Australian minister bans staff from wearing rainbow outfits for LGBT+ rights because of the ‘woke agenda’

Peter Dutton speaks in a suit

An Australian cabinet minister has banned his staff from wearing rainbow clothing to support LGBT+ rights because of the so-called “woke agenda”.

Defence minister Peter Dutton, of the right-wing Liberal Party, banned his department and serving military personnel from wearing clothing bearing the LGBT+ Pride flag on Friday (21 May).

It came after military personnel had been advised to wear rainbow clothing at a morning tea to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia on 17 May.

But in touting the move as a shakeup of priorities, Dutton was branded by trade union chiefs as the “Federal Minister for Culture Wars”.

Seemingly incensed at the display of, er, solidarity with the LGBT+ community, Dutton told The Sydney Morning Herald that he ordered top defence officials to issue a directive barring such “particular clothes in celebration”.

“I’ve been very clear to the chiefs that I will not tolerate discrimination. But we are not pursuing a woke agenda,” he said in a statement to the newspaper.

“Our task is to build up the morale in the Australian Defence Force and these woke agendas don’t help.”

A memo had been issued from the Department of Defence earlier this year encouraging staffers, national military personnel and the federal civil service to mark IDAHOBIT by donning rainbow pins and clothing.

“Defence, Australian Defence Force and Australian Public Service employees are encouraged to acknowledge IDAHOBIT in a COVID-safe manner,” the memo, seen by the Herald, read.

“Examples for activity include hosting morning teas, encouraging discussions regarding the importance of IDAHOBIT, raising awareness of LGBTI rights and wearing visible rainbow clothing or ally pins.”

In doing so, the department sought to “support for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex colleagues, friends and family by standing against prejudice and discrimination, and demonstrating inclusion”.

But Dutton ordered Defence Force chief Angus Campbell and defence secretary Greg Moriarty to walk back on the memo.

“Defence represents the people of Australia and must at all times be focused on our primary mission to protect Australia’s national security interests,” a new directive issued by department officials read.

“We must not be putting effort into matters that distract from this.

“To meet these important aims, changing language protocols and those events such as morning teas where personnel are encouraged to wear particular clothes in celebration are not required and should cease.”

Documents prepared for the defence department for IDHOBIT encouraged staff to use partner rather than a gendered term and to ask people what their pronouns are.

To Brooke Muscat, deputy national president of the Community and Public Sector Union, Dutton walking back on the show of pride lays bare his priorities.

“If having a morning tea for reconciliation week, international women’s day or international day against homophobia is stopping our national security efforts then we have a real problem,” he told the Herald.

“This has Peter Dutton written all over it, the Federal Minister for Culture Wars.”

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