Gay, Inc. – what I call the plethora of gay organisations who suck up government funding and hire people almost exclusively from the LGBTIQ communities – is facing it’s most significant existential threat, and it doesn’t seem to know it.
There is no sugar-coating it. In spite of Rainbow Labor’s spin, there is a new political reality coming in the next six months – the Australian Labor Party is about to lose government and the Coalition is about to win.
So far in this mock-campaign, all the ALP have said is “things will be worse under Abbott”, “the Libs only care about the rich peeps” and “work-choices”.
Abbott’s unpopularity is only a plus for the ALP if it’s own leader is more popular. However, News Poll tells us that since February, significantly more people want Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister than Julia (of course 20-23% of the public want neither). Since February the 2pp number has been consistently favouring the coalition 55% to 45%.
At the 2010 election, the ALP’s primary vote was 38%, the coalitions was 43.6%. After preference flows, the ALP won the election with a 2pp of 50.1%. In other words, they scraped in by the skin of their teeth. Since the election, the ALP’s primary vote has collapsed – only 32% will vote ALP, while 48% will vote Coalition. Even the greens have lost ground – down from 11.8% at the election to 11%.
Things are so bad that even their coalition partners, The Greens have started distancing themselves from the ALP.
Numbers don’t lie – the Australian people have made up their minds and in response the ALP is executing a deeply flawed strategy, which is making them come across as deeply negative, sore losers.
Most gay organisations make representations to government by using personal relationships with staffers, ALP party officials, members they know, and so on. These relationships open doors that might otherwise be closed to these organisations.
I don’t want to overstate it, but every gay organisation reliant on government funding, a government issued license or that makes representations to members of parliament needs to radically change the way it does business right now, or face oblivion.
There is a perception in the political classes that the gays are in the tank of the ALP and those that aren’t ALP supporters, support the Greens: as such there is no chance for the coalition to win votes by “pandering” to the gays on issues like marriage equality or youth suicide.
On the other hand, the religious voters (who hate the gays) look at ALP members like John Murphy and Ursula Stephens and conclude that the right wing of the labor party share their socially conservative views. This view was only confirmed by Ms Gillard’s speech stating that the ALP is not a socially progressive party.
The calculation that policy wonks within both the ALP and the Coalition reach is that they can screw the gay community over with impunity because there is zero cost to them at the ballot box.
If the LNP win in Queensland has taught us anything, it is that unless your gay organisation is developing relationships with coalition candidates now, gay voices are likely to be locked out of the policy process. But what about the gays in the LNP, I hear you ask? Well I think they might take the opportunity to get some of their own back on those Rainbow Labor meanies who have marginalised and excluded them from Gay, Inc on account their more conservative political views.
The reality is that the people who have served the gay community so well in leadership positions are generally members of Rainbow Labor and one-eyed supporters of the ALP/Greens coalition. This means that they’re not interested in developing relationships with the Lib/Nat Coalition during the election cycle, they’re only concern is beating the Lib/Nat Coalition. They may honestly believe that a Labor government is the only thing that can move the gay agenda forward.
In Australia oppositions don’t win elections – governments lose.
Remember 1996? Cutting back government spending (and NGO funding) because of a budget crisis makes an incoming government look like fiscally responsible, strong leaders prepared to take the tough decisions.
If I were in a position to influence Gay, Inc. I would be advising them that for the good of the gay community it’s time to get ready for a new political reality that many of their leaders won’t enjoy. It’s time to meet the coalition candidates, build relationships with their staffers and party officials, and it would probably be wise to make a few right-wing members of your organisations visible.