Changing Minds, Changing Sides

The Irish campaign was rough, according to Panit Bliss

The Irish campaign was rough, according to Panti Bliss

Malcolm Turnbull changed his mind & now talks about the plebishite he wants, but the public don’t.

Bill Shorten was for a plebishite three years ago but he, too, has changed his mind.

Plus, one of the last people you’d expect has changed their mind inside four months and now supports the plebishite.

The Australian, staunch friend of all things G.A.Y.*, has given the PM the front page to demand that, if the Coalition wins Saturday, Labor must support his plebishite. Nothing to do with the fact that if Malcolm can’t get his plebishite up, he’ll be rolled out of the Liberal National marriage bed by that red hot hunk of burning bigotry, Scott Morrison. Big Mal said:

“I think it would be very rash of any political party to deny the Australian people a say on this issue when it is clear a majority do want a say, and particularly when a government is returned on the very clear mandate to do it.”

Two lies in one sentence. A clear majority have said they don’t want this plebishite. An online poll of 2998 people conducted by RealPoll and the Centre for Applied Political Psychology for the Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, challenged the frequent claim of support for a public vote, finding instead that some 60 per cent of Australians were either undecided, or against resolving the marriage question via a plebiscite.

Less than half of voters at 40.4 per cent favoured the plebiscite and those numbers dropped away further when respondents were asked to take into account the expected $160 million cost, the fact that the plebiscite would not be binding on the parliament, and the potential for the public expression of prejudice against same sex couples and gay during a plebiscite campaign period.


Prejudice that will kill young gay people, as this nurse attests.


Second lie: Turnbull can’t possibly claim a ‘mandate’ for a policy we are being told almost nothing about. We don’t know the time frame, beyond

  • some laughable waffling about ‘hoping’ to do it this year (as well as the Aboriginal constitutional referendum – good luck with that)
  • ‘imagining’ that the vote will be compulsory
  • “thinks” it will be organized like a referendum (without explaining what that means)
  • not told us how the votes will be tallied
  • not explained who will run the YES and NO campaigns
  • not told us how much money they’ll each be given
  • outlined no mechanism for keeping debate respectful
  • and above all, not told us the question, even though George Brandis yesterday admitted on radio that the enabling bill was sitting on the stocks, ready to go.

Finally, he has not denied Morrison’s dictum that a NO vote will mean NO, while a YES vote will need to be ratified by parliament. Why is it a win for Morrison in one hit, whereas we have to jump two hurdles?


In the same edition of the Oz, we are reminded that three years ago, Bill Shorten was all for a plebishite. Now he freely admits he’s changed his mind. Refreshing of any pollie to admit to actually having looked, listened, learned and acted. How novel!

Now he says marriage equality will be the first bill in parliament if he wins. Whether that passes is of course dependent on a couple of awkward facts he isn’t mentioning: whether enough Labor MPs vote for equality (they’re still on a conscience vote), and whether the LNP get a conscience vote too (or take one anyway).


And last but not least, someone else has changed their mind, too. Someone rather surprising. See if you can figure out who it is. In February he said

[He] warned of the “terrible impact” a referendum can have on LGBTI people and says he would have preferred his country legalised same-sex marriage in a different way.

Drawing on his experience… [he] said it could be “very hard” for LGBTI people who were constantly being “weighed and measured” during the public debate.

Contrast that with today, again in The Australian, disputing Bill Shorten’s depiction of the Irish experience as “ugly division”, saying that in fact the vote was instead a “unifying moment for our country”.

It’s Tiernan Brady, the campaign manager for the VOTE YES Irish referendum on equal marriage, now running the YES vote plebishite campaign for Australian Marriage Equality.

In this he’s in strong disagreement with Ireland’s most famous marriage campaigner, Panti Bliss.

“Doing it by referendum is not something that I would recommend.

“It’s a difficult process. It’s a very uncomfortable and often unpleasant process, especially for LGBT people, because people are given a chance and a voice to say the most horrible things about you.”

“During the [Irish] campaign, I think there was more naked homophobia about. There was more chance that somebody would call you a ‘faggot’ in the street or something, because it was in the ether.

“This stuff was being constantly brought up and presented. And there’s a sort of a really horrible, personal feeling to it if you’re an LGBT person.”

The Irish had no choice: it was a very serious matter, since they needed a referendum to change their constitution before same sex marriage could be legalised. We need a plebishite for an equally important national matter: saving Malcolm Turnbull’s arse. That’s worth a few gay kids lives, surely?

I wonder what changed Tierney’s mind? Could it be the bucket of money a returned Turnbull government is prepared to tip into the YES and NO campaigns, should a plebishite actually happen? Is AME bidding to be the YES government provider? Is this why AME has run virtually dead during the election campaign, and is now talking up the plebishite?


Meanwhile all through the election the Australian Christian Lobby has been flooding letter boxes with vile propaganda, trashing SafeSchools, marriage equality and, well, us. The stuff doesn’t bear ACL branding. But if you look closely, you can just spot the telltale name L. Shelton. Lyle, the ACL Managing Director (you can find lots of posts about this on Facebook).

I haven’t seen any AME leaflets stuffing the mailboxes of marginals, have you?


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)