No Plebiscite, Just Bills

img_1742With the plebiscite defeated why is PFLAG fundraising? 


I’ve written extensively about the rift that developed in the marriage equality campaign. What follows is just a brief summary. But the really really short version is this: the marriage equality campaign has undergone a bitter divorce. PFLAG and allies spent up big to kill the plebiscite when Australian Marriage Equality refused to fight it. But they had to do it without any of the money raised by AME. Which is why they’re fundraising now.

If you want (much!) more in depth, you’ll find a pretty full list of posts at the end of this one. If you already know the story, this next section is your refresher.


Before the last election, a serious rift developed in the equal marriage campaign. Australian Marriage Equality gained some new, wealthy, and Liberal-leaning members. Flush with funds, these new recruits flexed their muscles and decided that a Liberal victory, and with it, a plebiscite, was inevitable. They decided to work with the Liberals, putting their trust in Malcolm Turnbull, George Brandis and Tim Wilson, and to save their money to fight and win a YES campaign.Then they sat passively waiting for it to happen.

They made a pretence of opposing a plebiscite, but that was just window dressing. Every time Tiernan Brady was asked about a plebiscite, he said: “We can’t help the cards we have been dealt, but we can help the way we play them” – but the reality was that the cards would not be dealt until the senate voted on the plebiscite legislation. Their position was a cop out.

One of the AME founders, and arguably the best known name in Australian gay rights, Rodney Croome, strongly disagreed with this strategy. Rodney, plus deputy national director Ivan Hinton-Teoh, along with former Democrat Senator Brian Greig, thought the plebiscite had to be fought.

Hinton-Teoh left AME and set up just.equal as an alternative organisation. Then Rodney Croome left and began working with Ivan, and Shelley Argent from PFLAG.. But now they would all have to fight the plebiscite without the resources of Australian Marriage Equality.

The argument drove Ivan and Rodney out of AME and into alliance with PFLAG. Shelley Argent drove to the bank and effectively became the banker for the new alliance. The need for funds was urgent. There wasn’t time to build a war chest from scratch. The plebiscite had to be stopped. Shelley stepped into the breach.

POLLS – $20,000

Was it really true that 70% of Australians supported a plebiscite? Do they really know what it would entail? That it wouldn’t be binding, for example? What it would cost?

And what about the LGBTI community? Would we be prepared to endure a plebiscite in order to win equality?

Well, the one way to find answers is to ask questions. Shelley spent $20,000 on Galaxy and CAPP polls,and found that neither the LGBTI community, nor the general public, wanted anything to do with any plebiscite, on any terms. Crucial information that destroyed one of the major arguments in favour of a public vote.



RESEARCH – $11,000

Everyone was banging on about how we shouldn’t worry about a plebiscite: look at Ireland, they said. The referendum campaign had been a wonderful, uplifting, inspiring experience. What are you afraid of, they taunted?

Shelley spent another $11,000 on research proving that the experience had in fact been deeply traumatic for many. And commissioned a video to get the information out. Another crippling blow to the credibility of the governments case.



She placed three quarter-page adverts in The Australian, at a cost of $15,000 each, a total of $45,000. In this one, she let Turnbull have it with both barrels:



Then came the Make It Law campaign, with a sophisticated website putting people in contact with their representatives in Canberra, building a supporter database, that cost $100,000. To date the site has delivered over 430,000 emails. Shelley bankrolled that, too.



Now we have to fight to get a bill through this parliament in this session, in the teeth of strong opposition from certain members of the coalition. That will take even more money. Which is why I’m asking you to make a donation to PFLAG to help us build that war chest we will need for the fights ahead.




…as more than one exasperated politician has asked, when faced with Shelley’s abundant energy and determination

  • When Shelley Argent’s eldest son came out as gay it was hard to find any support or information, so she approached the Queensland Aids Council (QAC) looking for help.
  • By 1998 she was an education volunteer with QAC
  • Then she discovered the local Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays branch, and quickly became it’s driving force.
  • When she couldn’t find enough written material, she wrote it herself: educational booklets, articles for mainstream and gay papers and magazines. She ran workshops in rural areas, and gave countless radio interviews talking about sexual diversity.
  • In 2002 as PFLAG national spokesperson, she lobbied for changes to Anti-Discrimination Legislation.
  • Her tireless work on behalf of the LGBTI community was recognised with the award of the Order of Australia in the 2006 Australia Day Honors list.

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Mother and son



Turnbull Agrees To Rig Plebiscite / What is a plebiscite? / Secret Plebiscite Bill / A No Vote Means No Bill / That Bloody #Plebishite Again / Changing Minds, Changing Sides


Marriage Equality Sellout? / Marriage Equality’s New Face /  ‘70% Want a Plebiscite’ Is A Lie / Don’t Use Us To Prop Up PM / AME Replies To Critics / Plebiscite Lies, Updated /Shelley’s Advice To Turnbull / Tim Wilson: Plebiscite Now / Bullying LGBTI To Support Plebiscite / Keep Standing In The Way / Brandis Hardens His Heart / Resist, Reject, Refuse / 26,000 Voices Silenced


Anti-Plebiscite Petition Live Again / The Best Of All Possible Splits / Wooing the Cross Bench / Something Wicked This Way Comes / Unnecessary Complications / Plebiscite Almost Dead / A Letter From Ireland / If That’s The Question, I’ll Vote No


Bill On The Brink; Keep Calling! / Why Are We Waiting? / Plan B Arrives / What is Australian Marriage Equality Up To? / Damned If You Don’t, Dammed If You Do / Australian Marriage Equality: Still Engaged To The Plebiscite


AME Rescue For Brandis Plebiscite / #NoPlebiscite Campaign Update / Resounding NO to Brandis / AME Disinvites Brandis Critic / Not Quite Marriage: A Dangerous Moment / The Dogs of War / AME Takes Plebiscite Off Life Support / Did They Or Didn’t They? / Uncivil and Intolerant / Why We Didn’t Sign / AME Fails To Revive Plebiscite

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)