Unrepentant Wallace compared to ‘cave man’ for gay health views
Despite criticism from GPs, mental health professionals, politicians as well as over social media and by members of the LGBTI community, an unrepentant Jim Wallace has continued to defend comments suggesting smoking was healthier than the “gay lifestyle”.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) chief has also blamed “demonisation” by “gay activists” for Prime Minister Julia Gillard pulling out from a major speech to the fringe religious organisation at its national conference early next month.
On Wednesday, Wallace (pictured) stunned many with comments made during a debate on marriage equality involving Greens Leader Christine Milne at the University of Tasmania.
“I think we’re going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community’s own statistics for its health - which it presents when it wants more money for health - are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years,” he told the audience.
“The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn’t smoke.”
It quickly emerged the figures Wallace stated were based on a discredited decades-old survey of obituaries in San Francisco newspapers.
Perhaps summing up the public’s mood regarding the highly inflammatory comments, Nationals MP and co-chair of the LGBTI Parliamentary Friendship Group, Warren Entsch, yesterday compared Wallace’s remarks to those a cave man might utter.
“When I read this I thought that Jim Wallace must have been hibernating under a rock or in a cave somewhere in the deep, dark depths of the wilderness of Tasmania, maybe on the western coast somewhere, and is suddenly awakened from an absolute sleep from probably 1,000 years ago,” Entsch said.
“He’s probably still walking on his knuckles. I find it highly offensive.”
National LGBTI Health Alliance general manager Warren Talbot told SX while statistics showed gay, lesbian and bisexual people were twice as likely to use tobacco, smoking was a serious public health issue that cause thousands of preventable deaths each year.
“To link this serious public health issue to society’s re-consideration of marriage does nothing to improve the health of LGBTI Australians,” he said.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill told SX such “prejudice and bigotry” as displayed by Wallace was the “underlying cause” for many health issues experienced in the community.
“Because of attitudes like those of Mr Wallace, GLBT people are far more likely to be cut off from their families and friends, denied legal and social entitlements, bullied at school or in the workplace, abused by their neighbours or bashed on the street,” Parkhill said.
Marriage equality advocate and GP Kerry Phelps said it was homophobia and discrimination that was damaging to the mental health of gay people.
“I equate his comments with the victim of an assault being criticised for having bruises,” she said.
While Gillard pulled out of addressing the ACL national conference in Canberra on October 6 after describing Wallace’s comments as “offensive” and “heartless and wrong”, Beyondblue chairman and former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett said he would now like to go in her place to argue why discrimination was wrong.
“I challenge the Australian Christian Lobby to allow me to speak at their national conference in October to put a more temperate, and I suspect, a more Christian view because nowhere in the Bible do I find the act of discrimination acceptable,” Kennett said.
The NSW branch of Rainbow Labor meanwhile congratulated Gillard, an atheist, for withdrawing from the event and taking a stand.
“We are proud the Prime Minister has acknowledged the struggles many gay and lesbian Australians face every day,” NSW Rainbow Labor co-convener Cathy Brown said. “Her comments will make a difference.”
Australian Marriage Equality convener Alex Greenwich said despite the wide censure from the community, it seemed Wallace was not backing down.
“I spoke with Mr Wallace yesterday and asked him to apologise for his comments, but it is clear they are not backing down and their language is instead becoming more extreme,” he said.
Despite claiming to have been misinterpreted, Wallace has not only continued to stand by his comments but has since insinuated that some sort of ‘plain packaging’ be brought in to deal with the dangers of the “gay lifestyle”.
“I was not comparing homosexuality with smoking at all.
“If we are to package gay marriage, or gay lifestyle, in with the heterosexual lifestyle in marriage, then we are ignoring the fact that there's not equal love when the consequences of gay love, in health consequences, are quite pronounced and disastrous,” he said.
“If we warn against smoking because it carries health dangers, we should also be warning young people in particular about activity which clearly carries health risks.
“Instead of more free speech-suppressing vitriol and demonisation from the gay activists, there needs to be an open and honest debate before Parliament changes the definition of marriage.”
A study released earlier this year found the ACL had made over 100 public comments on homosexuality from January to June but was virtually silent on issues such as poverty or homelessness.
Last year, Wallace was also forced to apologise over comments made over Twitter suggesting the Anzacs didn’t fight for a country that supported “gay marriage and Islamic [sic]”.
The former SAS commander was again in hot water a couple of months ago when he complained that the support given by Channel Seven show Sunrise to marriage equality was akin to Nazi propaganda.
- Tags: Alex Greenwich, Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Marriage Equality, Beyondblue, Bigotry, Blaze, Cathy Brown, Christine Milne, Controversy, Discrimination, Greens, Health, Jeff Kennett, Jim Wallace, Julia, Kerryn Phelps, Labor, MCV, Mental Health, National LGBTI Health Alliance, Prejudice, Queensland Pride, Rainbow Labor, Same-Sex Marriage, Smoking, Sunrise, SX, Warren Entsch, Warren Talbot