Ketter no better

CREATED ON // Sunday, 24 August 2014 Written by // Sam Butler

A few weeks ago I wrote about the risk to marriage equality and LGBTI rights of certain incoming senators. In particular, I mentioned Queensland ALP senator Chris Ketter, who I argued was “aligned with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association and alleged to be working hard alongside Joe de Bruyn to keep Australia’s largest union staunchly anti-queer”.

It would seem revelations stemming from the royal commission into the operation of trade unions have confirmed my fears.

In the course of its enquiry, the commission has heard from Rosa Perry, an ex-organiser who claimed SDA members were prevented from being shop stewards based on their “sexual orientation’’.

“If I put up a shop steward who was gay, he was not accepted” by the infamously homophobic union, Perry argued.

In response to this allegation, Ketter didn’t attempt to refute Perry. In fact, he seemed to proudly own the woman’s accusation, claiming the union did not want to employ shop stewards “who perhaps have single-interest views and (are) seeking to impose them on ­others”.

So there you have it. In Ketter’s world – and, apparently, the world of the SDA’s senior leadership – a gay man is incapable of being professional enough to keep any “single-interest” views he may hold – presumably related to his sexuality – separate from his responsibilities as a union shop steward.

There's some outstanding worker solidarity right there.

It's also cute of a union notorious for single-mindedly combatting the rights of queer folk and same-sex couples to accuse others of persuing “single interests”. Ketter, de Bruyn et al impose their homophobic views on SDA members every day, not just through the allegedly discriminatory behaviour identified at the commission but also through their ongoing lobbying for “tradtional family values” both within the ALP and at a parliamentary level.  

Men like Ketter are a big part of the reason Bill Shorten will be delivering the keynote speech at the Australian Christian Lobby’s national conference later this year. So long as the SDA maintains an iron-clad grip on the ALP, it will never truly be a progressive party on LGBTI rights – though it will certainly appear that way compared to the Abbott government and most Coalition governments generally.

And so long at it continues to channel MP and Senate candidates into the party – and has the internal clout to ensure they score winnable spots come election time – the SDA will continue to retard Labor's slow but steady progress towards true equality.

In the meantime, the SDA and Ketter would do well to remember what  they're there to do – protect people's jobs and help them develop their careers, not the precise opposite. The sooner both accept that exploitative employers and unsafe workplace are the true enemy, not LGBTI folk, the better for all concerned.


Sam Butler

Sam Butler

Sam Butler is a freelance writer who's written extensively on politics and current affairs for SX, MCV and for more than a decade. You can find him on Twitter: @samsonjbutler

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