Sly Defensive. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies
Polly Bush is the Webdiary columnist reporting the joint custody and gay marriage sagas for Webdiary.
With little hypocritical bibles under their wings the vultures descended on Canberra last week to meet with their fellow clansmen. Waving crucifixes, they brought with them fury and rage, with so much built up hate boiling in their blood over something so unspeakable, something so hideous and evil – the vultures came to divide and conquer love. Those, who in their mind did not deserve to uphold the “bedrock of society”, would be chastised with fire and brimstone. The vultures invited lawmakers to address their gaggle. Not surprisingly, Count Howard gladly agreed. Sadly and surprisingly, the Australian Lip-service Party sent their chief lawmaker along for the ride. The colourful parrots and lovebirds of the land shook their beaks with dismay. Confused about why Fickle-a Roxon would even greet such a fiendish flock they cried: Not Happy Nicola!
When the Federal Government last year announced an inquiry into child custody to examine a flawed plan of enshrining a presumption of 50/50 shared parenting for all divorced couples in family law, the Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appeared to be brave.
Roxon was brave enough to say the obvious.
She nailed the point of why the Government was holding such an Inquiry, describing it as “dog whistle politics to men’s groups aggrieved by the Family Court”.
Quite simply, the Howard Government’s announcement of the Inquiry wasn’t about “the best interests of the child” and it wasn’t about looking at constructive ways to improve the family law process in the event of divorce. It was about votes, and it was about the Howard Government chasing an angry clutter of votes.
The Inquiry recommendations rightly stopped short of enforcing equal shared parenting time in law.
Still, the process was about the message it was sending. It was about John Howard’s subtle attacks on single mothers by talking up the so-called importance of “male role models”. It was about the Government appearing like they were engaged and listening to fathers dissatisfied with the family court, the same court that had been at loggerheads with the Federal Government over the issue of asylum seeker children in detention.
The presumption of equal shared parenting in family law is classic One Nation party policy. Once again, with the collapse of One Nation’s voting base, John Howard picked up the ONP policy ideas ball and ran with it.
Dressed under the guise of caring for the nuclear family and describing marriage as “the bedrock of society”, the Howard Government is again after votes with his pursuit of banning gay marriage.
It also helps that Howard’s “conservative tolerance” of homosexuals means he’s partial to the odd gay bashing policy.
What is different with this issue is that it appears the Labor Party are now trying to do the same, running after the same votes.
Unfortunately, by doing so, both the Government and Opposition are condoning discrimination and homophobia. They’re condoning the hate filled bigots who, for some bizarre reason, feel that the allowance of gay marriage will somehow erode their rights and the “institution” itself. They’re condoning people who hate and fear loving relationships.
Somewhere in between the custody Inquiry and the gay marriage issue, Nicola Roxon has changed stripes. No longer is she brave enough to stand up and tell it like it is. No longer is Roxon prepared to say “This proposed legislation is unnecessarily enshrining discrimination in law. This legislation will only fuel homophobia and hate. This legislation is dog whistle politics to the angry loopy so-called “Christian” fundamentalist homophobes of society that John Howard appeals to so much.”
No. It seems Roxon now wants these people to vote for the Australian Labor Party.
Roxon’s appearance at the National Marriage Coalition conference last week was telling enough. Some members of the Marriage Coalition, are the same sad mad dad groups who pursued the failed 50/50 shared custody proposal.
Others included the likes of Margaret Court, tennis player, reverend and complete and utter homophobe (I don’t use the term lightly, and Court has proven herself on so many occasions that she is full of so much bile for homosexuals that it is disappointing she is still celebrated as an Australian sporting icon).
Why Nicola Roxon chose to attend and address such a forum is beyond comprehension. In the words of JOYFM newsreader Doug Pollard the event was like a convention for the “Christian Taliban”.
Whatever the reason, it was a curious way to announce to the gay and lesbian community that the ALP would support the Government’s marriage amendment without waiting for the Senate Committee’s report as promised.
When the ALP initially discussed the marriage legislation, some members passionately argued against supporting the Government’s bill. To ease the dissenters, the ALP agreed to pass the amendment in the House of Representatives, but the party would open up the issue to examination by a Senate Committee. That was what caucus agreed to.
