Morris Iemma learns to exclude

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I wish I didn’t have to be disappointed so regularly by reports of Premier Iemma’s craven attempts to avoid losing the next election. His latest bit of swing-voter-wooing is his decision to slam a Tempe childcare centre for using a book that features a little boy with two fathers, The Rainbow Cubby House. I’m increasingly hoping that somewhere over the rainbow lies a less spinelessly mediocre NSW Premier.

(By the way, is anyone else seeing that story illustrated by a photo of a Norwegian director of a film called Sniffer? Strange, but I’m thankful there isn’t an image of Morris Iemma.)

“2-year-olds should not be dragged into a debate about gay rights,” he said, making it sound as if the centre was requiring toddlers to march down Oxford St on Mardi Gras night wearing spandex shorts. Children learn about the world through the stories they’re exposed to, and introducing them to a reality that includes same-sex couples just seems sensible, not like some controversial statement about sexuality. I’m sorry, but what is the harm in familiarising kids with a social reality? Particularly when, as we saw yesterday, NSW is the centre of same-sex artificial insemination.

When they’re a little older, I might teach my children a few lessons by showing them articles like this one in the Daily Telegraph that caused the fuss, as an example of shoddy journalism that cynically beats up an issue to expose the prejudice of its readers. “At that age, the under-fives, they don’t even need to know about sex,” a Concerned Mother says. I’m sorry, but who’s telling the kids about gay sex, exactly? Does she think that books involving a mummy and daddy similarly educate children about heterosexual sex? What’s she reading to her children, The Bride Stripped Bare?

Federal Family and Community Services Minister Mal Brough suggest that the kids instead spend their time “fingerpainting and having fun”. Okay, so little Jenny who has two dads makes a lil picture of them with her fingers. That’s going to raise questions for the other kids. What’s the centre supposed to do, ignore them?

That said, I don’t particularly want to defend books from a series called “Learn To Include“, which sounds like an incredibly lame piece of social engineering. I’m not sure I’d give my children, had I any, a book called The Rainbow Cubby House purely on grounds of earnestness. I think I would find another way to alert them to the concept that it’s permissible in our society for gay parents to be considered a family, because Iemma’s Labor colleague Tanya Plibersek’s quote makes them sound unbelievably daggy:

“I know that the kids who are reading these books might just start life with the wonderful gift of growing up without homophobic prejudice. That’s great for those individual kids and it’s wonderful for our whole community too.”

Personally, I was introduced to the idea that some men like to share a bed by a more acclaimed children’s book series – Noddy.

Still, I’d be willing for my children be subjected to do-gooder books like these ones if they’ll grow up learning not to cynically court the votes of people who are scared of gay rights, as Premier Iemma did this morning.

Dominic Knight

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