Michael Barnett has been copping a pasting from The Australian after he began pointing out the hypocrisy of some “Christian” activists, who have prominent roles in organisations whose commitment to LGBTI inclusion is recognised through their membership of Pride In Diversity (a subsidiary of ACON). Neither the LGTBTI press nor any LGBTI organisation has so far stood up with Michael against the attacks.
“Pride in Diversity is the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion specialising in HR, organisational change and workplace diversity. Pride in Diversity publishes the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), Australia’s national benchmarking instrument for LGBTI workplace inclusion from which Top Employers for LGBTI people is determined..”
These “Christians”, however, are also board members and senior officials of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, which is dedicated to training young “Christians” to take prominent roles in business and government and “Christianise” their workplaces. It’s a subsidiary of the monomaniacally anti-LGBTI Australian Christian Lobby.
Michael Barnett set off this storm in a communion chalice with a single tweet. His husband, Gregory Storer, takes up the story. Doug
That’d be my activist husband. He calls himself on his Twitter profile:
Campaigner for human rights and equality.
Not gay rights, not marriage equality rights, human rights and equality. For everyone.
Of course, it’s not so simple to say it all starts with this tweet. Michael had already piqued the interest of The Australian following the Coopers Brewery debacle with the Bible Society and a couple of right-wing Liberal party members.
The misinterpretation and bad reporting by just about everyone starts with this tweet:
Sure, Michael gets sweary. Some people find that challenging. I myself try to limit my swearing to private conversations, I’m not always successful. I don’t find tweets with ‘fuck’ in them much of a problem. It’s easy to pick up on public swearing as some sort of measure of a person’s moral standing. Or, you could use it as a measure of the stress and frustration by Michael when a section of society sees non-heterosexuals as deviants, perverts, sinners and plain and simply evil. They play nice, say nice things, they mean really mean things.
As an aside, as I don’t want to dwell on the Coopers Brewery situation too much. My objection to this was simply that the Bible Society thought it suitable to have a light-hearted conversation about marriage equality. That is, my right to have my marriage to Michael recognised by the State. Human rights are not something our politicians should be having a light-hearted conversation about over a beer.
The Australian has led the charge in indignation following Michael’s tweets. They’ve splashed his name across the front page of their newspaper and generated quite the media storm with various outlets making assumptions. Most of those assumptions are incorrect.
I can categorically say that Michael has not asked for anyone to be sacked. I can also say that he has not made a connection between the current marriage equality quest and people belonging to the Australian Christian Lobby’s board or the Lachlan Macquarie Institute Board. It is so much more than that.
SERVANTS OF TWO MASTERS
So, the background. Michael has tweeted about Mark Allaby from IBM and Steven Chavura from Macquarie University. IBM and Macquarie University are part of Pride in Diversity. These men also sit on the Board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.
Pride in Diversity runs the Australian Workplace Equality Index. Organisations undertake the bench-marking for a variety of reasons, at the crux of the work is the value that they see in ensuring that their employees are happy in their workplace and that managers are supportive of the diverse workforce they have.
IBM is considered a silver tier employer in 2016 benchmarks. That is, they have undertaken a significant amount of work in the area of GLBTI inclusion and are currently very active in the space. Macquarie University are on the bronze tier, they have provided sufficient evidence of work in the space to be considered to have GLBTI inclusive workplace. Both organisations take their workforce seriously in relation to inclusiveness and diversity with respect to the non-heterosexuals amongst them. The Pride in Diversity participation is voluntary, and I would guess seen as important to these workplaces, it’s a lot of work to get to the top rankings.
I’m sure that IBM and Macquarie University have staff ethics statements and codes of conduct that talk to this diversity. One of the sections in the benchmarks is about policy and practice. Like all workplaces you would be expected to sign these codes and statements in good faith and agree to abide by them.
