Gay rights activist sacked from advisory committee
Activist Rob Mitchell has claimed he was fired from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Health and Wellbeing Ministerial Advisory Committee for "asking inconvenient questions" and criticising the government in an ABC radio interview four weeks ago.
According to reports on the Sydney Morning Herald, Mitchell said he was dismissed from the committee after criticising the Coalition's HIV policies, the Safe Schools Coalition program and the Premier Denis Napthine’s appearance at Midsumma festival.
Mitchell said he was finally removed from the Committee after a meeting with the department of education was cancelled and he called Melbourne University's media office to request a photo of the deputy chair of the committee, Associate Professor Ruth McNair to ask for her photo so he could make a bumper sticker with it.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Mitchell told McNair she was undermining the health of young people.
"He wanted my photo, said I was a load of crap, wanted to put it on a bumper sticker and that I was undermining the health and wellbeing of young people," said McNair.
"It was completely inappropriate. I didn't respond of course because it's not worth responding to that sort of behaviour. It's just an example of the sort of lengths he will go to to make a point," said McNair
McNair alleged Mitchell had been "oppositional" and very difficult to work with on the committee.
"He tends to behave in a very aggressive way during the committee meetings and vilifies people openly in front of everyone else. I'm just the latest target but several of the other committee members have been targeted in different ways."
Mitchell for his part suggested it was frustration that had caused him to be a “right pain in the arse” and claimed the Committee had failed in its brief to address the needs of young people at risk.
He said the Safe Schools Coalition program had only reached about 120 of Victoria's 2200 schools to date and that it required about $5 million a year to expand.
"Research shows that one in four non-heterosexual young people experience suicidal thoughts each year and programs like the Safe Schools Coalition can reduce homophobia - a key driver of mental ill health among young people," he said.
"Whether or not I'm on the committee is irrelevant – what matters is that these issues are addressed. While they are not, we are not going to get any progress," he said.
A spokesman for Health Minister David Davis told the Herald: "The Minister has carefully considered advice of the Department of Health, committee chair Mike Kennedy, deputy chair Ruth McNair, and the committee's working group chairs, regarding Mr Mitchell's membership and behaviour towards his colleagues on the committee and has determined that the termination of his membership as the best course of action so the committee can continue its important work on developing rigorous and expert advice to Government regarding the health and wellbeing of LBGTI Victorians in a harmonious way."
Correction: March 06/2013
This article originally said Mitchell called the deputy chair of the committee Associate Professor Ruth McNair to ask for her photo so he could make a bumper sticker with it.
We have been advised that Mr Mitchell did not in fact call Dr McNair but rather Mr Mitchell called the the media office at Melbourne University asking for her photo and stating to them that he was going to make a bumper sticker with her face on it to state ‘how crap she is’ in her role as chair of the MAC working group.