Gay Australian political candidate faces homophobic backlash – from his own party
A gay Australian right-wing candidate has faced homophobic abuse from his own party.
At a pre-selection meeting on Saturday in Lismore, New South Wales, Rod Bruem reportedly faced invasive questions about him and his partner Phill Terry.
Following Bruem’s decision to apply for selection, ABC News has reported that he was targeted by Facebook posts and emails containing claims of drugs and violence in his relationship.
But he did not expect to face abuse from fellow Nationals.
Bruem recalled that one of the party members said: “‘There is something else in your past that you are not telling us about and it’s time you opened up and told us about it.’
“And I’m like, what?” he added.
“And this was to be the first of a series of questions going forward, and each one that came I felt increasingly sick in the stomach.”
Bruem said it was “obvious” some members had a problem with a gay candidate.
But, he said, “they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with pushing their agendas in what was really a homophobic fashion.”
The questions “contained a number of baseless allegations about me and my partner,” he explained.
“They were so ridiculous I hadn’t been taking them seriously, yet on Saturday they were used against me.
“I felt they should have been ruled out of order, but they were not.”
He explained that “the reason I’m speaking out is because I’ve suffered discrimination in the past.
“When this happened on Saturday, I thought I’m not going to put up with this crap at this stage in my life.
“I’m going to make a stand here. This is wrong.”
After a single afternoon of deliberation, the National Party decided to dismiss Bruem’s complaint over the incident.
It found that the questions were within the rules and did not impact the outcome.
The party’s state director, Nathan Quigley, said he did not want to “censor” members.
“While there are lines that can’t be crossed, we still can’t sit there and censor questions from our members that might be a little uncomfortable for the candidates,” Quigley said.
“It’s important, from our point of view, that we don’t sit there and stifle the rights of our members to have their say and question candidates in a full and frank manner.”
Barnaby Joyce, who is Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals, denied that his party had a problem with homophobia.
“No, it doesn’t; no it doesn’t,” he said.
“I think people know enough about myself and my office that we are far from homophobic”.
He continued: “Look, I don’t want to go through that ritualistic speech of ‘I’ve got good mates who are gay,’ but obviously we all do”.
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“And I’ve always found, right back in Queensland when I was standing up for mates who came out as gay and I’d go into bat for them.”
Bruem said he was raising the issue for all the right reasons.
“It’s not sour grapes at all,” he explained.
“It’s actually just standing up for my rights as a human being and standing up for the party, so the party can be accepting and attract the best people.
“I’ve probably lost interest actually in running for the Nationals going forward in light of what’s happened.”