Australia is a country that prides itself on tolerance, but racism and homophobia are not uncommon.
So why are so many Australians still unwilling to accept that racism and prejudice are still commonplace?
This week, Australia’s first openly gay prime minister, Paul Keating, and his government were forced to apologise after the former Victorian Premier, Michael O’Meara, publicly said that “gay people can’t handle” a same-sex marriage.
It was a shocking comment, given that O’Ms behaviour had been well-documented by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Now, with the launch of a campaign by the LGBTI community to help the Turnbull government with their campaign against homophobia and racism, a new report from the LGBTIQ Legal Service and Equality Australia has revealed the shocking numbers of homophobic and racist incidents in Australia every day.
In its annual report, the organisation noted that there were over 6,000 homophobic and violent incidents recorded by police across the country every day in 2017.
“These incidents are often fuelled by hate and fear,” the report said.
“The most common form of hate and bias reported is racial vilification, as seen in the recent police raids in Newcastle and Brisbane.”
In response, the government has launched an urgent national strategy to eradicate racism, homophobic and transphobic abuse.
The government has also promised to remove all homophobic and racial vilifications from the Crimes Act.
And it’s targeting discrimination against LGBTI people with a range of initiatives.
It’s introducing a national hate crime law and creating a national LGBTI hate crime awareness campaign.
“I believe this strategy is a vital first step to achieving this aim,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said.
Minister Keenan says there will be “no excuses” for hate crime Minister Keenas statement is important because it is the first official acknowledgement of what is already a disturbing trend.
But it is not the only one.
Australia has been labelled a country with “no excuse” for its anti-LGBTI hate crimes, a fact that was highlighted by Australia’s most prominent and outspoken LGBTI rights campaigner, David Seymour.
Seymour is a former Victorian Police Commissioner who has also been an outspoken supporter of LGBTI issues in Australia.
Seymour said that Australia’s anti-discrimination laws are not only a “failure” but also a “sad failure” that has been used to justify homophobia and trans-phobia.
“They don’t even need to be called hate crimes,” he told The Australian newspaper.
“There is no excuse for what’s been happening in Australia in the last few years.
It is a failure on the part of the government and the Attorney-General to protect us.”
Seymour believes that the Turnbull Government needs to tackle racism and homophobic violence at the state and federal levels.
“If you look at the numbers, there are almost 50,000 people living in Australia that are victims of hate crimes per year, which is almost triple the national average,” he said.
But Seymour believes there is no political will to tackle this problem at the national level.
“It’s the lack of political will on the national and local level to address this issue,” he added.
“We have seen in Melbourne in particular that when people are treated unfairly and hurt they just take it out on them.”
In 2017, the Coalition promised to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.
“Australians of all backgrounds and religions have the right to live free from discrimination based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity,” the government’s statement read.
“This will be a model for Australia to follow for the rest of the Commonwealth.”
It said it would establish an LGBTIQ Working Group to study and develop an LGBTI anti-racism policy.
The Coalition’s anti the hate law campaign was launched last year.
It had been the subject of criticism because of its failure to include a national anti-hate strategy.
“As far as the Coalition is concerned, no state and territory has any anti- hate legislation, but we are also a country of more than 70 nations,” the Coalition’s website said.