Victoria police are vetting registrants and scouting venues to try to provide security for the besieged World Congress of Families in Melbourne on August 30. The final venue for the event remains unclear as they try to avoid clashes with widespread community opposition.
Activists are already causing chaos for conference organisers Babette Francis of the Endeavour Forum (formerly Women Who Want to be Women) and John Brennan of the conservative Catholic men’s group Knights of the Southern Cross.
Notorious bigot-baiter Pauline Pantsdown has encouraged her thousands of followers to register for the extreme-right, anti-feminist and homophobic conference. Pantsdown’s Facebook page is awash with hilarious correspondence between activists and Francis. Francis openly admits that police are vetting all registrants, even to the point of checking the addresses provided.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex activists, feminists, First Nations people, unionists, pro-refugee and anti-racist activists, and atheist and religious people against bigotry are organising a disruptive “Unwelcome Ceremony”, Equal Love demonstration and family-friendly “Block Party against Hate” wherever the congress tries to meet. Police have told organisers that the venue is unlikely to be either of the two advertised by the congress.
Several state and federal politicians are scheduled to speak at the congress. Federal Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews is scheduled to give the opening address and Victorian attorney-general Robert Clark is planned to welcome delegates to Victoria. Victorian MLC Bernie Finn, federal Senator Cory Bernardi and others will attempt to attend in support.
Debbie Brennan, a stalwart of the Melbourne Clinic Defence, is part of the Coalition to Beat Back the Far Right, which is organising the “Unwelcome Ceremony” at 8am at the conference site. She told Green Left Weekly the array of actions against the World Congress of Families shows the depth and strength of community opposition to the rise of extreme Christian fundamentalism in Australian politics.
“This Congress is not just a harmless talkshop about ‘ideas’,” Brennan said. “With Andrews and Clark and all the other politicians who want to attend it is clearly about shaping government policy and law: laws against equal marriage and reproductive rights; a budget that hits the poor, especially women and Aboriginal people; ‘work for the dole’ and ‘income management’; the racist NT intervention and refusal to talk treaty; support for the murderous Israeli occupation of Palestine; and the racist, inhumane treatment of refugees.
“The purpose of the congress is clear: to strengthen the influence of the far right in Australian government. This means a world of hurt for ordinary people and our families and it is something we will not just stand by and just let happen.”
[For more information about the protest, visit the Facebook event pages: Day of Action: “Give the World Congress of Families the welcome they deserve” and “Block Party Against Hate”.]