Lachlan Macquarie Institute is attempting to train up-and-coming leaders of the future. They would like them to carry the Christian message into their public lives. They are guided by a board, and that board is very similar to the board of the Australian Christian Lobby. The ACL has been going out of its way to make life for people like me difficult. The Institute’s director writes this on the web site:
What we seek to achieve by this programme is the transformation of the nature of politics and governance in Australia. By helping develop the character and intellectual foundations of future politicians, journalists, advisors and public policy influencers before they step into public life. The hope is that we will see more decisions based on a solid understanding of what is good, true and beautiful in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”
– 2 Corinthians 5:20
Nick Jensen – Director – Lachlan Macquarie Institute
In a nutshell, they want to train people to carry the hard-right religious message into the world. That message that says the only good thing in the world is heterosexuals, white and middle class.
How then is it possible for Allaby and Chavura to sit on the Board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute while at the same time working in organisations that actively work to attain status in the Pride In Diversity Program?
This is the question that is being asked. The evidence of the staff at both organisations would appear to be at odds. Further questions I think that are worth asking is do the organisation really want to belong to Pride in Diversity or is it just lip service? Is it possible to shield your faith from your work when that faith actually requires you to influence your work place? What protection do the GLBTI community have from those that consider them to be second class citizens?
THE AUSTRALIAN LIES
The Australian newspaper, owned by News Limited, is no friend of the GLBTI community. News Limited constantly publish stories, opinion and cartoons that vilify me and everyone in the community. It’s not a pretty look for a news organisation.
The non-heterosexual citizens of Australia have long been the plaything of the media. They love to get a good ‘gay’ story to play with. It drives people to read and interact with their publications. It enables them to generate outrage and to dehumanise those who are different. I’ve seen it time and time again and have blogged on it.
This is the ultimate. To take a few tweets and conflate them into something quite ugly. The tweets asked the two organisations how it was possible for someone who clearly doesn’t support diversity is able to hold positions of leadership at both organisations.
Once The Australian had run front page stories on this, other media ran with it. However, The Australian made the issue about marriage equality, which it has never been about.
FROM THE TOP
It all starts with the head honcho of the ACL and openly-straight man, Lyle Shelton. I say openly straight because whenever someone is not straight, they need to be labelled as such.
Wilson, an openly same-sex attracted man, spoke in favour of redefining marriage and Hastie, an unashamed “Bible reading” Christian spoke for retaining the definition of marriage.
Moderated by Matt Andrews, the short video was simply designed to showcase the Biblical virtue of disagreeing agreeably as part of the Bible Society’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The issue being discussed was immaterial as the Bible Society has not been a participant in the political debate.
I assume that Matt Andrews is an openly opposite-sex attracted man. It would help if Lyle said so, just so we are clear. I’d hate to think he was some middle-aged gay bear. In his meandering blog post Lyle says:
A quick scroll through the #boycottcoopers hashtag on Twitter revealed many of the same vicious people who troll me.
Michael Barnett (Twitter handle @Mikeybear), for instance, was instrumental in spooking Price Waterhouse Coopers last year because one of their senior partners was a board member of ACL.
Lyle goes on to bring every other issue dear to his heart into the blog and finishes with the Leak cartoon of men in rainbow uniforms, a really very disrespectful and downright vilifying cartoon.
At this stage, Michael has called for Coopers to clarify if they support marriage equality. Which it turns out that they do. All good in a days work.
THE CEO LETTER
Then we have all these CEOs from top Australian companies signing a letter that calls for the government to make marriage equality a reality in Australia. This made big news, everyone was onto that one, after all one of the people to sign the letter was Alan Joyce, an openly-gay CEO.
Mr Dutton yesterday suggested CEOs, including openly gay Qantas boss Alan Joyce, should “stick to their knitting” rather than trying to “bully” governments into certain positions.
And here starts this notion that writing a letter asking for something is bullying. It’s a theme that the media and lobby groups love to tout. It would seem that if you disagree with another’s point of view that somehow makes you the bully. If you tweet about something that makes other uncomfortable you’re a bully.
