Comment: Postal Survey

Rebecca Schneider

It has been 13 years since the Howard government changed the Marriage Act to explicitly disallow same-sex marriage, and this postal survey might be the way Australia finally changes the Act again. If the overall result is yes, the Government follows through and lets a bill be debated in Parliament, and enough MPs follow through and vote yes. It doesn’t need to be this complex.

In Germany recently, there was a one-week turnaround between an acknowledgement that the issue need to be resolved, and the passage of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage – the law will come into effect on October 1st. On October 1st, Australia will be 20 days in to a 57-day survey period to determine if majority public support exists (a question already answered in the affirmative by opinion polls from all sides of politics many times over the last few years).

It’s true that this postal survey will – if it survives the two High Court challenges – probably provide Australia’s first real political pathway to same-sex marriage. It’s probably true that without this, the law wouldn’t change at least until the 46th Parliament in 2019 or later. However, there’s a point where even if it is the only politically feasible way to same-sex marriage, it isn’t worth it.

The absolute hatred and vitriol that the LGBTI* community would be exposed to throughout a debate is very real, and already happening. It’s targeted, misleading, disgusting, and dangerous, often with no actual connection to the notion of same-sex marriage, and often denying the humanity of LGBTI* people altogether. It’s true that this doesn’t stop without the postal survey, however the survey intensifies the opposition.

No person, whether they’re young or otherwise, whether they’ve been dealing with the hatred that gets thrown at LGBTI* Australians for months or decades, deserves to have voices like that amplified against them. There is a way to argue against same-sex marriage without being cruel, but it doesn’t take much to predict the ‘no’ campaign won’t do that. They’re calling themselves a silent majority. They aren’t silent, we know who they are. We know their arguments. We know they’re hurtful, and upsetting, and misleading. We know that giving them a reason to push those arguments even further into the public arena is harmful to LGBTI* people.

This postal survey shouldn’t happen, but if it does, we know what the debate is going to look like. That’s why it’s so important that – even if we think the whole idea of a postal survey on minority rights is ridiculous and offensive – those in support of same-sex marriage vote, and campaign for others to vote, yes. Boycotting the survey won’t make the worst opposition disappear, and nor will supporting LGBTI* people. However, support does so much more to help reduce the impact of harmful debate than silence.

Rebecca is a second year Law/Political Science student.

Is Trump Reagan?

Guy Exton

Trump supporters love to compare the current President to President Reagan. ey may have a point.

On the surface, the lives of the current and former President are remarkably similar. Neither were career politicians, Reagan was a B-grade actor and Trump a C-grade television host. Reagan was the oldest President in history – before Trump was elected. Both were Democrats before being elected as Republicans, and both even used the slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Dig a little deeper, and the seemingly perfect similarities that Trump supporters love to in ate begin to buckle. Reagan was Governor of California, President of the Screen Actors Guild and increasingly ideologically charged throughout his career before running for the Presidency. e closest Trump got to politics before he took the plunge in 2015 was to claim that Obama was born in Africa – because, you know, he’s black. Reagan was born into a Democratic family before evolving into a Republican. e current President has been a member of the Republican, Independence and Democratic party. If you’re American, that’s all of them.

Recently in his rst solo press conference as President, Trump casually declared that his 306 vote win was “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.” It was not. anks to the press – and the 1st amendment – a reporter was quick to rebut that “In fact, President Obama got 365… and George H.W. Bush 426.” Despite Trump’s glaring ignorance and impressive ability to lie, he was right about one thing: Ronald Reagan’s massive win. In 1981, Reagan won 44 states, 489 electoral votes and the popular vote by 8.5 million. Skip forward to 2016 and President Trump loses the popular vote by 2.5 million votes. One of the biggest di erences between the two men is their popularity – and honesty about it.

Despite this massive margin in public approval, it is surprising that Trump will probably have far more power than Reagan ever did. For all 8 years of Reagan’s Presidency, the House of Representatives was in Democratic hands. e pedigree of the 1980 Republican was considerably to the le of today’s bunch. Compare this to a radically conservative House, Senate and White House that Trump gets to play with. Trump has already had the opportunity to appoint another conservative to the Supreme Court bench, and with two liberal justices hovering around the 80-year-old mark, Trump may have an opportunity to create a 2:7 liberal to conservative ratio. For all Trump’s talk of his ability to negotiate, he won’t have to use it nearly as much as Reagan did.

Hidden under this pile of di erences, however, lies an unambiguous similarity.

Republicans like to focus on the theory and romance of Reagan rather than the fact that 7 million additional people became homeless under his administration, that he lost a surplus and created a de cit of over $USD 1 trillion, he traded arms for hostages with Iran or the fact that taking a more aggressive stance with the Soviet Union was a 50/50 between victory and obliteration.

Perhaps in that respect, Trump is most similar to Reagan: his supporters are remarkably willing to overlook reality and fact, and believe in the man they want to see.

Guy Exton is a second year Arts student, studying politics and history. As a Political Cartoonist and regular columnist for Woroni, Guy focuses on the world of international politics with Trump in charge.