But Roxon’s appearance at the forum, sent a strong message to the gay and lesbian community. As the Equal Rights Network’s Rodney Croome said to Webdiary, Roxon’s forum soiree and her resulting comments show the ALP “don’t particularly care about the gay vote – they care about the fundamentalist Christians”.
Croome said there was still no proper reason given for Roxon’s appearance: “Everyone seems to be mystified. No one’s been able to adequately explain why she was there.”
In making her comments at the forum, that the Labor party would now support the gay marriage ban without waiting for the Senate Committee’s report, Roxon broke the decision of caucus. Since then there have been rumblings of anger towards Roxon’s actions.
On Friday, Rodney Croome wrote:
Nicola Roxon is not popular. The colleagues of ALP Shadow Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, say they are mystified by her announcement that Labor will support the Government’s same sex marriage ban before the Senate Legal and Constitutional committee has had a chance to thoroughly investigate all the implications of that ban.
Some of them are genuinely bewildered. Others may be trying to divert blame away from conservative and/or ruthlessly pragmatic sections of the Party and towards an individual who is already unpopular with the LGBT community.
Whichever, it’s clear that what Nicola Roxon did is unpopular in the ALP. She defied caucus policy, broke a promise to a traditional constituency, and lent legitimacy to fringe anti-gay and anti-choice groups. It’s also certain that she will grow even more unpopular over the next few days as the depth of LGBT community anger reveals itself to Labor.
-With groups like Rainbow Labor slating the ALP, some Labor pollies now concede it will be next to impossible to re-engage with the LGBT community before the election. I’d add, after the election as well, especially if Nicola Roxon is made Attorney-General.
One member prepared to publicly vent her anger towards Roxon’s actions was Sydney’s Tanya Plibersek. Late last week Plibersek told the Sydney Star Observer:
I think it’s terrible. It doesn’t reflect the decision we made in the Labor Party caucus to send this legislation off to a committee. I’ve told Nicola in the strongest terms that I feel betrayed by what she said yesterday and I take very seriously the fact she’s not followed proper caucus procedure.
It’s been suggested that one of the reasons Roxon broke caucus ranks was due to submissions to the Senate Committee being overwhelmingly anti-gay. The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s co-convenors Somali Cerise and Rob McGrory said the ALP’s recent turnaround “was in response to 12,000 submissions by the fundamentalist Christian Right in support of Howard’s marriage ban”.
However, numbers of senate committee submissions don’t necessarily need to dictate policy – take for example submissions in response to Anthony Albanese’s private members bill in 2000, examining the issue of superannuation rights for same sex couples.
Despite only five submissions out of 1200 arguing against equal super rights for same sex couples, the Federal Government’s resulting report opposed the bill, you guessed it, on the basis equal rights for same sex couples in superannuation would lead to “the gradual devaluation of the traditional family structure in the eyes of the law and society in general”.
Still, the NSW G&L Lobby is urging people to counter these alleged anti-gay marriage numbers by emailing Nicola Roxon and Mark Latham their views. The Lobby wishes to reach a target of 13,000 emails by this Friday 13.
It’s just as abhorrent that three members of the Howard Government also addressed the forum, but sadly it’s not a surprise – after all, John Howard has made fear driven policies and attacks on people’s rights his Government’s stomping ground.
Labor’s Shadow Cabinet met yesterday, where the issue was discussed. According to today’sAustralian, Latham and Roxon were confronted with members of the left angry at Roxon’s appearance at the forum. Patricia Karvelas reported:
Mr Albanese and other frontbenchers argued Ms Roxon had gone too far in an attempt to impress a group of Christians, who were unlikely to vote Labor, at the expense of the gay and lesbian community, which had shown the party support.
Today, Labor’s caucus met and supported Roxon’s backflip last week. The ALP have however, promised to consider the outcomes of the Senate Inquiry, but should parliament debate the marriage amendment in the next few days, expect the ALP to vote this legislation through anyway. Very disappointing.
It was hoped, that today’s caucus meeting would flag some support for a registry for civil unions for same sex couples. Sadly, no such commitment has been made at this stage. If, by crazy chance, the ALP is brave enough to make such an announcement in support of civil unions in the lead up to this year’s election, it better be a strong statement.
According to Rodney Croome, unless the ALP “make a concrete commitment”, such a move won’t be believed by the gay and lesbian community, particularly given Roxon and the ALP’s latest turnaround. Croome said that for many in the gay and lesbian community this issue is not necessarily about gay and lesbians wanting to get married:
It’s about choice, it’s about not being seen to be second class citizens, and it’s about not giving in to an ideological crusade.
