The question is simple: Is Michael McCormack, Leader of the National Party, given the controversial comments he made about homosexuality in 1993, a fit and proper person to hold the position of Deputy Prime Minister? The odious comments, and they were of a particularly disturbing nature, were penned when he was editor, a responsible position, of the local Wagga Wagga news-paper, The Daily Advertiser. He was, at the time, 27-years of age. His editorial was not the illogical ramblings of a confused teenager; they were the firmlyheld and considered opinions of a mature adult.
Mr. McCormack wrote: “ A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society”: it went on: “Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay”; and finally: “How can these people call for rights when they’re responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome?” Sobering sentiments, are they not? Appearing on Q and A, freelance writer and transgender woman, Catherine McGregor, said while she “repudiates” the remarks, he should be forgiven as “it was a much more prevalent sentiment then”.
That well may be, but I am not so magnanimous. What he wrote was unacceptable, regardless of time and place, or any prevailing ethos. As editor, he would have known he was breaching journalistic ethical standards, but he wittingly chose to publish. He was an unabashed, ignorant homophobe; willing to propagate the myths, regardless of the consequences. Hating other people because of colour, creed, race, sexual orientation, or any other of the anomalies which makes us who we are as a Homo Sapien tribe, is a most serious psychological problem. The pages of history are littered with such disturbed characters.
Ms McGregor added: “I wouldn’t like to be reminded of everything I said or did 25-30 years ago.” That is a spurious argument. At 27-years of age I was a mature adult; respon-sible for the employment of hundreds of people. I was very circumspect, in all re-gards, and took my responsibilities seriously. I did not say, or do anything, which could now be used in evidence against me. I knew better. I made a concerted effort not to behave badly.
Mr. McCormack’s offensive, ignorant, inaccurate, mealy-mouth, moralistic, judgemental, disgusting opinions deserve the full weight of public opprobrium, and cannot be so easily brushed aside with the sweep of time. It is too easy to say: that was then, and this is now.
Curiously, and quite correctly, we are not so forgiving of those who have, in the past, acted inappropriately in other areas of human behaviour, sexual harassment in particular.
Mr. McCormack has, since the opinion piece has become more widely known, apologised on numerous occasions. His apology was not voluntary. It came only after he was embarrassed by the piece, and realised the obvious consequences it might hold for his newly elected position. He said he was sorry. One has to ask: Sorry for the piece or sorry that he was caught-out? In an attempt to disentangle a difficult and embarrassing predicament, Mr. McCormack explained he had: “grown and learnt not only to tolerate, but to accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation, or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique.” The use of the word ‘tolerate’ is interesting, and deserves some consideration. It is a weighty, pejorative word. To tolerate suggests a willingness to acknowledge, but a reluctance to accept. The two are not mutually exclusive. No-one should be tolerated because of who or what they are; everyone should be accepted in a true spirit of generosity. We do not live in a Panglossian world. Some people are, by nature, disagreeable; but to hate because of a quirk of fate an accident of birth – is a manifestation of a troubled mind.You may not choose their company, but there is no reason to hate.
The problem of deep-seated and illogical abhorrence of some people is more serious. Hatred is not a born state; it is learned with time, and by example.
As argument in defence of Mr. McCormack, it has been noted that he voted in favour of same sex marriage, as was right and proper. That was the will of his electorate, whom he is paid to represent. It is their voice; he is not running a fiefdom. His vote in the parliament was not a personal vote. He was directed by his constituents.
What he voted personally on the ballot paper is not known.
Removing Mr. McCormack from the equation, and in my limited experience, I have found such deepseated beliefs are not easily changed.When it comes to adults with distorted views, I place little store in the conversion on the road to Damascus theory. Is it possible to sit down with a homophobe, and, by persuasion to convince them they are wrong, and to permanently change their thinking? I suspect not, ex-cept in mitigating personal circumstances.
As for Michael McCormack: I do not want to be ‘tolerated’ by anyone, and least of all by him.
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.