Rudd’s New Cabinet: Thank God It’s Only Till The Election

Senator Jacinta Collins

Senator Jacinta Collins

Kevin Rudd has scratched together a cabinet from what’s left of the senior ranks of the Labor Party, and filled the gaps from the junior levels. It’s not a bad effort under the circumstances, but it’s clearly only a stopgap solution to see us through to the election.

Thank God – literally – because one of the most anti-gay Senators has been placed in charge of what was hitherto the most pro-gay ministry. Jacinta Collins – anti-gay, anti-abortion, Roman Catholic, former Shoppies Union official – has replaced Mark Butler at Mental Health and Ageing. As Crikey reports today:

The most bizarre appointment in Kevin Rudd’s new cabinet is that of Victorian Senator Jacinta Collins, promoted from a parliamentary secretaryship  . . . to a cabinet position, as the new Minister for Mental Health and Ageing . . . .

Collins is from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association and holds the social views one expects of a Shoppie: she is stridently anti-abortion and a diehard opponent of same-sex marriage; “stable, biological parenting” should be fostered “as a social norm” she said in reference to the same-s-x marriage bill last year.

Less than a fortnight ago, Collins helped vote down a bill recognising overseas same-s-x marriages. . . . Collins was a winner last year of an award for “Christian Values” from the “Christian Values Institute”.

A noted LGBTI activist said he was “reeling” from the news. Mental Health & Ageing is one of the biggest sources of LGBTI funding.

The previous Minister, Mark Butler, who moves to Environment and Climate Change, was one our best friends in the government, helping to steer through the Aged Care Sex Discrimination Amendment last week, and locking down funding for LGBTI age care initiatives before he left.

Thank God indeed, therefore, that this is only an interim cabinet, and Collins is only there till the election. And thank, well, whoever you like, that powerful allies like Albanese, Plibersek and Wong outrank Collins and are well placed to keep her strictly in check.

Collins blamed the Victorian state election defeat on Labor talking about gay marriage and pandering to the Greens, which she said hurt Labor. She told the Herald Sun:

Already traditional Labor voters are confused about what we stand for and this will simply be seen as a sign of Labor being out of touch with the community,” she told the Herald Sun. Gay marriage is the last thing on their minds. Labor must not be spooked by the Greens’ guerilla tactics … pandering to Greens’ fringe issues has gone too far.

She’s not fond of what she calls “the self-appointed enlightened university educated inner city professionals” in the party.The ALP

“must always favour traditional Labor voters, who believe that being raised by a mother and father is what is best for our kids”. Rather puzzlingly, this view seems to assume that no gay people live in suburbia and that homosexuality exists only among the tertiary-educated. [The Age]

With Collins now running mental health: will she be as supportive as Butler to the Reconnect homelessness program, parts of which specifically help LGBTI youth, and will she continue funding the National LGBTI Health Alliance suicide prevention and mental health program?

We could be in for a bumpy ride. Let’s hope it’s a short one.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)