Former opposition leader sacked from TV network after calling school kid ‘gay’

Mark Latham talks during the launch of his book on October 5, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.

The former leader of Australia’s Labor Party has been sacked as a TV commentator after referring to a school kid as “gay”.

Mark Latham, who served as Leader of the Labor Party from 2003 until 2005, had more recently got a job on Sky News Australia, co-hosting TV show Outsiders.

But Mr Latham’s was very publicly let go this week, after he referred to a boy who appeared in a video about feminism as “gay”.

The video, posted by Sydney Boys High School, features students reading statements from women about why they need feminism.

Mocking the video on-air, Latham referenced one specific male student, Hugh Bartley, saying: “I thought he was gay. Well, yes, who wouldn’t think that? Only later in the video did it become clear the students were reciting the words of women as part of some strange social media presentation.”

After an extended off-air spat in which Mr Latham was branded a “bully” by current Labor leader Bill Shorten, the former politician was this week let go from Sky News.

Sky News boss Angelos Frangopoulos confirmed: “I have today advised Mark Latham that his contract has been terminated. While we support strong opinions and robust arguments we pride ourselves in doing so in a civil and respectful manner.”

Latham was previously strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, and has repeatedly attacked his successors for shifting his party to a more inclusive stance.

As Labor leader he supported the government in adding an amendment to explicitly ban same-sex weddings, affirming that “the Marriage Act is an institution for a man and a woman, and we’ve never proposed in the Labor Party to change that”.

In 2015 he claimed that legalising same-sex marriage would not “improve” anyone’s standard of living, and that Labor had grown “obsessed” with the issue.

He said: “It’s a legal document. It’s a piece of symbolism. It might make some people feel better to have a marriage document but it really is a low order priority.”

A political stalemate on equal marriage in Australia has been in place since last year, when a plan for a public vote (plebiscite) on the issue was blocked.

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull is believed to have made assurances to his Coalition’s anti-LGBT wing during his leadership bid that he would seek a public vote before any legislation on same-sex marriage – and the leader recently shot down calls for a quick vote in Parliament to resolve the issue.

This week, the government is reported to be working on new proposals for a ‘postal ballot’ on the issue.

Unlike voting in Australia, which is compulsory, participation in the postal ballot would be opt-in, which LGBT activists say appears to benefits the anti-gay marriage lobby by eroding the base of ‘soft’ support for equality.
Activists also warn that the new proposal fails to address any of the fundamental problems with putting equality up to a public vote, and the homophobic culture debate that would ensue.