Jul 1, 2013

Anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage … and the new mental health minister

ALP Senator Jacinta Collins has had a meteoric rise into Rudd's new cabinet. Who is she -- and will her intense social conservatism raise serious questions about her capacity to function as Mental Health Minister?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The most bizarre appointment in Kevin Rudd's new cabinet is that of Victorian Senator Jacinta Collins, promoted from a parliamentary secretaryship under then-PM Julia Gillard to a cabinet position, as the new Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, under Rudd. Collins bested Kim Carr last week to secure the deputy leadership of the government in the Senate. Collins has had a couple of stints in the Senate, from 1995 to 2004, when as number three on the Victorian Labor ticket she fell victim to Stephen Conroy's disastrous preferences ploy that saw Steve Fielding elected and replace Collins in 2005. She returned when she took Robert Ray's spot in 2008. Collins -- not to be confused with Tasmania's Julie Collins, also promoted to cabinet -- is best known to the public for her dislike of cabs, after she was appalled to discover there was no Commonwealth car waiting for her at Melbourne Airport in 2009. Those who follow reproductive health and gay rights issues, however, know Collins for other things. 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-sex marriage bill last year. Less than a fortnight ago, Collins helped vote down a bill recognising overseas same-sex marriages. During her time out of the Senate, Collins was a director of the anti-choice Caroline Chisholm Society, which is currently run by former Shoppie and Collins adviser Helen Cooney. Collins was at the society when it was controversially funded by then-health minister Tony Abbott to establish a pregnancy counselling service. Collins was a winner last year of an award for "Christian Values" from the "Christian Values Institute". All of that would normally be incidental: Labor has several former Shoppies and there are many politicians with the same views across the Parliament; one Kevin Rudd is a former winner of the "Christian Values Award" as well. But Collins is now in charge of mental health, which raises some of the same concerns as when Tony Abbott was health minister; it will be interesting to see whether Collins draws the same criticism from the Left about her views as Abbott did (and still does). Many in the anti-abortion lobby -- although not the Caroline Chisholm Society -- claim without any evidence that abortion causes mental health problems for women, including "post-abortion syndrome", a condition invented by anti-abortionists. In particular, in mental health Collins follows Mark Butler, who did an excellent job in the portfolio. Butler oversaw expanded funding for the Reconnect homelessness program, components of which specifically address gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex youth. He also funded the National LGBTI Health Alliance to run a suicide prevention and mental health program. Butler is understood to have locked down funding for a number of programs before his promotion. It's hard to see Collins, given her view that same-sex marriage is a "distraction" and that traditional Labor voters believe children should be raised by a mother and father, not having a big problem in engaging with major portfolio stakeholders or eliciting trust on issues like mental health among gay youth. Collins' promotion also illustrates that Don Farrell, the South Australian ALP Senator and Shoppie powerbroker, has lost little of his power despite opposing the return of Rudd, whom Farrell bitterly opposed as party leader in 2007 and whose removal Farrell helped coordinate in 2010. Farrell, who became Minister for Sport in the outer ministry today, is every bit as hardline on social issues as Collins.

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44 thoughts on “Anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage … and the new mental health minister

  1. paddy

    One can only hope that she’s “in for the election campaign” and not the long haul. (Should the polls continue the shine on our shiny new dear leader.)

  2. Mark Duffett

    So opposing same-sex marriage is sufficient to qualify for a description as “gay-hating’, according to Crikey’s editorial lead? More than a bit over the top, I’d have thought.

  3. Christopher Nagle

    This ought to be a sobering reminder that when it comes to homosexual marriage and abortion, the verdict of history is anything but ‘in’.

  4. Venise Alstergren

    Why bother voting for Labor when we can get exactly the same sort of deal with Tony Rabbott and his Catholic non-principles?

    Perhaps Kevin Rudd’s promises are like pie-crusts; made to be broken??!! Surprise, surprise.

    It was obvious where the troubles in the new Krudd Kabinet will surface. All the ones carrying bibles were the professional ‘Christians.” Seldom have I ever witnessed a race (joke) to the bottom of the fifteenth century.

    I think I’ll vote for the sporting shooters, on condition they leave the animals alone and line up our parliamentarians.

  5. SusieQ

    I do wonder why the ‘shoppies’ candidates are not in the DLP (can’t recall if they were previously?? if someone can let us all know?) – that seems their natural home.

  6. mikeb

    I have no idea on Jacinta Collins’ aptitude or not, but I don’t think that having conservative views on abortion or SSM should disqualify her.

  7. Venise Alstergren

    To put a Tony Rabbott think alike in mental health is the equivalent of putting the Original Tony Rabbott in as health minister-as John Winston Howard did. She could have been given a different portfolio.

    One happy person will be Senator John (the blacksmith) Madigan DLP.

  8. klewso

    Ahhhh Julie Collins? I love her “Send in the Clowns”….?

  9. Venise Alstergren

    KLEWSO: Wrong Collins. This one is called Jacinta, as in just cinta sex.

  10. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    Shows how out of touch Labor is on mental health issues. BTW Crikey, is it possible to do some analysis on how GLBTI actually intend to vote. I suspect that for many it is not a high priority – and the two major parties are well aware of that fact.

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