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Pansy Division: Some Notes on Certain Petition

by Lev Lafayette and anonymous

On the morning of Friday September 1st, the Isocracy Network initiated a petition on CommunityRun, a website owned by the social activist group "Get Up!". The petition was written by one our members, a medical practioner who wished to remain anonymous, and was launched by the group's president. The petition itself was a request to the Australian Medical Association and in particular, the the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency "to review the registration of Dr Pansy Lai as a Paediatric Medical Practitioner for violation of its code of ethics and violation of the Declaration of Geneva by her participation in the recent 'no' campaign against marriage equality in which she willfully spread misinformation and non-scientific evidence in order to promote the discrimination of LGBTIQ people in Australia".

The petition itself attracted significant media attention. Predictible, The Australian raised the matter of whether it constituted bullying and an attack of free speech. Remarkably the article claimed that "the petition, which received more than 5000 signatures in the first five days"; given that the article was published less than four days after launch, it was quite illustrative of the accuracy of almost everything that comes from that rag. The article also engaged in the hyberbole claiming that the petition was calling for the paediatrians deregistration, indicative of the reporter's extraordinary ignorance of the scope of actions that fall under such a review. Still, yellow journalism desperately needs a readership, and the greater the scandal-mongering the greater the ignorant hordes that gobble up such trash, and so the story was distributed far and wide among many media outlets across the country.

We originally thought that optimistically the petition would reach a thousand signatures; that figue was easily passed within hours. The five thousand mark was reached within forty hours, and by Monday morning, when GetUp! claimed it violated their terms of service, it had reached 6,557 signatories. For what it is worth, GetUp! has never explained which of their terms of service it has violated, although one supposes that they could claim that they found it "offensive", under their catch-all criteria (section 4.2). More realistically, GetUp! got political cold feet. After the petition was taken down, the ABC also reported on the story (also replicating the "degistration" nonsense). It has become fairly clear that it is necessary to clear up some of the inaccuracies of the reporting and, certain that the media lacks either the desire or competence to so itself, we have to do so here.

Firstly, the the petition is not bullying as we are not trying to shut down Dr Lai's freedom of speech, nor have we asked for her to be de-registered. It is based specifically on concerns of the potential ethical misconduct which we have asked AHPRA to consider. If Dr Lai is found to have been unethical in her conduct the repercussions from AHPRA and not to automatically re-register her, but to follow formal disciplinary procedures, which are solely determined by AHPRA under strict guidelines that cover all health practitioners. We have not petitioned against the other two women involved in the advertisement as they have purely exercised their freedom of speech, which is a right we respect and defend, even if our views differ and we have issues on the accuracy of their claims. For reporters that require help on this matter, the following is the standard definition:

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

If anyone has been bullied it has been the the LGBTIQ community who have suffered an extreme misuse of power over the decades, the psychological effects which are ongoing today. It is implausible to suggest that Dr Lai has experienced 'bullying' by having their claims, made as medical professional, put under scrutiny. It is accurate to say that the petition and complaints are "playing the man [sic] rather than playing the ball", to use the Australian vernacular. But sometimes, in situations like this, one has to play both simultaneously. To continue the metaphor, it's a tackle.

Further, freedom of speech is not an absolute right. It is typically usually defined as the right to express an opinion without fear of government censorship or sanction. It is famously included in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which extends the concept that the freedom to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". It may seem strange then, in the first instance, that there are various limitations on free speech. Most of these come from the fact that rights must co-exist with other rights. Others are instituted to protect public safety, such as sedition or incitement to violence ("fighting words", in the U.S. dialect). More broader definitions come under notions of 'offensiveness' or 'public harm'. Political economy gets a guernsey with various laws protecting "intellectual property" from freedom of distribution.

Within this particular context we note that in addition to the speech rights assigned to an individual, medical professionals have a higher and additional standard. When one speaks as a medical professional one is speaking as a part of the profession. The Medical Board of Australia makes this quite explicit: While individual doctors have their own personal beliefs and values, there are certain professional values on which all doctors are expected to base their practice. Our issue with Dr. Lai is that they have presented themselves as medical professional whilst advocating and promoting known harmful policies such as "gay conversion" therapy, and continues to misrepresent medical research on this and related matters. It is perhaps then of little wonder that thousands of doctors have recognise the medical need for marriage equality.

If one believes, as we do that, that Dr. Pansy Lai is engaging in the advocacy of harmful medical practises and misrepresentation of medical knowledge, a complaint can be made on the AHPRA website. In particular we note that the World Medical Association's (WMA) Declaration of Geneva and Dr Pansy Lai has undertaken this oath as part of her registration as a medical practitioner in Australia. This oath includes the statement: "I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient". We note that the Dr. Lai recently featured in a campaign advertisement against marriage equality claiming, "When same sex marriage passes as law overseas this type of programme becomes widespread and compulsory". Further, Dr. Lai, has been spreading misleading information about gay people through a newsletter to "Australian Chinese for Families Association" subscribers, claiming that there is no evidence that people are born gay, and has promoted harmful treatment therapies to change their sexual orientation. In her promotion of such ideas as a medical professional she appears to be in breach of the requirements of her profession, and therefore an investigation is justified.

"At some point in our lifetime, gay marriage won’t be an issue, and everyone who stood against this civil right will look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black."
—George Clooney