The religious right was smashed at the election. What happens now?

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Images: Sky News Australia, 10 News First

The religious right got absolutely walloped in the recent federal election, but it doesn’t mean the political attacks on LGBTIQ+ people will cease, writes Brian Grieg.

The federal election capped off a disastrous ten years in which the religious right has lost every battle. Now they’ve lost almost all of their spear carriers in parliament.

Largely represented by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), religious conservatives have thrown everything at stopping marriage equality, abortion law reform, trans law reform and voluntary euthanasia.

Then they pushed for special rights through a Religious Discrimination Act. They failed at this too, despite raising millions through donations.

The recent election all but cleansed parliament of its nastiest anti-LGBTIQ+ campaigners. George Christiansen and Gladys Liu are gone. And leaving the senate on June 30 will be Amanda Stoker and Eric Abetz (pictured above, left to right).

In the ACT, David Pocock, a strong LGBTIQ ally, became the territory’s first Independent Senator, replacing homophobe Zed Seselja.

The huge swing to Teal Independents and Greens saw Liberals turfed out of their seats.


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Attack on transgender Australians backfired

In trying to put the best spin on this, the ACL brazenly took credit for helping oust Liberals who’d opposed the Religious Discrimination Bill.

In particular, they targeted Dave Sharma (Wentworth), Bridget Archer (Bass), Trent Zimmerman (North Sydney) Fiona Martin (Reid) and Katie Allen (Higgins).

Of those, Bridget Archer was the only one to survive and had a swing to her. But of those who lost, all but one was replaced by an Independent whose policy position on LGBTIQ+ rights is far better than the dumped member. One seat also flipped to Labor, helping it win government.

Meanwhile, the attack on trans people via the provocative preselection of Katherine Deves in Warringah backfired.

The sitting Independent saw a swing towards her. The anti-trans hysteria Deves created in the media contributed to the losses of metropolitan Liberals, including Josh Frydenberg, Tim Wilson and Trevor Evans.

The Private Member’s Bill by Senator Clare Chandler – backed by Scott Morrison – to ban trans women from sport was quietly shelved. For now.

So, does all this mean that political attacks on LGBTIQ+ people will now cease? That the new government will advance a raft of long-overdue protections?

No, it doesn’t.

Conservatives will import US-style culture wars here

First, we can see the huge anti-LGBTIQ+ backlash currently underway in the US.

Religious conservatives are legislating against LGBTIQ+ support in schools, attacking trans people in sport and will pressure the Supreme Court to overturn equal marriage in the wake of the overturned Roe v Wade.

The ACL in Australia will import the same culture wars. They’ll use the same arguments and the same political strategies to seek to undermine our protections here.

Second, the new Labor Government is still stuck in its ‘small target’ mindset. It has no appetite to pursue even modest LGBTIQ+ law reform.

Albanese was silent on trans issues during the Katherine Deves fiasco. Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus (pictured below) – now Attorney-General – failed to respond to key questions about Labor’s commitment to protecting LGBTIQ+ teachers in faith schools.

Labor has promised a Religious Discrimination Bill this term but is coy about the contents.

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Image: ABC News

Time for reform, not small target cowardice

All of this points to the conservative politics of western Sydney guiding Labor nationally. This is despite all other states being more progressive and advanced.

The mindset seems to be that if going silent on LGBTIQ+ issues during the campaign helped it win – then staying silent will help it govern. At least, that will be the spin coming from ALP Headquarters in New South Wales.

However, this view is misguided. Labor’s lowest primary vote since 1912 was because huge numbers of voters swung to Greens and Independents with policies much further to the left than Labor’s.

The Albanese Government will have to learn quickly that LGBTIQ+ issues will continue to be a bushfire on the political landscape. This is because the religious right has never been so panicked or vengeful.

Labor has also been outflanked by minor parties that won’t let these things drop. With the ACL weakened and exposed, now is the time to act on law reform: no more small-target cowardice.

The recent Census results show that Australians are increasingly secular, with a significant jump in those stating “no religion”.

Those identifying as Christian fell from 52% to 44% in five years. If this trend continues, by the next term of Government in 2027, a majority of Australians will be non-religious.

Brian Greig OAM is a former senator and veteran LGBTIQ+ advocate.

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