SO NOW HE’S JEWISH
The Australian’s Rebecca Urban, then publishes this headline:
Jewish LGBTI activist defends his role in Coopers boycott saga
along with this paragraph,
A vocal gay rights activist has defended his role in the Coopers boycott saga, claiming he did not accept that the company was hounded into professing public support for marriage equality.
Michael Barnett, convener of Jewish LGBTI support group Aleph Melbourne, said it was unfortunate the brewer had severed its long-term relationship with the Bible Society in response to the backlash over its beer featuring in a “lighthearted” debate about same-sex marriage.
Michael is now a gay rights activist, a Jewish convener. Neither label is appropriate. Any more than an author being called Rebecca Urban, Lesbian Writer and Member of the Knitters Minders Club. (I made both of those up). Why define Michael as Jewish, what’s the point of that, apart from saying to everyone something along the lines of look – this gay Jewish poof is getting out of line. This Jew is telling us Christians how to do things. He’s way too vocal, let’s put him back in his box.
The next part in the saga happens when Michael notes that a member of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute board is also on staff of IBM. IBM, as I discussed last time, is pretty big on Pride in Diversity. Our Lesbian Writer and Chief Knitter takes to her paper and says:
Marriage equality advocate IBM Australia is being targeted by militant gay rights activists who have condemned the company over a senior executive’s links to a Christian organisation.
Urban makes it about marriage equality. Which it isn’t. It’s about the conflict between the company diversity policy and an executive’s personal position. We now have more labels; Michael is now militant and gay. Militant.
Others jump into the discussion. Andrew Bolt uses the phrase ‘Totalitarian Gays’, the ACL says he uses ‘standover tactics’, he’s on a witch-hunt on the ABC. The Australian editorial calls him a ‘Jewish Campaigner’, the ABC’s God Forbid show thinks he is ‘thin-skinned’ and somehow free speech is under attack.
Meanwhile all sorts of abuse is hurled our way with none of the big guys calling anyone to account for their hatred and vilification. Not IBM, not Macquarie University. Silence. They’ll just ride it out.
ACL CRIES WOLF
The best bit comes when the ACL takes the really odd step of removing all directors information from their website and asks the ACNC to remove details from the public database, something about safety fears. Pretending that somehow hordes of the gayz will descend upon them with desires to gay marry them to their knitting or something.
The saga will go on I’m sure, and from where I stand I’m aghast at how quickly the media gets off track and makes things up. I’m not surprised at all. It’s the way it works. It’s important to have a villain in every story. The Australian love to vilify those who aren’t, well, aren’t like them.
Michael’s actions are described as ‘the gay lobby’, ‘rainbow agenda’ and various other untrue areas.
THE SILENCE OF THE QUEERS
And where are the gay lobby groups in all of this. Where is our gay press?
Not only has nobody from Australian Marriage Equality told him to shut up, they haven’t uttered a single word of support. Not one of the Just Equal crowd have re-tweeted or Facebook-ed a message of support. The gay press is silent and happy to let it run.
Yes, there’s support out there, plenty of it. Michael runs alone with this, doing what I would see as good work it holding big corporations to account, as much as a single solitary person can.
It’s not an easy task and we often talk about how each of us handle the onslaught, how we respond and what we think about our approach. We do it with respect and love. Something that other parties should think on. It doesn’t take much to respect other people and to question why they are doing this.
To finish, the Twitter sphere is going off and there are plenty of nasty people lining up to tar us with all sorts of things.
I wasn’t going to write any more – I thought I’d covered it all. However, this has taken on a life all of its own and is a good example of how the media has its own agenda and will use their strength to steamroll anyone who doesn’t meet their criteria.
Today The Australian, and I won’t link to them any more, ran another article on Michael and his activism. They go digging into the past, give little snippets and avoid the whole story. This tactic enables them to paint a less-than-rosy picture of Michael’s activism.
