Minority groups are important, but majority groups are too.
That’s the simple summary of a speech I made last week in the Legislative Assembly that thrust me into a media storm and saw my Labor colleague Chris Steel comparing me to Donald Trump.
I am blown away by the reaction to the speech and by the way that it was so widely misrepresented in the media.
So much of the commentary on social media was based around the ‘click bait’ headline suggesting that I said that heterosexual white males are left out of everything… as a universal statement. I was talking about the government’s focus on inclusion and that in its quest to pick and choose who to include in our society, many groups including majorities fall through the gaps. I applauded the government for some of the work it’s done in this space, but suggested that inclusion must be about everyone.
My speech made mention of the alarmingly high suicide rate among middle-aged Australian men and I’m certainly not the first to shine a light on this. Nobel Laureate Sir Angus Deaton recently spoke about the topic.
He said, “Australia has a problem. Suicide is at a 13 year high and suicide among middle aged men in Australia has increased dramatically. In a decade to 2014, the suicide rate among Australian men aged 55-64 has surged by 58 percent.”
No government in Australia should ignore this.
Constituent feedback suggests to me that there is a large number of people in this city who feel marginalised but who don’t fit into one of the ‘approved’ minority groups.
Joe said “If you are the male victim of ongoing domestic violence you are laughed at. The police genuinely laughed at me. Male victims don’t count.”
Ben said “When I raised the issues that I was struggling with some stressful work situations, I was told to toughen up. The support for me just wasn’t available and if I didn’t have a strong personal network I don’t know what I would have done.”
Luke said, “When I became homeless after several years as the primary carer of my two kids, women in the same position were able to access a range of services and grants to which I had no access because I was male.”
Andrew said, “The only purpose we seem to serve these days is to provide the resources for the government’s social projects. We are the economic packhorses.”
Louise wrote to me about her 45 year old son who’s struggling to provide for his family while going through a divorce. “The system has come down hard against him. Whatever he does is never enough. He’s an interstate truck driver. I go to bed most nights hoping he will get through the day. I’m very concerned there is very little support for men 30 years and beyond.”
Ian said, “The system had no acknowledgement of fathers as primary care givers. When my marriage ended I became homeless and completely lost contact with my children.”
Ed said, “As a white person, the pressure to feel ashamed or even disgusted with my skin colour is unbelievable.”
Because of the brutality of this government’s rates and charges juggernaut, more and more people are being pushed into the margins. If you’re from a minority group then there’s a serious chance that the government will reach out to assist you and include you. If you’re not a member of a minority group then the system doesn’t cater for you.
The current same sex marriage debate provides a classic example of exactly what I’m talking about. LGBITQ people who are being bullied and vilified should be supported. What doesn’t wash with me is that this government will ignore ‘No’ voters who have been vilified because…well because they’re not real people are they? They’re voting no, so they’re not worthy of the government’s support. The government has clearly demonstrated it’s only going to look after people who conform to its world view. I think that’s rubbish. Inclusion is about everyone.