Why Are We So Scared of Men Being Pregnant?: The need to destroy the gender binary and norms entrenched in Australian society

Kirsty Dale

“Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire” – as Thomas Beatie, a prominent transgender man, put it. We typically see pregnancy as an exclusively female act, but male identify and appearing individuals are also capable of this. Individuals born with female sex characteristics and reproductive capacity that identify as male and have made a physical transition to this thus subvert our expectation of gender in our binary societal views. Pregnant transgender males are not the norm in Australia or any Western country. It’s imperative that the law recognises the existence of these individuals and offers them the same rights and protections relating to pregnancy as cis-women.

The medical eld regards transgender people as suffering from a condition called ‘gender dysphoria’ where they have continual and strong feelings of discomfort associated with their gender identity not being consistent with their biological sex. Pregnant transgender males often struggle with an even stronger sense of gender dysphoria as they feel detached from their chosen male identity in doing something society considers an inherently female act – giving birth.

A recent study by A.D. Light took surveys of 41 transgender males who had experienced pregnancy and delivered a baby after they had commenced their transition from female to male. Falling pregnant required them to stop their hormone replacement therapy for the period leading up to the pregnancy and throughout, which often led to the reemergence of their gender dysphoria as their bodies became more feminine again. The men recorded various responses to pregnancy. Some nally felt happy and at peace knowing their bodies were doing something useful that other men’s bodies couldn’t do: “It was relieving to feel comfortable in the body I’d been born with.” But for most, the experience of pregnancy heightened the feeling of gender dysphoria as pregnancy is a “bizarrely feminized world” increasing the gap between some transgender men’s psychological identity and their biological sex: “Heavy time, having a baby, not passing as male, all the changes and a society telling me to just be happy.”

The study found that unfortunately the majority of the men reported negative experiences with the healthcare system. Hostile looks, suspicion and double takes were moderate and typical experiences reported by the respondents. In an extreme incidence one participant was reported to Child Protective Services for being a “tranny with a baby.” There were also instances of transgender men being turned away from doctors and healthcare professionals refusing to use correct pronouns. This negative, discriminatory and irresponsible response from the healthcare system needs reform including establishment of specialised ethics committees. If a patient presents with the capacity and desire to have children (a uterus, fertile eggs, donor sperm) then there is absolutely no reason to deny them this vital service.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 16 provides everyone with the right to marry and found a family. Although equal marriage rights are strongly advocated for, transgender issues do not receive the same widespread support or attention. This right to marry and found a family should be no different for transgender people as article two dictates that the Declaration applies to all people without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The provision for health and wellbeing in the declaration makes special reference to motherhood as needing additional assistance and care. This reference to ‘motherhood’ is clearly outdated in the current social climate where our society sees fathers taking a greater role in parenting, and in particular instances of entering ‘motherhood’ themselves. The UN would do well to change this reference to ‘motherhood’ to the broader term ‘parenthood’ to ensure adequate and equal recognition of this.

Transgender men have been discriminated against for expressing the wish to have children or merely retaining the capacity to do so. In the case of Western Australia v AH [2010], the WA Court of Appeal denied two female-to male applicants the right to be issued gender reassignment certificates on the basis they had not undergone invasive surgery to remove internal female reproductive organs and create male genitalia. The applicants did not see these organs as disruptive to their gender identity, and did not think surgery was an appropriate response to their existence. Phalloplasty, the artificial creation of a penis is not performed in Australia due to an extremely high risk factor with low success rate.

The decision in WA v AH has since been overturned by the High Court of Australia replacing this with the requirement that they only be socially rep- resented as male. Unfortunately the preference for female-male transgender people to be permanently and irreversibly infertile still lingers in many countries around the world. This approach condones the surgical ‘mutilation’ of transgender bodies. So it might be shock that most of Australia’s state legislation is yet to re ect this precedent.

All states and territories excepting Western Aus- tralia and the ACT still require a ‘sex-affirmation’ procedure to correct the sex on one’s birth certif- icate. It is unclear in the legislation what exactly a ‘sex-affirmation’ procedure entails, but it is defined in South Australia as a procedure that alters the genitals and other sexual characteristics of a person.

Overwhelmingly, the denial of adequate healthcare to transgender men seeking or undergoing pregnancy leads to discrimination, significant health risks, and a significant impact on general wellbeing. This flies in contravention of international human rights, although there is some necessary progress needed in that area. Domestic legislative reform in line with improved representation and education of gender and sexual identity would help spearhead a change in how we view non-binary conforming and transgender individuals and their reproductive rights.

Juris Doctor Online

Olivia Sparrow

The law school has recently introduced the JDO – a Juris Doctor degree wholly delivered online. Teaching has just begun, however there’s been a bit of a backlash since the announcement, particularly from the postgraduate community on campus. Queries abound of ‘Do I still have to get up for 9am lectures?’ ‘But what is this crazy new technology?’ ‘Won’t this dilute the reputation of my degree?’ ‘Will they have to still pay the student and amenities fees?’ So here’s the rough breakdown.

