Victorian Coalition MPs erupt over gay conversion therapy

Asia's Tech News Daily

Victorian Coalition MPs have been involved in a heated private party room meeting and debate into gay conversion therapy mere weeks after one Liberal promised the party would not amend new laws into the disturbing practice if it came into power.

Liberal MP James Newbury last month made a public guarantee the Victorian opposition would not amend new conversion therapy laws, passed in February, that made it illegal to attempt to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Liberal Party will not be changing these laws, I am giving an absolutely iron-clad guarantee,” Mr Newbury said.

“These laws are about a practise which supposes that you can choose being gay – you cannot choose to be gay, you are born gay. There is no praying that will change who you are.”

The Age

Camera IconLiberal MP James Newbury said you cannot choose to be gay. Credit: Supplied

But audio of a private party room meeting leaked by The Age newspaper on Thursday highlighted deep divisions within the party, with some MPs fiercely rejecting Mr Newbury’s promise.

“My assumption from my conversation is that the shadow cabinet process and the party room process no longer applies to any decisions we’ve made,” Nationals leader Peter Walsh said in the audio.

“That if a shadow minister changes and they put their own personal views on a policy irrespective of what’s been through the processes of our two parties, I think we’ve totally lost our way.”

Following the party’s leadership overhaul in September, Mr Newbury was promoted to the opposition frontbench as equality spokesman.

His views went entirely against previous party policies that were tough on gender issues, including campaigning against LGBTIQ+ education in schools.

Mr Walsh said the Nationals would not support Nr Newbury’s promise.

“Just because James has been appointed to shadow doesn’t give him the right to change history and put a very definite view that is counter to what’s been agreed to by our party processes,” Mr Walsh said.

“From a Nationals point of view, we will not be supporting James on this position, simple as that.”

The Age

Camera IconNationals leader Peter Walsh won’t support Mr Newbury’s promise. Credit: News Corp Australia

The dispute follows allegations former leader Michael O’Brien promised the Australian Christian Lobby and other faith groups the laws would be amended if the Coalition won the state election next year.

The new laws, which gained support from the Greens, Reason Party and the Animal Justice Party, hand down hefty fines or jail time of up to a decade for anyone caught trying to suppress or change someone’s sexuality.

When the laws passed in February, the Victorian opposition did not oppose the legislation but did try to amend them amid concern over religious freedoms and backlash from faith groups.

The Age

Camera IconHard-right Liberal MP Bernie Finn also rejected Mr Newbury’s promise. Sarah Matray Credit: News Corp Australia

Liberal MP Bernie Finn at the time said he believed the Bill went too far and called it an “attack on basic freedoms”.

During Tuesday’s meeting Mr Finn insisted the party would not sway from its commitment to religious groups to amend the laws, telling the meeting “what do we say to them?”

“We gave a commitment; you might not care about commitments but a lot of us do,” Mr Finn said.

An opposition spokesperson on Thursday maintained the party would not amend the laws.

Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino on Thursday said the Coalition needed to get out of the way and support the important piece of legislation.

He said the comments offered a glimpse into what the party was like.

“That was a revealing insight into the rubble that is the Victorian opposition,” Mr Merlino told reporters.

“I think people can see a glimpse in terms of what they are really like, and my view is that they need to get out of the way.”

rhiannon.tuffield@news.com.au

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