Greg Hunt rants about freedom of speech during gay conversion therapy question

By @chelean on
Australian Minister of Environment Greg Hunt
Australian Minister of Environment Greg Hunt signs the Paris Agreement on climate change held at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. Reuters/Mike Segar

Greg Hunt has argued gay conversion therapy is a matter of freedom of speech. In a heated interview on Tuesday, the Health minister clashed with ABC Radio National Host Patricia Karvelas when she asked him about the topic.

The Victorian Liberal Party recently made the news when it quashed a motion that proposed conversion therapy for LGBTIQ individuals. Party president Michael Kroger had pulled it from the agenda, though, effectively ending it.

As Hunt is a Liberal senior member and Health minister, Karvelas asked him about the issue, if he was alarmed that some members of his party supported a harmful procedure. Hunt said that while he did not support the plan to allow doctors to offer counselling “out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning,” he said people were “entitled to have different views.”

“Look it’s not something I support, it’s not federal government policy, it’s not going to be federal government policy and we’re not about to change our position on that,” he said. He added that everyone should be allowed to say what they want.

The conversation started to heat up when Hunt started questioning Karvelas’ position on freedom of speech. “What I do worry about is this constant view that nobody anywhere is allowed to have a different view. As a journalist, I would hope you would believe in freedom of speech,” he said, before asking him if she believed in it.

When Karvelas answered that she indeed believed in freedom of speech, Hunt still wouldn’t let it go, telling her to define the concept and asking her if she was afraid to stand up for it.

Karvelas said that although she believed in freedom of speech, she also believed that gay conversion therapies can have “devastating results.” She also called him out on trying to hijack the interview and turn the tables. Hunt was insistent, accusing the presenter of not wanting to answer the question.

“I am surprised it took an extraordinary amount of time for you to acknowledge that you actually believe in freedom of speech,” Hunt argued. Karvalas has had enough of him, though, opting to end the interview then.

Reactions on social media were largely critical of Hunt’s behaviour and stance. Commenters thought he was being a bully for trying to supress his interviewer when she was speaking.