AME Rescue For Brandis Plebiscite

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pic by Nicola

AME/A4E has organised a last ditch appeal by George Brandis for LGBTI groups to support a plebiscite, at his request.

Australian 4 Equality, the Australian Marriage Equality offshoot co-chaired by businessman Tom Snow and former Victorian Gay & Rights Lobby co-chair Anna Brown, has called LGBTI organisations to a national video consultation with Attorney General George Brandis next Thursday, October 6.

The consultation is being organized and facilitated by A4E/AME at the request of the government. As far as I have been able to discover, no similar gatherings have been organised for Bill Shorten or Richard Di Natale, at which alternative viewpoints might be put.

It is not clear whether Brandis will address the teleconference himself, or if any other ministers, perhaps even Malcolm Turnbull himself, might also put in an appearance.

AME/A4E Stakeholder Director Dae Levine wrote to an unknown number of organisations as follows:

From: Dae Levine <dae@a4e.org.au> Date: 30 September 2016 at 4:33:21 PM AEST To: Dae Levine <dae@a4e.org.au> Subject: Invitation: National Community Consultation with the Attorney General

Hi all

Attorney General George Brandis QC has requested that we facilitate a consultation with the national community on the plebiscite.

We are tentatively scheduling this for Thursday 6 October at 4:30 AEDT, pending finding national video facilities. I will confirm Tuesday the 4th.

We would like to ask that each organisation designates one person to speak on their behalf, so that we can make sure there is time for all to have a chance to speak.

This meeting is in addition to the meeting already scheduled for Friday. We realise that is a lot of time to ask of you in one week and we appreciate your consideration of this request.

Best, Dae

Dae Levine Stakeholder Director, Australians 4 Equality

the stirrer has confirmed that the state branches of AME, and the Victorian and News South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobbies, Ivan Hinton-Teoh of just.equal, Rodney Croome, and Shelley Argent of PFLAG have received invitations. Perhaps the others will be the same selection of organisations that appended their names to the last AME/A4E statement on the plebiscite.

The assembled representatives – only one per organisation – will be encouraged to state on what terms they might support a plebiscite. The government’s aim is to try to ‘peel off’ some representatives from the current position of absolute opposition to any plebiscite at all.

This was confirmed by numerous polls and surveys, especially by PLFAG and just.equal, as well as some massive petitions. There is as yet there is no sign that the community is wavering from its opposition. If anything that stance is hardening. General public support for a plebiscite has also fallen off a cliff.

This begs the question, how representative some of these people at this consultation will be? VGLRL, for example, with a very small membership base and which has often struggled to fill officer positions, is rumoured to be wavering in its opposition to the plebiscite.

Brandis is playing “divide and conquer”, hoping to split the community ahead of the Labor caucus meeting the following week. That gathering is expected to kill the plebiscite once and for all.

the stirrer asked AME/A4E if any other political leaders would be afforded the same opportunity to address “the national community”, but at the time of writing no response has been received (not that we should read too much into that on a Grand Final weekend). I asked the offices of Richard Di Natale, Bill Shorten, Mark Dreyfus and Terri Butler if any of them have been invited to address a similar gathering, and will let you know if and when I hear.

Sources within the organisation have indicated, however, that no such consultations are currently planned, leaving A4E open to accusations of pro-government bias and a lack of balance in their approach.

Calls to Dae Levine were answered by a message that she is out of contact and unavailable until Tuesday.

AME/A4E PR man Clint McGilvray had not responded to messages at the time of writing (14:00). However at 17:22 he sent through the following response from A4E Co-Chair Anna Brown:

“A4E and AME oppose a plebiscite on Marriage Equality. It is appropriate that political parties continue to engage with LGBTI groups and people.

Please also find below our joint community statement and release on the plebiscite.

LGBTI GROUPS JOINT STATEMENT ON THE PLEBISCITE

A4E & AME Media Release: LGBTI GROUPS RELEASE A JOINT STATEMENT ON THE PLEBISCITE

VGLRL referred the stirrer to co-convenor Rachael Hambledon, but implied the organization was currently too busy dealing with a local campaign around religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws, and might not be able to respond for some days.

If A4E wishes to at least appear non-partisan, and not just a subsidiary of the Liberal Party, they ought at least to offer Bill Shorten the opportunity of a similar meet at which the negative impact of a plebiscite could be canvassed and an alternative plebiscite-free way forward could be explored, before any delegates are asked to make any sort of commitments to the government..

Attempts by invitees to consult together ahead of the meeting have been frustrated by A4E sending the invitation as a blind copy, meaning no-one knows ahead of time who else has been invited, and conversation between them can only happen at A4E sanctioned forums.

Divide and conquer seems to be their motto too.

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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)