The JDO will give online students the same qualification as on-campus JDs, so everyone will end up with a Juris Doctor at the end. The ‘O’ part is merely short-hand for the law faculty to differentiate between the students. The faculty insists that the new degree will not detract from the current on-campus version; it will instead allow students who would be otherwise unable to study postgrad law, i.e. those who can’t pick up and move to Canberra (or any other university town that offers the JD).

However, there are gaping inconsistencies between the two degrees. The JDO will be delivered in an entirely different style. Classes will be delivered in small ‘webinars’ (whyyyy does this word exist) with far fewer students than tutorials and seminars on campus. There won’t be lectures. Rather, the JDO classes start with a ‘trigger question’ to prompt discussion and research – a complex and multi-faceted problem with the aim of students learning content in collaboration and through the lens of the question. This combination of online delivery with trigger questions is purportedly a world ffirst. But does it mean that on-campus students could be disadvantaged with their larger class sizes and conservative teaching delivery?

Additionally, JDO courses differ from those on-campus. Taught according to a ‘tri-cluster’ system (i.e. all subjects underpinned by concepts of FAL, legal theory and LJE), subjects are combined to be more logical for legal practice, such as torts and litigation, equity and corps. The theory is that students will gain a broader and more practical understanding, and avoid that pesky ‘you’ll learn that when you’re older’ answer. While these subjects will be differentiated from the on-campus subjects with different titles and course codes, they’re no longer comparable to the on-campus subjects. It’s problematic that the faculty insists that online students are getting the same degree while studying completely different subjects, whether or not the students ultimately achieve the same outcomes.

Finally, JDO students will have to pay the same amount as on-campus students, despite discrep- ancies in the forms of course delivery. Their fees will also include students and amenities, even though they’re not on-campus to enjoy most of them. There will also be issues with representation of JDO students by organisations such as PARSA and the LSS, who currently feel unable to adequately communicate and engage with this new online community.

As Education Director, I think online delivery of the JD could be an accessible and inclusive option for people who can’t or don’t want the lifestyle and culture of on-campus delivery. But there are some fundamental shortcomings in the arrangements that disadvantage both on-campus and online students, as well as logical inconsistencies that haven’t been addressed by the faculty.

If you have any thoughts, contact your law reps in the LSS:, and PARSA:

Opinion: Al-Kateb v Godwin

-Philip Matthews

Earlier today, I was sitting in an Australian Public Law lecture trying to think of a compelling topic to write about when something caught my attention (which has become an increasingly rare occurrence throughout a semester of APL lectures). The case that caught my attention was Al-Kateb v Godwin. For those unfamiliar with the case, it involved a Palestinian man born in Kuwait (Al-Kateb) who moved to Australia in 2000 and applied for a temporary protection visa.When Al-Kateb’s application was denied he declared that he wished to be removed to Kuwait or Gaza. Kuwait would not accept him and it was too dangerous to have him extradited to Gaza due to the political situation there. Following this, the High Court of Australia it ruled that the Migration Act 1958 was constitutional and applied in full force to persons such as Mr Al-Kateb, allowing his indefinite detention.

Australia claims to be one that upholds human rights and it routinely lambasts governments that do not, but how can any regime in the developing world seriously take criticism from a rich Western ‘democracy’ that is known to hold asylum seekers, including children, in detention open-endedly? It’s very easy to look back on past mistakes and decry the heinous actions of our forefathers, but once we are forced to examine what is happening right next to us it is as though we are wearing blinkers. The same could be said for civilian casualties incurred by drone strikes in the Middle East: yes, we know it’s happening, but Obama seems like a cool guy so we’ll let it slide; all these (other) terrorist attacks sure are terrible though.

Meanwhile, people all over the world save their money in an attempt to escape the rockets, poverty and other hardships facilitated largely by centuries of imperialism. Bad luck for anyone trying to seek refugee status in Australia, though, because if you don’t make the cut based on some dodgy criterion you may well be in for an indefinite stay at Christmas Island (which as we all know is nowhere near as much fun as its name suggests). Yet somehow Australians are able to conjure up arguments such as, ‘They’re only economic refugees’ or, ‘The queue-jumpers should’ve come here legally!’. Indeed, as if these people were leading rather well-to-do lives in their home countries, but thought they could do a bit better in Australia, so they uprooted their families and risked their lives on rickety boats chartered by ruthless people smugglers purely for economic gain. Likely story.

I don’t think many of us who have been fortunate enough to live most or all of our lives in this country could truly imagine the conditions these people are trying to escape, ‘economic’ or otherwise. How we can subject children to what are effectively indefinite prison sentences with no better reason than, ‘It’s the law’ will never cease to amaze and appall. I hope that this is something that will be looked back on with contempt in our history, but until then the lives of those who wanted nothing more than a decent life are ticking away in wholly undeserved cages. In this matter, Australia stands firmly on the wrong side of history.