Controversy has broken out in Victorian Parliament over its gay conversion laws after an heartfelt speech by one Labor MP descended into arguments.
Controversy has broken out in Victorian Parliament over its gay conversion laws after an heartfelt speech by one Labor MP descended into arguments.

Gay conversion debate sparks emotional scenes

Controversy has broken out in Victorian Parliament during debate over the government's gay conversion laws after an emotional speech by Labor MP Harriet Shing descended into arguments.

Ms Shing, the parliament's only openly gay female MP, was on the verge of tears on Thursday afternoon as she spoke about why she supported plans to outlaw harmful conversion therapies.

The laws have already passed the lower house but are currently being debated in the Legislative Council ahead of a final vote.

The Coalition have agreed not to oppose the legislation but have sought to push through amendments to clear concerns about religious freedom and counselling advice.

During Ms Shing's speech, a dispute broke out when she sought to name all the Opposition MPs in the lower house who were not in parliament when the lower house vote began.

"The public record does not reflect the names of Coalition MPs who did not attend the vote," she said at the time.

"It's for this reason I'm going to read these names out."

But David Davis, the Opposition's leader in the upper house, rushed to cut off Ms Shing on a point of order.

"The member knows well that what she's saying is not true," he said.

"The record in the lower shows the bill is not opposed … The reality is that with the COVID restrictions many people were simply not in the chamber."

The debate raged for at least four minutes, with Labor MPs seeking to have her time restored to finish her speech.

This request was unsuccessful, with Ms Shing later continuing to name Coalition MPs who had note been part of the vote.

Speaking to the Herald Sun, Ms Shing said she had sought to hold her fellow politicians accountable over the Bill which she considered "enormously important".

"The length of time taken to make a serious contribution on point of order was unnecessary, mean spirited and the cheapest form of politics there is," she said.

The debate has been incredibly tough, particularly for victims and survivors who have been following the contributions of MPs across both chambers

"I am hopeful that we can get through the committee stage and final vote on this Bill in a way that enables victims and survivors to be recognised."

It comes after controversial Liberal MP Bernie Finn did not rule out that he could cross the floor to vote against the legislation, despite the Coalition deciding not to oppose it.

Groups including the Austrlian Medical Association and Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists have sought changes to the Bill because they fear it may hinder interactions involving trained professionals and patients.

Of concern were references to psychiatry and counselling practices, while religious groups have flagged concerns over references to "religious-based practices" and "prayer-based practices".

Late on Thursday, the Law Institute of Victoria also wrote to the government flagging concerns the lawsmay not protect parents who want to have conversations about sexuality or gender identity with their children.

The state government has maintained that these activities will not be restricted under the legislation, if they do not involve harmful conversion of a person's sexuality.

Criminal cases would have to prove beyond doubt that any actions had caused serious injury.

If you are struggling and looking for helptailored to the LGBTIQ+ community call QLIFE on 1800 184 527, Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

You can also call Suicide Call Back Serviceon 1300 659 467, Beyond Blueon 1300 22 46 36

and Headspace on 1800 650 890

Originally published as Gay conversion debate sparks emotional scenes