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John Passant

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December 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
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Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

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Send Barnaby to Indonesia
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The ALP Conference and the same-sex marriage campaign

The campaign for marriage equality scored a victory last weekend, with the ALP national conference voting to amend the party platform to recognise same-sex marriage.

Protesting in Hyde Park before marching to the conference.

But the fight is not over, as the government has made no commitment to change the law, instead allowing only a conscience vote on the issue in parliament. In the wake of the conference, and the biggest demonstration for gay and lesbian rights in Australian history (which was held outside the conference), Socialist Alternative spoke to Cat Rose, co-convenor of Community Action Against Homophobia in Sydney about the conference and the campaign.

The Labor Party has changed its platform to recognise same-sex marriage. How much of a victory is this?

The same-sex marriage campaign has gone from strength to strength in recent years and the rally at the ALP conference over the weekend was the biggest ever. We estimated the crowd at 10,000 strong, which was a turnout we were absolutely stoked with.

We put a lot of energy into this campaign and it has really paid off, in producing a public campaign that challenges homophobia, and in successfully challenging the government as the result of the weekend shows.

It is a real testament to the campaign that the prime minister was beaten back after being so vocal about her personal opposition to gay marriage. It was a clear political and moral victory, but it is far from granting our demand of “equal rights in law”, which is what the party could have enforced that day.

The party only changed its platform to exclude same-sex marriage in 2007. Why the sudden turn around?

It is a very sudden turnaround. It has only really been over the last 12 months that anyone of note in the Labor Party has been prepared to come out publicly in support for same-sex marriage.

Before then, people in the campaign were faced with bizarre experiences of meeting Labor politicians who would assure us of their support but ask that we didn’t tell anyone! So that gives you a sense of where things were at, no one inside the ALP was really prepared to rock the boat.

The turning point was the 2010 federal election. The issue dogged Gillard and Abbott throughout the campaign, despite agreement between the major parties. Labor bled votes to the Greens and found itself unable to form a majority government.

A number of people within the ALP then came out declaring their support for marriage equality in an attempt to position the ALP as a progressive and modern party on a popular issue.

None of this would have happened though without a significant campaign. The 2010 election was a turning point firstly because of the huge public support for equal marriage rights – it had been around 60 percent for some time. Secondly there was extensive and ongoing media coverage of the issue.

 Thirdly, and most importantly, lively demonstrations were held across the country. The campaign was peaking, which was partly what kept it in the news and made it an issue for the media. Thousands of people repeatedly poured into the streets of major cities demanding change.

Combined with the international situation of reform, this really built momentum that, I think, made some within the ALP make the call that they would rather be on the right side of history on something that in the long run has been looking increasingly likely.

Despite the change in platform, the government will not allow a binding vote on the policy change in parliament, instead granting MPs a conscience vote. What does this mean for the possibility of Same-Sex Marriage becoming a reality in the near future?

Community Action Against Homophobia and Equal Love groups have stood strongly for the platform change and against a conscience vote from the beginning. It is something we have been jumping up and down about.

As time has gone on, more and more have been won to opposition to the conscience vote. Before the ALP conference, even mainstream lobby organisations and a number of marriage equality supporters within the ALP came out against it.

The conscience vote is a deliberate manoeuvre to limit our chances of winning. It means that ALP parliamentarians will be allowed to vote against party policy on the basis that their “conscience” tells them that we shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

Obviously the issue has been a vexed one for the ALP, with differences of opinion about how to position the party, but the conscience vote that has been decided upon represents a victory for those who want to maintain discrimination.

All of the mainstream news commentators are saying that the current composition of parliament means that a bill for equal marriage rights will be voted down. But what will matter is whether people accept the decision of the weekend or decide to keep fighting.

The ALP conference in 2009 saw the first sizeable demonstrations since the ban on same-sex marriage was passed in 2004. Eight thousand people protested in major cities across Australia, but the result was much more negative. There was no change to the ALP platform that year, so opposition to same-sex marriage remained enshrined.

But there was never any suggestion that this was the end of the road. In fact it sparked the big wave of protests that brought us to today. The conscience vote is not the end of the story, but the beginning. We want to take the victory of the ALP changing their platform and keep on demanding more.

The challenge for us now will be in prosecuting the argument that now is not the time to give up, that we will have to continue to fight. That is what got us to where we are. That is the only thing that will get us equality in the future.



Comment from paul walter
Time December 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

yep, time for the wowsers, authoritarians and the state to realise their jurisdiction ends rather than begins at the bedroom door- whether they like it or not.

Comment from alfred venison
Time December 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm

dear conrade
in queensland the anglican church’s peter catt says “a same-sex unions bill would not deny or denigrate the legitimacy of marriage”. yet people hear the australian christian lobby and respond to that.

churchies do a lot of good with helping refugees settle, for example.

when it comes to the floor of the house, a number of church going mps will probably vote in favour of a same-sex unions bill; there is at least one atheist who will be voting against it.

so, not all supporters are necessarily atheists and all opponents are not necessarily religious.

and, for religious believers who are prepared to, or able to, believe, as well as think for themselves, there is “christians 4 equality” an initiative of “australian marriage equality”:- where they say: “if you’re a christian who supports marriage equality, click here”; its for their letter campaign to mps.
yours sincerely
alfred venison

Comment from paul walter
Time December 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Alfred Venison makes the interesting proposition that at least athiest will be voting against any gay rights legislation. Very intriguing. Is the person lib or lab, male or female, old or young; generally conservative or leftosh in their politics?

Comment from milnestreet
Time December 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Put it to a referrendum and then we can all get on with life. Don’t forget it’s minority groups that are destroying democracy’

Comment from alfred venison
Time December 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

dear paul walter
the atheist who’ll vote against it is of course julia gillard. i wonder if rudd will vote for it? remember his church-side door stops on a sunday? only one i know to acutally put in time at a soup kitchen. i don’t think you’d see the careerist gillard or any of her thanes any where near an actual charity outlet. i wonder what church turnbull goes to? abbott & gillard; bed-fellows in anti-gay marriage sentiment. conroy will be interesting – remember his opposition to uranium sales defied received faction-sense. not all believers are against it – not all atheists are for it. I think it will be very interesting to cross-tab the votes in parliament and the known religious affiliations (or not) of the voters. mmmmmm.
yours sincerely
alfred venison

Comment from juanR
Time December 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm

“yep, (Paul) time for the wowsers, authoritarians and the state to realise their jurisdiction ends rather than begins at the bedroom door- whether they like it or not.” and, I would add, “for every Tom, Dick and Harry to change the meaning of words.” Same sex unions are not marriages.

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