In short, it’s about equality.
Before this week’s parliamentary debate gets underway, it’s worth reading a couple of reports from last week’s conference. The first is from Rodney Croome’s website, the Webdiarist “Punter S Thompson” provides a frightening rundown of the speakers and content canvassed at last week’s meet.
Latham and Howard exchange vows at the alter of bigotry – Labor has betrayed the trust and hope of the LGBT community
by Rodney Croome
It was a soul destroying scene: Labor’s justice spokesperson, Nicola Roxon, enjoying a standing ovation from a crowd of hard-right fundamentalist Christians, being mobbed by an adoring phalanx of homophobes as she walked from the stage, shaking hands with and smiling to anti-gay activists.
Why all this unlikely adultation? Roxon had just committed the ALP to support the Government’s ban on same sex marriage within the fortnight. The incomplete Senate inquiry upon which the hopes of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have been pinned, and which Labor had promised to support because of the gay marriage ban’s many legal, constitutional and social impacts, had effectively been scuttled.
I was witness to all this from the door of the Great Hall of Parliament. Only minutes before in front of a crowd of 700 that had assembled for the “National Marriage Forum”, the Prime Minister had declared he would re-introduce legislation banning same sex marriage. No surprise there.
What was a shock was Roxon’s complicity. She stated her agreement with the Prime Minister, John Howard, that heterosexual marriage is a bedrock institution. She stated her agreement with Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, that the number of people who actually want gay marriage is tiny, a minority within a minority.
Then she went on to announce Labor’s betrayal. According to Roxon, Labor will allow Howard’s legislation to sail through parliament in a few days time, two months before the Senate inquiry into this legislation was due to report.
Those LGBT people who made submissions to the inquiry in good faith have been snubbed. The same sex couples who have asked the Family Court to recognise their overseas same sex marriages have had their hopes dashed. The possibility of same sex marriage will be delayed by years. The principles of equality and justice have been sold out.
The comparison with the Free Trade Agreement is telling. Labor was willing to let the inquiry into that legislation run its course before it voted on the issue. Despite all its talk about the importance of marriage, Labor clearly doesn’t think marriage is important enough to allow a proper inquiry into all the implications of reforming the Marriage Act.
Worse still is that the Australian Family Association and the Australian Christian Lobby knew about Labor’s position before the LGBT community.
The day before her announcement I had a meeting with Nicola Roxon. Marriage and the Senate inquiry were discussed and never once did she give any indication of what she was about to do. No such reticence was shown to anti-gay groups.
As soon as Roxon alighted the Great Hall stage, Forum organisers urged the audience to welcome her with a standing ovation. Not what you’d expect for someone who those same organisers had been accusing of going soft on traditional marriage only days before.
Minutes later, as Roxon’s announcement approached, those same organisers suddenly descended on and crowded around me. They showed no surprise at her announcement when it came. They simply turned to me grinned and expressed their “sympathy”.
The Australian Family Association and the Australian Christian Lobby, and I assume the Howard Government, had been told of Labor’s decision well in advance.
The only people who didn’t know what was coming were those who will actually be disenfranchised by all these dirty deals – same sex couples and their children who will have their families demeaned, diminished and disadvantaged by the very legislators who fall over themselves to “support the family”.
But it’s not only same sex couples and their children who will suffer. This announcement spoke of the fact that Australia’s far right – once lost on the fringe of national politics – is now determining public policy across the political spectrum and across a range of issues. It also says that the influence of the social left as well as the nation’s LGBT community has shrunk to next-to-nothing.
Now I know why Roxon warned me not to go to the Marriage Forum as I left her office two days ago. She wanted as few witnesses as possible to her task of selling out Australia’s future as a society which embraces difference.
So, what on earth has prompted Labor to indulge in such vile behaviour?
Roxon cited the fact that an overwhelming majority of submissions to the Senate inquiry are against same sex marriage, that the people have spoken and the matter is therefore closed.
But when has weight of numbers been a reason to pre-empt the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry or cut it short?
Other Labor sources say it will benefit both Labor and the LGBT community if gay marriage is neutralised as an election issue. But where’s the proof that marriage was hurting either Labor or the LGBT community?
