A Tasmanian Labor Senator has addressed a controversial Christian conference whose keynote speaker believes homos-xuality is a “choice made in weakness”.

Helen Polley, first elected to the Senate in 2004 and then again in 2010 with the support of the ALP’s Right faction, spoke on Saturday on the hot button issues of euthanasia and palliative care at the Australian Christian Lobby talkfest, featuring British-based “futurist” Mal Fletcher.

Fletcher isn’t a fan of same-s-x attraction, noting in 2000 “there is a body of respected psychologists who believe that homos-xuality is often a symptom of arrested emotional or gender identity development. For example, children who do not develop a good bond with parents, especially the same-s-x parent, feel a ‘love deficit’, a hunger for security.”

In 2007, the Melbourne-born oracle stated it isn’t possible to “cure” homos-xuality, but that “recovery” is the preferred options for the waywardly attracted: “This lifestyle is above all a choice — albeit one that is often made in weakness, when there seem to be no alternatives for the individual concerned.”

Last year, Polley recorded a video before the ALP national conference for the ACL pleading with her party not to pass gay marriage amendments proposed by Penny Wong and Andrew Barr. Labor’s 500-strong Apple Isle rank and file is overwhelmingly in favour of equal love.

Fletcher, who did not return calls, also has considered takes on conservative bugbears including abortion (“… might we not see in desperately poor countries the forming of ‘abortion industries’, where women are paid conceive so that their foetuses can be removed for experimentation? Others have wondered, if we now accept experimentation on the unborn, what will stop a new generation of scientists from wanting to experiment on people who are comatose, or dying? And what’s to stop the use of aborted foetal material in eugenics-type experiments like the ones carried out by the Nazis?”) and Muslims (“I do get the sense that people are growing impatient with the victim mentality which often seems to accompany the views of minority groups, religious and otherwise”).

A Polley spokesman told Crikey his boss wasn’t there in the morning during Fletcher’s speech and was not aware of his history. He said there was only a “loose agenda” on what the ACL wanted her to speak about.

Australian Christian Lobby national chief Jim Wallace said this morning that “half the country is getting really tired about being misrepresented on this stuff. You fellows have managed to take the issue of homos-xuality and turn it around.” Wallace says Fletcher was speaking about digitisation, communications and “how the church needed to taking advantage of technology” to disseminate its message.

Rainbow Labor Tasmania coordinator Robbie Moore was dismayed by Polley’s attendance.

“Their views are ridiculously right-wing … it is not appropriate for MPs to be involved with the people whose values Labor rejects,” he told Crikey this morning.

Moore says he will move a motion at the Tasmanian state ALP conference in August to bind the state’s federal MPs to vote in support of marriage equality in line with the branch’s progressive platform. Over 80% of Labor’s membership in Tasmania is aligned to the Left.

Unions Tasmania chief Kevin Harkins, a staunch Polley critic and potential Senate rival, told Crikey: “Helen Polley needs to have a big think about who she associates with … People have to right to live their lives how they wish, mixing with fundamentalists like Fletcher is not a good look.”

Last week Harkins teed off on Polley and fellow Tasmanian Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk, who he said both needed to stand up for marriage equality or risk being dumped off future Senate tickets.

Polley’s brother Michael is a state MP for the lower house seat of Lyons.

Peter Fray

72 hours only. 50% off a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

Our two-for-one offer with The Atlantic was so popular we decided to bring it back.

But only for 72 hours.

Use the promo code ATLANTIC2020 and you’ll get 50% off a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year of digital access to The Atlantic (usually $70). That’s BOTH for just $129.

Hurry. Ends midnight this Thursday.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

Claim Now