with the sex industry
On July 1st, 2001, a Left Labor Conference was held at the Melbourne Trades Hall. It was meant to provide a speaking forum for 'left Labor activists and their supporters to force progressive reform'. The first session, entitled 'Our Bodies Our Rights', was meant to address issues of civil liberties and free speech. Two of the speakers in this session, Peter Tourney and Maureen Mathews, are members of the Eros Foundation, a lobby group for Australia's $1.2 billion a year sex industry.
Why is Left Labor in bed with mainstream business lobbyists and asking for their opinions on Human Rights, free speech and personal freedom but not including an independent feminist representative to provide a criticism of the sex industry?
Local feminists, both within and outside of the Left Labor, were asking the above question when we saw the email promoting the conference. Many of us emailed or phoned the conference organiser to express our concern at this omission; we also recommended a feminist speaker to be included. In response, he claimed that feminism is merely a 'sectional interest' rather than of 'universal concern'. Furthermore, he viciously attacked us in a public internet newsgroup by describing the feminists who contacted him as 'a tiny group of reactionaries' who have the 'gall' to meddle when 'it's not their bloody conference'.
Despite his cavalier dismissal, the issue of autonomy over women's bodies has long been of central concern to feminists, and it should be of concern to everyone who cares about social justice. As one feminist from Left Labor commented:
I find it both alarming and disappointing that a Labor conference which professes
to build a left alternative within Labor, does not have a contemporary feminist view
* I would like to thank Del, Heather Benbow, Helen, Kelly, Shankari, and many others for
their support, contributions, and/or participation at the protest; also Nikki Craft for her
inspiring and supportive emails, as well as feminists from email lists who followed our