Former party leader insists it wasn’t homophobic to call school kid ‘gay’ on live TV

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 defended himself after referring to a school kid as “gay” on a TV show.

Mark Latham, who served as Leader of the Labor Party from 2003 until 2005, made the comments on the show he co-hosts on Sky News Australia.

The former politician made the comments while mocking a video posted by Sydney Boys High School, featuring 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.”

After an extended off-air spat over the row, Mr Latham was sacked by Sky News.

But in a radio interview on 3AW this morning, the politician insisted his comments were not intended to be “derogatory”.

He refused to back down from the row, saying: “The school in Sydney put out a video that was designed to mislead the viewers, with young fellows using the words of women. It was designed to mislead the viewers and gave an impression that this young man, whether it’s true or not, [is gay].

“It shouldn’t have been taking as a derogatory statement. My first reaction to the video was to think he was gay, Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Why do people in the outrage industry assume the word ‘gay is derogatory? Gay is not a derogatory word.

“This was said without any comment or protest at the time, the programme went to air, not one single person raised a word of protest and then all the Offendorati got it on their Twitter feeds.

“We had at least 30,000 viewers and no-one raised a word of protest. What does that tell you?”

Host Neil Mitchell argued: “You’re talking about a kid! He may or may not be, who knows, but it doesn’t matter. Any child is going to be having troubles with his sexuality, and to be talking about it publicly is not good.

“We’re talking about a child, we’re not talking about an adult. There’s a line you don’t cross.”

Mr Latham has bounced from his latest sacking, however, announcing plans for a new website branding itself as “Australia’s most politically incorrect news and current affairs site”.

He said: “We’ve heard so many changes about Australia — Safe Schools, Safe Spaces, 18C, cultural Marxism through all our institutions, the universities, the ABC, the Human Rights Commission, the whole lot.

“We need to push back against this rubbish to restore Australian values. That’s what we aim to do here at Mark Latham’s Outsiders.”

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.