Gay liberation, refugees and the hypocrisy of Turnbull and Shorten

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Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten both turned up at the Sydney Mardi Gras apparently to promote equality — yet they continue to treat vulnerable refugees as inferior beings. John Passant reports.

PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL went to the Sydney Mardi Gras on Saturday night along with 300,000 other people. He is the first prime minister to do so.

This is the same prime minister who recently bowed to homophobic bigot Senator Cory Bernardi and ordered a review into the Safe Schools program. That program is designed specifically to help kids understand different sexualities and make schools safe for gays, lesbians, intersex and transgender students.

This is the same prime minister who, in between acceding to the wishes of the reactionaries, won’t allow a parliamentary vote on equal love to let gays and lesbians marry. Instead he has continued the delaying tactics of his predecessor Tony Abbott in pursuing a plebiscite on the issue. He will have the blood of those young gays and lesbians struggling to come to terms with their sexuality who harm themselves or suicide as a result of the bigotry and homophobia the Australian Christian Lobby and other reactionaries unleash during the plebiscite.

This is the same prime minister who sends gay and lesbian asylum seekers and refugees to Manus Island and Nauru, where homosexuality is illegal.

Labor Party Opposition leader Bill Shorten was also there. This is the same Labor Party that, when in government, refused to legalise same sex marriage. This is the same ALP many of whose parliamentary members supported John Howards’ amendments to the Marriage Act in 2004 limiting marriage to being between a man and a woman. This is the same Labor Party which allows its parliamentary members a free vote against marriage equality and will continue to do so until 2019.

The pressure on the streets and more generally for marriage equality has been so great that Shorten et al have announced they will allow a conscience vote in 2019. If they win government this year (a big if) they will introduce marriage equality legislation within 100 days. Although there has been a bit of a swing among politicians to supporting equal love, there is no guarantee such a bill would pass, especially given Labor’s free vote and the Liberals support so far only for a plebiscite.

The problem, of course, with Labor’s Damascene conversion is that it is half-hearted and insincere. They have only moved to accept gay marriage because polls show 70 per cent of Australians, or thereabouts, support it and because the movement was making a lot of noise in the streets and elsewhere for the reforms. Given Labor and the Government agree in substance on so many matters, economic and social, but differ on some of the details, this is one way of the ways the Party can distinguish "good" Labor from the bad Liberals.

Labor’s hypocrisy becomes clear when we learn what happened with the No Pride in Detention float. It was to be immediately behind the Rainbow Labor float on which Labor leadership hypocrites Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek were to stand.

Labor fully supports sending gay and lesbian asylum seekers and refugees to Manus Island and Nauru. Homosexuality is a crime in both places and gay and lesbian refugees and asylum seekers are living in fear in these hell holes. Is it the case for Labor that white Australian gays and lesbians are good, but that brown skinned refugee and asylum seeker gays and lesbians are bad and should be imprisoned in the concentration camps of Manus Island and Nauru and punished for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality? Labor’s support for offshore detention says the answer to that question is yes.

Such a reminder that Labor did not, in fact, support all gays and lesbians was clearly unacceptable to the ALP. They got the organisers to remove this unhelpful reminder of Labor’s selective and self-serving humanity from their sight. The police chimed in with unfounded allegations of harassment. This is the same police force who in 1978 brutally attacked the first Mardi Gras.

They do the same today to all those who challenge, as the 78ers did, the status quo. They just have to be more subtle about it in 2016 with the whole world watching. So the float gets moved a few floats behind the hypocritical ALP.

But not before the organiser of Mardi Gras – how does one become such a person, who votes for them? – delivered a tirade against the float and threatened to pull it out of the parade if they said one ward against Shorten.

According to Paul Karp and Helen Davidson in The Guardian:

Mardi Gras organisers threatened to ban refugee advocates from Saturday’s parade if they “harassed” or “said something” to the Labor leader, Bill Shorten.

A video filmed by a No Pride in Detention participant shows the parade producer, Anthony Russell, issuing the threat to a float organiser, Ed McMahon.

The encounter followed a protest by the No Pride in Detention participants at the conclusion of a media conference by the opposition leader and his deputy, Tanya Plibersek, half an hour before the parade’s scheduled start.

Russell, in charge of the parade, said: “If I bring Bill Shorten out here now and one of you people say something to him, you are not in the fucking parade. Do you understand that?”

Mardi Gras parade producer Anthony Russell's belligerent and foul-mouthed tirade at No Pride in Dentention float participants, threatening to pull them from the parade if they said anything to Labor Leader Bill Shorten. When it comes to the Mardi Gras and equality, apparently some people are more equal than others...

Apparently, for Mardi Gras organisers, sucking up to Labor is more important than the liberation of gay and lesbian refugees from the concentration camps they find themselves in, and the torture they are undergoing. That torture will continue under Labor.

To echo Nelson Mandela in a different context, but with a theme of universal solidarity:

"We know too well our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of gay and lesbian refugees and asylum seekers."

That is why the campaign to liberate gay and lesbian asylum seekers and refugees must be at the forefront of the campaign for equal love.

Join the 'No Pride in Detention' Facebook page HERE.

This story was originally published on John's website en Passant on 8 March 2016 and has been republished with permission. You can follow John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassant.

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