surrogacy Same Sex Bill and now the Kings Cross injecting room."
Whatever these policy changes by the ALP may represent in terms of its new relationship with the Greens — increasing need for Greens preferences and possibly even Greens support for supply in the lower house — Nile’s concerns reveal a lot about the conservative agenda of the Christian right.
The CDP’s move towards Islamophobia over the last few years has done nothing to diminish its ongoing agenda to dictate sexual and family freedoms.
Sydney MP Clover Moore’s same-sex adoption bill was passed in the NSW parliament but amended in the lower house by planning minister Frank Sartor to allow adoption agencies to act on the wishes of the birth parents regarding the kind of home into which the child is placed.
In the upper house, two amendments were passed on the bill. One, moved by Attorney-General John Hatzistergos narrowed the exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Act so that only faith-based agencies would be exempt.
A second amendment moved by Nile gave birth parents access to more information about the home where their child would be placed.
The religious welfare organisations Anglicare and Catholicare were among the most aggressive opponents of the bill, with Anglicare even threatening to withdraw its services if the bill was passed. However, the Rev. Harry Herbert of the Uniting Church Synod spoke in favour of the bill.
Nile accused Herbert of misrepresenting the Uniting Church on the issue. He announced his intention to survey Uniting Church members to disprove Herbert’s claim.
“[He] claims the Uniting Church supports same-sex homosexual adoptions but has not contacted the hundreds of Uniting Church parishes or members for their opinion. Is it a guided dictatorship? I will survey Uniting Church parishes to obtain their opinion”, Nile said.
Since the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977 gave exemptions to religious organisations and private educators, queer students, teachers and workers at private and religious schools face discrimination and homophobia. Many choose to remain in the closet rather than face bullying and potentially losing their enrolment or job.
To whatever extent the ALP is becoming more “permissive” in its policies, it is following the shift to the left in Australian voting trends.
Churches, however, with disproportionate and undemocratic access to property, money and social capital, as well as unfair tax breaks, continue to wield their power as a force for social conservatism and patriarchy, with no accountability.