There has been no high profile public debate on the issue since the inquiry was announced. Consequently there has been no upsurge in discrimination or violence against LGBT people, no mass mobilisation of anti-gay prejudice – just a healthy, mature debate on the merits of marriage equality.
As for Labor, none of the hard right Christians represented at the National Marriage Forum will vote Labor in a pink fit. Middle ground voters are utterly indifferent. Plenty of LGBT people who will now vote Green and Democrat instead.
In short the LGBT community and the Labor Party have nothing to gain and everything to lose from what Labor has done.
The only possible explanation for Labor’s behaviour is that powerful ALP MPs share with their Coalition colleagues an ideological commitment to carving the second class status of same sex relationships into legislative stone, and that these MPs have the power to make Opposition policy.
I’ve witnessed many evil things in my career as a gay activist. I’ve seen angry crowds bay for gay blood, I’ve seen indoctrinated children spew hate. But I’ve never seen a Labor spokesperson play up to an anti-gay crowd, declare herself on their side and betray the trust and hope of LGBT people.
Confronted with hate-groups like the AFA and the ACL, state Labor leaders from Michael Field, through Wayne Goss and Jim McGinty to Jon Stanhope and Jim Bacon never once agreed to speak at the forums organised by such groups, let alone concede to their demands.
It is an indication of the unworthiness of the Federal ALP to govern that it would break ranks with its state counterparts, stoop to dealing with anti-gay hate groups, and exchange vows with the Coalition on the alter of bigotry.
If Labor cannot be trusted to see through to the end something as simple as a Senate inquiry on changes to the Marriage Act, how can it be expected to carry out its commitments to other gay law reforms like anti-discrimination legislation and de facto status for same sex couples?
If Labor cannot be trusted to deal honestly with the LGBT community, and to give hate-groups the cold shoulder they deserve, how can fair minded Australians ever hope to have their voices heard?
If Labor cannot be trusted to see the justice in a cause as straight forward as recognising the love and commitment in same sex relationships, how can it ever expect to be taken seriously as a party of social reform.
Punter S Thompson’s Marriage Matters Experience, 4/8/04
It was a cold and drizzling Wednesday morning on the drive to Canberra. As I stopped momentarily at the stop sign near the front lawn of Parliament House, there to the right, was Tony Abbott striding off to somewhere with a class of school kids and their teacher following behind. I shivered, with coldness. Perhaps it was the omen?
It was already 9.45am and the Marriage Forum had started. I was late. The huge crowd still waiting to find a seat meant that by the time I finally passed through the registration process and found a seat among the already seated 1000 plus Christians John Anderson was mid-address. I’d missed John Howard’s remarks along with the organisers of the Forum, Jim Wallace (ex-SAS) leader of theAustralian Christian Lobby, Warick Marsh of the Fatherhood Foundation and Senator Guy Barnett. I wasn’t too bothered. It was others whom I was more interested in, although I’m not dismissing the influence of ex-military men who have some how paid for this country’s freedom with their service, in often illegitimate wars, and who just happen to be in the Christian Right along with the many Cabinet members and other parliamentarians too.
There were war-analogies in several speeches. Comments like “we are fighting not just flesh and blood, but evil in dark places” stirred the foot soldiers. “Marriage is the line in the sand, and we are being called to fight back” had calls of ‘Amen’. “Marriage is between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others for life” was the striking missile that drew the audience to their feet with thunderous applause.
Apparently this was the impetus that the government needed to push through their defining marriage legislation. This was the show of force, like the North Koreans on military parade, to all others that the Christian Right can fill the Great Hall in Parliament House with only a few weeks notice.
My camouflage holding, specifically what drew me to attend were the two family-law professors, Parkinson and Altobelli. In this religious-political arena, particularly in this Forum which followed hotly on the heels of Howard’s announcement last week of more family law reforms in the form of 65 Family Relationship Centres and greater fathers’ rights, what further influence or network were these two men hoping for? What was their connection to the Fatherhood Foundation? After all, some of Howard’s announced reforms are authored by Professor Parkinson, a member of the Family Law Council, and adviser to the Federal Government.
Parkinson’s words found their target as he announced as a Christian he “is against gay and lesbian marriage”. There it was as if some street mortar had exploded on a street patrol of down town Bagdad and the insurgents were cheering. The fear and loathing was not reserved for the terrorist of Iraq rather, the gay and lesbians of Australia (and probably anywhere else for that matter). They’re not the only group.