The headline screams, well, that’s a bit much, it doesn’t scream at all, it is a headline. There in big letters it says:
Twitter troll who bullies brewers has little love for LGBTI peers
Now Michael has a bunch of new labels. His name badge is getting quite large. He is now a Twitter Troll and a Bully and a Little Love. I consider him to be my big love. That’s all he needs on a badge. I shall get one made up. He isn’t a Twitter Troll. You want to see trolls, go look on the Internet, there’s plenty of real trolls. Michael has raised concerns with people in positions of authority over conflicts of interest. Hardly trolling.
It’s true of Michael that for some of his peers he has little love. I have little love for some of my peers too – I guess you probably do too. You know, just because we’re all part of humanity doesn’t mean that we have to love everyone. Just because we’re all part of this rather odd bunch of GLBTI people doesn’t mean we all get along.
LINE BY LINE
I want to go through this article sentence by sentence, but I won’t. Let me be selective, fill in some gaps and leave out a bunch of stuff. After all, that seems to be the way the media operates. They have all this essentially unlimited space online and still leave stuff out. Go figure.
Having pressured Coopers, IBM and PwC and their senior staff to sever links with Christian associations, gay rights activist Michael Barnett has turned his sights on academia, demanding Macquarie University force one of its lecturers to renounce a Christian educational organisation.
He didn’t pressure Coopers any more than the hundreds of other people did. Likewise there has been no pressure on IBM, PwC or Macquarie University. It’s about as much pressure as you’d apply to a leaky balloon with a bit of sticky tape, not the weight of an elephant stepping on your head. As for ‘force’ and ‘demanding’ and ‘renounce’ I mean, really?
Barnett doesn’t want to talk about how Aleph members tried to sack him? Star Observer, April 15, 2010:
A growing rift in Melbourne’s Jewish gay community saw a war of words via email last week, with members of gay Jewish support group Aleph accusing current convener Michael Barnett for being too hostile.
Sack him? I was at the meeting, no mention of sacking at all. People were very cross and expressed themselves. Of course, what is missing here is the background as to how it came about. It’s easy to create a picture of division when you only part tell the story.
Melbourne’s LGBTI Jews were not happy with Barnett’s bullyboy act. Star Observer, continued:
… other members of the 80-strong group had been “embarrassed” by Barnett’s constant “angry” emails and the group is now discussing ways to establish a new executive committee which may or may not include Barnett.
Yeah, that’s right. The 80-strong group, they talked a lot. Offered little support before they were embarrassed, made a lot of noise and disappeared up their own clackers never to be seen again. In the long run, Michael’s ‘angry’ emails paid huge dividends in the community.
Barnett hasn’t changed his spots. Aleph’s official Twitter account, November 25 last year:
We have cancelled our registration in the 2017 Pride March due to @midsumma accepting @newscorpaus sponsorship. First absence since 1997.
What do you mean spots? Clearly you don’t know him very well. Michael has remained steadfast in his commitment to diversity, celebration and acceptance of people over all the years I’ve known him. We, he and I, continue to learn and modify our approach to how we engage. Boycotting Pride March and Midsumma this year was because of The Australian and other News Limited media sponsorship arrangement with Midsumma. It was a reaction to the ongoing vilification that these media outlets engage in on a regular basis. I still can’t believe that Midsumma didn’t give up this sponsorship. Again, Michael’s actions are vindicated by this continuing unwarranted attack on him.
The smear campaign is supported by the Letters to the Editor in The Australian. They show just how the influence of the media can skew the intent and influence the reader. Here’s a smattering.
Activists are engaging in systematic persecution
A provocative headline to the letters, and simply untrue.
I thought we lived in a democratic society where freedom of speech, religion and association were protected (“Gay rights activist turns on Christian academic”, 29/3), so I find the actions of these LGBTI campaigners disturbing. They are doing to others what they have suffered in history.
