I have no doubt that the plebiscite would have been won: it would have been a huge opening to build a mass movement for marriage equality and demolish the opposition. But I shared fears that the “No” campaign would have hurt our youth.
LGBTI communities everywhere are reeling from the loss of the 49 people gunned down in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. In addition, 53 were injured. Some of them no doubt are deeply missed by their families. Even worse, as is true in many LGBTI communities, some of them would have lost their family ties years ago. The other patrons at the Pulse nightclub may have been the only family they had.
On March 18, a day that was supposed to be the National Day of Action Against Bullying, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced devastating attacks on a crucial anti-bullying program. The Safe Schools Coalition is an alliance of 535 primary and secondary schools across the country, which aims to ensure the safety of LGBTI students. The program began in 2014 under the Abbott government. It has already engaged more than 13,000 education professionals.
A broad coalition of forces continues to challenge anti-protest legislation tabled in the Western Australian state parliament. If passed, the broad powers of the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an unnamed “thing” or to disrupt "lawful activities". The bill also threatens two year’s jail and $24,000 fines for impeding lawful activity. Widely criticised by environmental, social justice, and legal campaigners the law smashes free speech and criminalises peaceful protest.
The federal government continues to drag its feet on marriage equality. It is now clear that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will not initiate a marriage equality plebiscite before the end of the year, as promised. LGBTI community organisations are increasingly losing patience with delays and broken promises. Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome described a plebiscite as “an incredibly costly and harmful opinion poll”, after PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated it would cost $525 million.
The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is a major deal, but there is little public understanding of its content. Much of the coverage of ChAFTA in the corporate media has focused on its benefits for business and its impact on Australia. But ChAFTA has far reaching consequences for working people in both countries. The Chinese and Australian governments signed off on ChAFTA on June 17. But before it can come into effect, both the Australian and Chinese governments need to pass enabling legislation.
After an eleven-year fight, the Australian government has recently come under intensified pressure to let LGBTI couples marry. The success of marriage equality in Ireland and then the United States has made Australia more isolated. It seems clear that the marriage equality campaign is going to win. Nevertheless, the government is still trying to stall marriage equality. Many blame the Liberal Party. It is true that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s desperate measures to suppress the conscience vote show just how homophobic the party is. But the Labor Party should not be let off the hook.
45 people gathered in Perth on July 24 to express solidarity with a group of young people who were victims of an Islamic State suicide bombing in the Kurdish town of Suruç on July 20.
An important protest for marriage equality will be held outside the Labor Party's national conference in Melbourne on July 25. The protest is being organised by Equal Love Melbourne. It is one of a series of demonstrations being organised in the lead-up to the spring session of parliament, where it is expected that several bills for marriage equality will be debated. Marriage equality has recently been won in Ireland and the United States. This places unprecedented pressure on the government. Australia is becoming more and more isolated globally.
A booklet distributed to Fairhills High School students in Victoria made some wild claims about oxytocin and female sexuality. The booklet, entitled Science and Facts, was used as part of a Christian sex education program at the public school. The program is run by Epic Youth, part of the Pentecostal megachurch “CityLife”.
A landmark demonstration was held on July 5 in Perth. The crowd of about 5000 people — in the rain — made it the biggest protest for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights that has ever happened in Perth. It was also the biggest LGBTI protest across the country so far this year. The rally was organized by GetUp! and Australian Marriage Equality.
As refugee rights groups begin to form ties with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex asylum seekers on Manus Island, the LGBTI community in Australia is starting to stand up for their rights. Activists have organised a refugee rights float for the Perth Pride parade and a Facebook page "End the Queer Lockdown on Manus Island" is also gathering steam.
Following a mass campaign that mobilised thousands of people across the country and beyond, it appears the Western Australian government's shark cull has been dropped. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has advised against continuing the cull this summer. Premier Colin Barnett said he was “disappointed” by the decision but is unlikely to challenge it and is also unlikely to reinstate the cull in future.
NOWSA, or the Network of Women Students Australia, holds a conference every year dedicated to women’s activism. More than 160 students from across Australia gathered last month for its national conference in Perth, making it the biggest NOWSA conference in many years. The weeklong event from July 14 to 18 took place at Edith Cowan University. It featured a range of workshops and speakers, who focused on issues relating to racism, trans rights and sex worker rights.
Ten years ago, on August 13 2004, the John Howard government, with the support of the Labor Party, passed legislation that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Queer people did not have the right to marry before the legislation was passed, but the new definition was brought in to close any loopholes and make it explicit that the Coalition government did not support civil rights for gay and lesbian people.
Perth's May 18 March in May demonstration was led by a very interesting character. Baloney Abbott is quite a sex symbol in his bright red “budget smugglers”, fake rubber chest and oversised “Proudly Australian” badge. Waving a bloodied meat cleaver, he really brought the point home that the cuts are for the good of the nation. Only Baloney Abbott could lead a 2000-strong crowd of peasants with the chant “Budget cuts, all the way! Make the sick and the poor pay!”