Parkinson continued that “there is a creeping equation to extend to other domestic relationships the same benefits of marriage” while these other relationships leave children with an experience of instability. Apparently, marriage is a protective fence. It is the bedrock of family, of society, the foundation for a healthy nation. So marriage is a national interest. Parkinson is concerned with public policy – and what protection and support is there for heterosexual marriage and how that will exclude other relationships, yet protect the vulnerable.
I silently yelled questions. Don’t you want to clarify things here Professor? Don’t you mean healthy loving relationships? You know as a researcher, that there are many marriages that implode because for too long abuse and dysfunction devastated. We all know of harmful marriages, dishonest marriages. Who benefits? Marriage doesn’t protect against domestic violence and incest. You are aware of child abuse and the Family Court. Shouldn’t you be pointing out the need for integrity and ethics in relationships? What about R.E.S.P.E.C.T? And what would happen to that research your quoting if there was adequate support services for those vulnerable people? Questions were firing but this forum wasn’t inquisitorial.
Nicola Roxon took to the stage. She corrected any confusion or misinformation anyone in the audience may have had that the major parties differ on the position of marriage. They don’t. Labor like the Liberal-coalition will vote for the legislation – that marriage is between a man and woman at the exclusion of others. Within the next two weeks if Howard schedules it.
While that attracted cheers of approval, when it came to adoption, specifically for gay or lesbian couples and Labor’s deferment that this is a state matter, jeers of disapproval and condemnation erupted. There’s no spin these people are going to swallow, and it was also clear there was little electoral support for the ALP among this constituency. At that point I wondered how many of them lived in marginal seats.
The Reverend Dr Margaret Court (former tennis champion) spoke next. She described the spiritual and physical interactions between man and woman and how this is at the foundation of marriage benefits. That this spiritual and physical interaction is supposed to be why marriage only can be between a man and woman. Again, I couldn’t help question does this still only apply when the marriage is good, or what if the couple hold the different spiritual outlook and commitment? And when she gave the example of a boy’s distress at being teased because he had two mothers, she blamed the lesbian relationship rather than addressing peer bullying and teasing as being the destructive force.
Mary Louise Fowler focused on key elements of marriage – which could be applicable to any relationship where the parties valued and committed themselves to nurturing.
Professor Altobelli’s approach was one of values and where do values come from, even for law. Isn’t the point of any good loving relationship that we value one another and if we have children, them too? How could widening the definition of who can marry erode those values? There was no argument that addressed a lack of respect or dysfunction which erodes good relationships and is the mark of poor marriages. And isn’t that the point, poor marriages devalue marriage. Other types of relationship where people may actively seek not to marry but still has “protective measures” -even marriage benefits- doesn’t devalue marriage, or make a child’s life insecure unless there is dysfunction.
Speaker after speaker, including Altobelli seemed to focus on the event of divorce as the cause of social problems rather than the events that led to the process of divorce. There are greater social problems when a child living with married parents in a household with domestic violence, or where there’s mental illness, or even where substance abuse takes place than a child of a partnered couple who may not be formally married. Isn’t the bedrock of society, of family, a society that supports a parent or parents (whether married or not, straight or gay) who parent effectively and lovingly and whom nurture the children supporting the majority of their needs? Isn’t that how to grow a healthy society? Isn’t this really about the need to grow healthy relationships?
Altobelli also proud to declare his Christianity, suggested the lack of literature and calls by the gay and lesbian lobby is another reason to make exclusive marriage between a man and woman. An argument that’s odd as it seemed to ignore social trends and shifts in tolerance.
Angela Shanahan gave further insight into the fear and loathing behind accepting other relationships. Other than the bleeding obvious (as she so eloquently put it) is that any relationship that mimics marriage but is not marriage goes against the faith. It also requires a certain cultural acceptance of the “unacceptable”.
Further, Shanahan and then Bill Muehlenberg (Australian Family Association) argued that gay and lesbian relationships lack a proper role model for children of that relationship, which have to be obtained by artificial methods. (Let’s not remind her, just because she managed to pop out nine kids, that all married hetro couples can/want do the same- and do we condemn their use of IVF and/or adoption in order to be parents?) So what is the issue with role models? Now I’m no expert on gay or lesbian parenting – matter of fact my only knowledge in this area relates to a friend who is a lesbian parent, who is raising a happy child with her partner. Neither of them try to be “daddy” which Shanahan suggested happens and is part of the problem for the child. Most gay fathers wouldn’t try to be mummy either. However, I can testify that having had a lousy father and a friend who has a lousy mother, perhaps all this focus on biological or even parents being the role model is a tad misguided – just ask any DOCS or child protection worker, they have their work cut out for them more than any American soldier in Fallujah.
