Monday, May 21, 2012

Queensland: State Without Grace

When Queensland’s new Health Minister Lawrence Springborg spoke to Spencer Howson on ABC  612 Brisbane to address concerns about his decision to axe funding from the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (formerly the Queensland AIDs Council), he cited two major reasons for his decision.
Firstly, Mr Springborg noted that the number of AIDS cases in Queensland in the past decade or so has more than doubled. Therefore, according to the Government, the QAHC was failing in its duty to control the spread of AIDs. In its place, the Government will fund a new committee to tackle the responsibility of reducing the number of cases of HIV/AIDs in Queensland.
Secondly, the Government feels that the QAHC has become too involved in lobbying for various same-sex issues, and according to Minister Springborg, it’s inappropriate that government funds should be spent on political lobbying.
Rather than a seeing the QAHC as a failure, is Campbell Newman’s Health Minister looking for justification to silence an organisation that has successfully lobbied for changes that don't sit will alongside the LNP Government's socially conservative agenda?
According to today’s Courier Mail, a key reason why HIV/AIDs cases are on the rise in Queensland is not because of gay activity, but because many of our young (heterosexual) men take group holidays to south east Asia and Papua New Guinea where they get absolutely sauced, and then enjoying unprotected sex with the local prostitutes. According to the AMA, the rise in Queensland is mirrored in Western Australia and is probably related to the mining boom, where young men with good incomes are looking for fun, and finding it in the region’s AIDs hotspots.
Mr Springborg said that the dramatic rise in HIV/AIDs cases in Queensland represent a failure of public health policy, and it’s hard to argue that fact. On the other hand, is it fair to dump responsibility at the feet of the QAHC?
What is the QAHC, exactly, and what is their charter? According to their website  
Our Vision:
A Queensland where all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people achieve the best possible health and well-being and participate fully in the life of communities, free from stigma and discrimination.
Our Mission:
To enable lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to increase control over and improve their health, as a resource for social, economic and personal development and an important dimension of quality of life.
Can Mr Springborg show me where, in this statement, the QAHC can be held responsible for educating and caring for the sexual health of heterosexual Australians who choose to put themselves at risk?
And now, to Mr Springborg’s press release, he states

There will be no cut to resources for HIV/AIDs strategies; current grants will simply be re-directed away from QAHC to Queensland Health under the guidance of the expert Ministerial Advisory Committee.
It sounds okay when he says it like that…except that he also refers to the previous government winding up the Queensland AIDS Council. The new body will focus on AIDs awareness and prevention strategies, which was the original purpose of the Queensland AIDs council when it was established in 1984.
That is not the purpose of the QAHC  and forms only part of what they do. In promoting health and wellbeing of the Queensland LGBT communities, this organisation is far more wide-ranging that simply targeting one devastating disease.
The result of Minister Springborg’s changes is that $2.6m in funding that used to support Queensland’s peak body for LGBT issues is being redirected to a body that will focus it’s entire attention on HIV/AIDs. Perhaps the AIDs fight still needs a dedicated body to coordinate education and awareness campaigns and ultimately reduce the number of cases we see in Queensland.
Mr Springborg’s justification for cutting funding to the QAHC must be met with scepticism. If the QAHC has been lobbying for gay rights, that’s entirely within their charter. Similarly, AIDS awareness campaigns within the greater non-LGBT community is not the purpose of the QAHC.
But what about the other activities that are currently undertaken from within QAHC? Does the Health Minister have plans to fund specialised assistance and referral  agencies for the rests of the LGBT and Indigenous communities? What about other Sexually Transmitted Diseases? Specialist legal services? LGBT mental health care advocacy?
This is not about penny-pinching; the money will still be spent. It’s about a divisive government agenda that is being set by the conservative religious right within the party, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what is best for Queensland or Queenslanders. With this one move, Queensland’s LGBT community has been dismissed by the Newman Government and the Health Minister as unimportant.
The saddest part of this chapter is that we all know Qld Premier Campbell Newman would not want this indignity for his lesbian friends, whose lifestyle he openly supports.


1 comment:

  1. Really good blog entry! I just wrote an open letter to my friends and family here, I think you're a little more succinct though!!!