Somehow we aren’t entitled to enjoy freedom of speech? So, others have suffered in history. I’m here to tell you, Vita Mezzatesta from Pascoe Vale, Vic, we are suffering right now, and we are kicking back. Using our free speech and pointing out what’s wrong with the world.
These activist groups can’t touch me directly, and so I write to express my displeasure with all the self-centred, self-serving, intolerant minorities that now attempt to control our lives. There was a time that you could just say bugger off and that was the end of it, but now they have this need to force feed their views on everyone.
You make me laugh Richard Thomson from Kent Town, SA. Michael is not self-centred or self-serving. Control your life? You’d like to tell us to bugger off? Get back in the closet perhaps? Force their views on everyone? Come on. Perhaps you simply don’t like having your attitudes and beliefs so directly challenged. Perhaps those beliefs are outdated and wrong.
THE RESPECTABLE QUEER
Then we hear from Alex Greenwich from the lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality. Alex is a key player in the group and a NSW MP. This is what I’d call the lead group from our community that is leading the charge to achieve equality for us in marriage rights. They are self-appointed. It’s unclear as to how they are funded or how they decide what to do.
Here’s Alex’s letter.
Our campaign for marriage equality has always been and always will be based on positive, respectful and inclusive conversations to win over the hearts and minds of Australians. The national conversation about marriage equality will only be won if people can have conversations and are allowed to ask any genuine questions they may have.
For many people, same-sex couples having access to civil marriage is a straightforward reform that takes from no one but provides a profound positive change to the lives of lesbian and gay Australians, their parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends.
However, there are still people who have genuine questions and it’s important that we continue to listen and engage respectfully. It is because of our respect for the institution of marriage that we will keep engaging until we can join millions of Australians in marrying the person we love in the country we love.
As we continue along the journey to achieving marriage equality, we must do it through uniting, not dividing, and being respectful of everyone’s views along the way.
Alex Greenwich, Australian Marriage Equality, Darlinghurst, NSW
Alex has really let the side down on this one. He has an ideal opportunity to reset the debate, but instead goes on the sneaky attack. Essentially Michael’s activism around Pride in Diversity is thrown under the bus by AME. Michael has supportively pushed, promoted, encouraged and engaged with AME for many, many years. Not one of them so much as picked up the phone for a chat with him. Not a Facebook message, an SMS or even an email. It’s not like they don’t know who he is. Yet Alex says that we must achieve marriage equality through uniting, not dividing and being respectful.
Michael’s current concern has zero to do with marriage equality. Alex could have discovered that quite easily. He could have distanced himself by saying that Michael isn’t talking about marriage equality, he’s talking about Pride in Diversity and members of the ACL employed by organisations that pride themselves on the diversity.
Let me put this as clearly as I can. The ACL is not the church, they don’t represent a denomination. They exist to promote their version of christianity, and in that version there are no gay people, no lesbians and no transgender people. They might tolerate the bisexuals if you only have married sex with the opposite sex, and intersex people if you have surgery to conform to either male or female. The Lachlan Macquarie Institute is wholly owned by the ACL.
These two organisation are intolerant of anyone that isn’t heterosexual. They pretend to be nice, but underneath the facade is a real desire to spread their version of Christianity far and wide. They are not our friends. They seek only to have it their way. They represent a very small part of our society, even smaller than the GLBTI community.
They are not our friends.
Alex had the chance here to give them a kick in the nuts, instead he plays the nice gay boy who doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. The News Limited media support the ACL. They don’t play nice and need to make Michael out to be the bad boy, hold him up as an example of what is wrong with the ‘gay lobby’. Make their readership, that already hates us, justify that hatred. We play into their hands, and to the hands of the ACL when we, the activist, the ‘gay’ lobby groups and the ordinary GLBTI folk placate them, pretend we are being inclusive when in fact the media is driving the wedge between us and the rest of society.
That is a missed opportunity.