Yet this same emergent discourse about role models for children, and/or “fatherlessness” assertion that rears it’s ugly head especially when it comes to single mothering and occurs elsewhere (now Shanahan used such terms when referring to lesbian parenting). For instance Howard expressed his “worry” about growing “fatherlessness” and “boys’ needing male role models” as one of the impetuses for calling the Inquiry into Child Custody and Child Support in July 2003. So such a discourse also has implications in other areas of parenting and public policy. And which organisation was behind the promulgation of “fatherlessness” and boys’ needing male role models, specifically their biological father – yep the Fatherhood Foundation- used to push changes in the area of family law. And what were the problems there?
The fatherless claims published by the Fatherhood Foundation contained bogus statistics, with no factual basis yet became a powerful weapon in asserting their fathers’ rights political agendas. The significance of the disinformation about “fatherlessness” was that this claim disseminated as “fact” was further repeated by many conservative politicians, and by some journos, gaining a largely uncritical foothold. This political and media take-up strengthened political support for fatherless claims and is now influencing public policy formulation and almost considered fact by the ignorant. And now we have Marriage Matters publication with how much misinformation?
The political strategy of building an alarmist discourse about the problem “fatherlessness” aims to stem the perceived permissiveness of marriage breakdown by stigmatising single mother, and now lesbian families as “fatherless” while at the same time promoting marriage by comparing social outcomes between the traditional families and single mother families. A key contributor to the Fatherhood Foundation and now this Marriage Coalition, Meuhlenberg claims that “85 per cent of sole parent families are fatherless families” when in fact 85% of sole parent families in Australia are headed by a woman. Muehlenberg’s insults discount single mothers and lesbian mothers’ capabilities, ignores fathers who have regular residency but not primary residency, ignores those fathers who have no contact orders due to a past history of violence, and overlooks those fathers who abrogated contact with their children, makes silent those widowed families and totally ignores other role models for kids found in extended family, teachers, sporting coaches, etc etc.
Now if readers think the Marriage Coalition only have the support of the Christians, you’d be mistaken. They have endorsement by the Australian Muslim Public Affairs and are opening dialogue with other religious groups.
Perhaps more significantly was the “testimony” of Pastor Ron Brookman who after 30 years of being a closet gay man has for the past 12 years converted to be heterosexual through faith and counselling and yes marriage (and kids). His testimony skidded close to linking gay sexuality to child-youth predators, but for faith and God’s grace. Perhaps again, the reminder not all parents are good for kids as (heterosexual) incest testifies but in this audience such horrifying practices by “married” families is just too challenging. Apparently Pastor Ron’s one case is enough to “prove” that being gay or lesbian is a lifestyle choice, as I overheard, among the faithful when they recounted his “powerful testimony”. Well I’m just not going to touch this one.
Other speakers sought to blame everything from feminism to UN to judicial activism to lack of literature on same sex marriages, to insufficient Christians in federal parliament for the need to make distinct the definition of heterosexual marriage. At no point was there any discussion of bad marriages breaking up – may be good for some people, and that with a bit of support those people can move through the difficult and painful process and find peace and stability and so good for the nation.
If this Marriage Coalition want to make marriage benefits exclusive to all other relationship types, how is that necessarily going to make Australian society better, tolerant? How will that protect the vulnerable? And that’s where this forum and all the speakers bothered me. If they were so het up about social problems why not advocate for more social support measures? Instead other issues were only slightly hinted at, and with such an agenda such gatherings have real implications in other areas of public policy development. As the day finishes, I was only slightly pleased that there was some show of protest with six (probably staffers) holding signs as the Christians exited. What was really rammed home though is how effective one or two people can be, in their influence and energy in drumming up support, networking within parliament, even when they use disinformation. If they can achieve this, what can you do? As Margo Kingston’s book, Not Happy John, argues now is the time for democratic activism.
Punter S Thompson can be emailed on PunterSThompson@hotmail.com. Polly Bush can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org