: God, Queen and Country in the Sunshine State — 2012 style

God, Queen and Country in the Sunshine State — 2012 style

Steven White
Queensland

The portents were clear in the inaugural speech to state parliament in 2009, three years before the recent landslide election victory by the Liberal National Party and Jarrod Bleijie’s appointment as Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. In the first paragraph of his 2009 speech Bleijie, then 27 years old, took the opportunity to ‘acknowledge Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, who provides such a distinguished example of public service to us all’. After recognising the importance of secularism, Bleijie confided ‘[f]or myself, I am not bashful about declaring that I am a practising Christian. I am an elder of the Kawana Waters Uniting Church, and worship and church activities play a major part in our life. I am sure that it will sustain me in this new role’. In the same speech, Bleijie seized on the approach of ANZAC Day to demonstrate his nationalistic credo: ‘[t]o the diggers of the past and the present I would like to pay tribute to the dedication you continually show when serving this country and the manner in which you conduct yourselves in battles abroad’.

And finally, a lament for the golden-hued, good old days: ‘I might add that I believe that we have a lot to learn from our grandparents’ generation in terms of self-respect and owning up to our responsibilities and obligations as a society and the shift away from the blame game that we often play these days.’

And so to 2012. One of the early acts of the Newman Government was to downgrade state recognition of same-sex relationships, in a Bill tabled by Bleijie in June and passed by parliament within one and a half days of introduction. In November 2011, in the dying days of the Bligh Government, legislation had been passed for recognition of ‘civil unions’, capable of being celebrated in a state ceremony. They have now been recast as ‘registered relationships’ with state-sanctioned declaration ceremonies no longer possible. During debate on the Bill, the Attorney-General stated that the government also intended to wind back same-sex rights with respect to surrogacy. A boot camp trial is to be put in place for young offenders, to ‘give these young people an opportunity to learn values, respect and responsibility’ (Hon Jarrod Bleijie, ‘Attorney-General invites input into boot camp trial’, Media Statement, 20 June 2012). And all this followed an earlier decision, in May, to strip $2.5 million from the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, a not-for-profit organisation promoting health and well-being in the Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Trans-sexual community.

Finally, less serious but certainly talismanic, the official opening of the new Brisbane District and Supreme Court Building on 3 August 2012. Inspired by the recent celebrations of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, ‘a representation had been made to Her Majesty requesting approval for the new CBD courthouse to be named in her honour’. And thus did great joy break out over an otherwise benighted, broke state: ‘The day we learned Buckingham Palace had assented to our request to name this landmark building the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law, was one of great happiness’ (Hon Jarrod Bleijie, ‘The Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law’, Media Statement, 2 August 2012).

To cap it off, there will be a return to the title of Queens Counsel instead of Senior Counsel for esteemed members of the legal profession.

STEVEN WHITE teaches law at Griffith University.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 289
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