Federal shadow health minister Catherine King has said a Labor government would seek to crack down on dangerous “gay conversion” therapies across Australia.
Only Victoria currently has legislation outlawing the practice, but King told Fairfax Media it would be a “personal priority” for her in government to work with all states and territories to bring in relevant legislation.
“Gay conversion therapy is discredited and dangerous,” King said.
“As the federal shadow health minister, I urge all jurisdictions to follow Victoria’s lead and ban gay conversion therapy.
“If this issue isn’t resolved before the next election, and I’m lucky enough to serve as health minister afterwards, it’ll be a personal priority for me.”
Last week a Victorian branch of the Liberal party put forward a motion for the party’s upcoming state conference that called for legislation allowing healthcare providers to “offer counselling out of same-sex attraction.” The motion was swiftly pulled by state president Michael Kroger after public outcry.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC Radio last week that while he was steadfastly opposed to “gay conversion” therapy he defended the motion as “freedom of speech”.
“It’s not something I support, it’s not federal government policy, it’s not going to be federal government policy and we’re not about to change our position on that,” he said.
“People are entitled to have different views, views that I disagree with.”
A spokesperson for Hunt said that he “remains utterly opposed to gay conversion therapy. It has not, and will never be, policy under a Coalition Government.”
Ms King said as a health minister who is also responsible for mental health, Mr Hunt should actively work with the states to ban the practice.
“Greg Hunt was willing to lead a national process to ban dodgy cosmetic surgeons – why not gay conversion therapy?” she said.
“The minister either supports conversion therapy, or he’s kowtowing to the extreme right of his party at the expense of LGBTI Australians.”
Fairfax Media reported last month that “gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapy had disappeared underground in Australia and was “hidden in evangelical churches and ministries, taking the form of exorcisms, prayer groups or counselling disguised as pastoral care.”
The practice has been widely condemned as unethical and dangerous by numerous bodies around the world including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society and peak psychology bodies in the US and the UK.
The Australian Medical Association “unequivocally condemns” the practice, saying it’s “harmful to both the individuals who are subjected to it, and society more broadly, as it perpetuates the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a disorder which requires a cure.”
“Trying to ‘pray the gay away’ nearly killed me. I’m not the only one,” he said.
“So-called conversion therapy can cause depression, self-loathing and even suicide. I prayed to God asking him to either heal me, or kill me. I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.