Freshly Doug – New Year

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Brace yourselves, the Mad Monk is coming, and he is feral!

The last couple of weeks have of course been rather disrupted, thanks to the holidays. Normal service will be resumed next week. Meanwhile, some thoughts for 2013. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but there are my hopes for the next twelve months. Along with a few predictions.

A hung parliament

Unlike most of Australia, it seems (if you read the Murdoch press), I’d like to see another hung parliament. This is the way democracy is supposed to work. Yes, it’s messy and noisy, and our pollies aren’t managing it well, because they’re still stuck in the toddler mindset that says “I want it! And I want it NOW!”

Hung parliaments, coalitions, working agreements on a policy-by-policy basis are the way most parliaments in the world work, and for the most part they work well. People scream about wanting ‘certainty’: well, there ain’t no such animal outside parliament so why should we expect it inside? Two or three more hung parliaments should see off most of the power-grabbers who want it all for themselves and give us a house of real democrats.

Real change in footy

In matters LGBTIQ-specific, the AFL should stop farting about and make a clear public commitment to tackling all forms of prejudice within the code. For too long they’ve been allowed to get away with window-dressing and passing it off as change, and they’re trying the same trick on us.

People say how well the AFL has done on racism, and at the elite playing level it’s true that a great deal has been achieved. On the other hand, how many indigenous commissioners are there? How many indigenous coaches and managers? How many AFL-supported and financed indigenous teams in indigenous communities? How much investment in sporting facilities in indigenous communities? How many indigenous players, managers, directors, coaches, trainers and officials in country football clubs across the country?

Likewise with women. How many women’s teams does the AFL and it’s associated bodies support and finance? How many women officials are there at all levels of the game? How many women managers, directors and coaches do we have? How hard is the AFL trying to change the game from a predominantly masculine culture to one which fully incorporates women? Are they exploring using women players in mixed teams?

So when the AFL say they’ll play a ‘Pride Match’ between what they probably think of as the two ‘gayest’ teams – Collingwood because they have the Pink Magpies and Sydney because, well, that’s Mardi Gras town, isn’t it – they’re really only making token gestures. A true commitment to change demands at minimum an annual Pride Round, with rainbow flags flying over every ground in the country. It’d probably run at a loss for a few years, but the AFL is exempt from a lot of taxes, and not short of moolah.

“We’re negotiating,” they say, and so they are, with Jason Ball and change.org and No To Homophobia. But they’re doing it in secret. If they were serious about making lasting change, they’d be consulting widely and publicly with the LGBTI community. What they’re really doing is PR management.The questions they should be focused on are:

“How can we permanently change our game to make it safe, inclusive and welcoming to LGBTIQ folk, not just at the elite level, but at every Aussie Rules club at every level across the country?”

“How do we change the culture so that it encourages and develops LGBTIQ players, officials, managers, directors, trainers and coaches?”

“How do we work with the community to create and support some LGBTIQ amateur teams?”

“How can we effectively police matches to stamp out homophobic abuse among the crowds?”

Instead the focus seems to be:

“What’s the minimum we do to make this problem go away, at the least possible cost?

Let’s see: play a couple of ads now and then, preferably while no-one’s watching the screens, sponsor a single, one-off match (we can always say it wasn’t a success and drop it the year after) – that enough, do you think?

“Oh, and we’ll have that young chap come along and chat to the new draftees.”

The problem isn’t with the players in the elite clubs, apart from a few dinosaurs.At the elite level, it’s among coaches, managers, directors and commissioners.

And the worst of the problem isn’t at elite level at all: it’s in the grassroots clubs, the junior clubs, the state-level clubs. And again, the main issue is the attitude and behaviours of officials, manager, coaches and trainers, not just players. A commitment to real and lasting change is what’s required: not token gestures.

Marriage

The ideal would be a federal marriage act that makes marriage between two adult persons regardless of sex, sexuality or gender. Period. I remain convinced that state-based marriage is just civil unions in a fancy frock, and pursuing it a waste of time and effort. We should be concentrating on federal parliament.

That means mounting a sustained campaign during the upcoming election in every constituency against any sitting member – regardless of party – who voted against marriage equality – unless they make a signed public pledge that they will vote for it in the first sitting of the new parliament, and place that statement prominently in all their campaign materials. And against all other candidates who fail to do likewise. Australian Marriage Equality should be working now on drafting that pledge, chasing signatures, building membership and local organisations.

After the election, if we do not have a majority of supporters, we must work to have any opponents deselected by their local parties. In Labor, this job falls to Rainbow Labor: they must be Rainbow first and Labor second.

Discrimination

If anyone had any doubt, the pope’s recent blatherings on the subject of same-sex marriage, and those of his cohorts in the US and the UK, have made it crystal clear that the Catholic hierarchy is public enemy number one.  I hope that ways can be devised to reach out to sympathetic Catholic congregations and priests to foment a revolt against this evil within the Australian church. At the same time, we must fight hard to end religious exemptions from taxation and anti-discrimination law, and to promote a state and/or secular takeover of Catholic-run public services. We need an new Australian Reformation.

Predictions

After the hopes, the reality. It’s going to be a hard year. Tony Abbott will probably win a majority, despite being the worst possible potential PM on offer. That will for a time entrench Vatican influence over policy at the very time that it ought to be removed. Labor will probably spend some years in the wilderness, with dire consequences for LGBTIQ. The Greens will do poorly, as will all the minor parties, in such a polarised election, but may recover in time. A lot of time will be wasted getting state marriage bills up, only to have the federal government take them down, and perhaps even strengthen the barriers to marriage equality in response. Queensland is an indicator of what is to come.

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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. And now he's been nominated for LGBTI Journalist of the Year 2017, which is great news, as he hasn't won any of these things for years! If you want to nominate him too - the more the merrier - you can do it here http://www.australianlgbtiawards.com.au/public-nominations.html "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)