Bullying LGBTI To Support Plebiscite


Dennis van Zuijlekom

There’s a barrage of attempts to stampede the LGBTI community into supporting a plebiscite. Both Nicholas Reece, one time Gillard advisor, in the Age, and Michelle Grattan, on the Conversation, are playing the LNP tune. Their case is almost identical to that advanced by Tim Wilson in his interview with me, so it’s clearly the LNP party line rather than any independent thought at work.

The government is trying to scare and bully us into supporting a plebiscite. It’s this, or nothing. Take it or leave it. There Is No Alternative.

If we are to be bullied into a plebiscite we neither want nor need, the government must

  • Give us much more detail as soon as possible
  • Put strong safeguards in place to ensure help is available to all it will endanger
  • Keep the campaign as short as possible – no more than a week or two – to minimise the impact

Now is not the time to sign up to a blind deal. Now is not the time to be scared into taking a leap of faith. We need to see much more detail first.  We need to hold our nerve.

  • We haven’t seen the bill
  • We don’t know the question
  • We don’t have a timetable
  • We don’t know if voting is compulsory or voluntary
  • We don’t know if it’s global or seat by seat
  • If it’s non-binding, how will they guarantee marriage passage through both houses
  • We don’t know how the debate will be corralled into civility
  • We don’t know about the funding
  • We don’t know about religious exemptions
  • We don’t know how long a campaign is proposed

Wilson gave a number of assurances, but frankly, they’re not all that reassuring. It all amounts to “trust us”, and given the LNPs record, I don’t. He indicated

  • We will see the bill and the question later this year
  • The timetable has slipped into early next year, purely through pressure of time
  • He didn’t say directly, but one could infer from his words that the vote would probably be seat by seat
  • He indicated that it would pass because LNP members opposed would probably abstain rather than vote against
  • He firmly believes there will be no new religious exemptions
  • He blamed the LGBTI community for at least half the lack of civility in the debate, saying respectful dialogue is a two way street, and we should stop calling bigots and homophobes, bigots and homophobes. He was probably thinking of the stoush he and I had previously over this post.

This last remains a major concern. I am insulted by the proposition that I should have to beg for what should be mine by right. I do not have the intestinal fortitude for that level of Uncle Tomming.

The first six months of this year have already seen a significant uptick in homophobic violence and language.This is bound to increase further. Bad enough for most of us, but our vulnerable young people in particular are going to be hit hard.

Yet the government has gutted Safe Schools, and will not renew funding of the husk that remains, nor put any equivalent LGBTI specific alternative in place. There’s a petition here to try to save Safe Schools, run by Troye Sivan’s mum.

Likewise the young people’s mental health organisation headspace had been neutered, with CEO Chris Tanti and a large chunk of the board resigning in protest.

The government seems determined to push ahead with this,

  • despite having a wafer thin majority
  • with nothing resembling a mandate
  • with ample evidence that, once people know the facts, few want it
  • with no safety net for vulnerable young LGBTI

As it stands, I will continue to try to stop this happening.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)