Flat White

Sorry Margaret, but you’re a thought criminal

7 November 2019

7:15 PM

7 November 2019

7:15 PM

According to the Nine Network and its tedious tabloids, Margaret Court is causing headlines again by demanding that she receive the same attention and respect from Tennis Australia on the anniversary of her 1970 grand slam, as Rod Laver received for his 1969 grand slam. According to Nine journalist, James Matthey:

Court won all four majors in 1970 and finished her career with 24 grand slam singles titles — the most in history — but has sparked controversy in recent years with her outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage.

Mrs Court said of Tennis Australia: ‘I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his [Rod’s], and honour me.’ 

For some reason, however, Nine or was that Matthey, could not find anyone of higher authority to criticise Mrs Court’s approach to homosexual marriage than someone called Lawrence Mooney who is identified as an Australian comedian and host of Triple M Sydney’s breakfast program. Lawrence Mooney is then reported as saying:

Court’s attitude towards gay people has no place in society… if you’re homophobic there’s no space for you in public life. Discriminating about sexuality is a crime, so it is legislated against. Margaret Court’s opinions on same sex marriage and sexuality are abhorrent and she should be hounded out of the sport until she falls into line.

When I first saw Mooney’s name, I did stop for a moment and wonder who the heck this Lawrence Mooney was? I would have thought Matthey would have found someone with knowledge of the issues; of homosexuality, of the wisdom of legislation by referendum, perhaps even someone with some knowledge of the law. 

After all, Mooney didn’t mind giving legal advice about discrimination: ‘Discriminating about sexuality is a crime, so it is legislated against’; even though the only person who has been discriminated against was Margaret Court by QANTAS. Maybe Mooney is correct. Maybe Mrs Court should sue QANTAS.

But when I saw that Mooney is a comedian, I realised why I was laughing. He is a very funny man with funny opinions. Take, for example, his comment that: ‘if you’re homophobic there’s no space for you in public life.’ 

Obviously, the 4.8 million Australian adults who voted against same-sex marriage have no right to participate in Australian public life. But the real question is whether Triple M, his employer, holds the same views about free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of thought as their employee? 

And I bet Mooney doesn’t broadcast from the Lakemba Mosque and never will, even though according to him, the people worshipping inside, who haven’t had the benefit of his wisdom — or his brand of wisdom — might want to participate in public life. 

Mooney is an entertainer. That is all. A man who says the first thing that comes into his head, every morning on air with very little thought. He measures his success the way his employers do; by the number of people who listen to him. It has nothing to do with how much he knows, and everything to do with public perceptions of his humour. 

There were many other journalists whose opinions were sought and none of them supported Mrs Court’s views on same-sex marriage; but that is to be expected given that all their employers must follow public opinion in order to be relevant at the next circulation results or ratings survey.

In fact, however, Matthey’s article could only have been improved if he had found someone prepared to go into bat for Mrs Court’s view of marriage. That he didn’t might mean only that he didn’t know where to look; not that he didn’t try.

David Long is a retired solicitor and economist.

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