Shorten on principle
Bill Shorten’s decision to deliver the keynote speech at the Australian Christian Lobby’s 2014 national conference in October proves Labor has learnt very little from its mistakes of the past.
Julia Gillard was only too happy to engage with this organisation whose long, tawdry list of offences against GLBTI people and families confirm it’s not so much the Australian Christian Lobby as the Australian Anti-Queer Lobby. She drew the line only when Jim Wallace equated homosexuality to smoking for lifestyle risks – and was widely praised when she did for calling out an extremist organisation on its extremist minority views.
Later, Kevin Rudd – an actual God botherer, not a pretend one like Gillard – called out Christian homophobia in a memorable Q&A appearance. For a moment, it looked as though the ALP was finally realising there were no votes to be gained in cosying up to the hard-right Christian lobby and was prepared to offer a true point of difference to voters from the very sympathetic Coalition.
Shorten has wiped all this good work off the radar in one fell swoop.
Above: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Photo: ABC
The most frustrating thing in all this is trying to work out why. It’s been proven that the ACL, for all its highly publicised bluster, actually isn’t anywhere near as electorally influential as it likes to pretend it is. And regardless, it’s never going to endorse a party that has several senior figures – including Shorten himself, no less – publicly advocating marriage equality.
On the surface, it looks as though Shorten is trying to have a bet each way – claiming to support marriage equality while tacitly endorsing an organisation not just powerfully opposed to it, but which only very recently equated same-sex marriage to polygamous and child marriages.
Of greater disappointment is the deafening silence from Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong and other senior ALP figures who’ve been strong equality advocates willing to speak out against hatred and vilification directed at LGBTI people and students, often by organisations like the ACL. But perhaps this is symptomatic of the broader problem in the ALP, that the Left is invariably outflanked by the Right, and the leader of the party, no matter which faction he or she comes from, is invariably beholden to the likes of Joe de Bruyn, Tony Burke and, more recently, Joe Bullock and other anti-queer members.
It’s safe to say no MP in either of the major parties is likely to address a gathering of white supremacists these days. But too many from both sides are only too willing address groups that are the sexuality and gender equivalents of such racial hate groups. Instead of condemning the ACL, Shorten is legitimising them, as is any politician who accepts an invitation from them to speak at one of their gatherings.
And Labor, which should know better, comes off worse for it.