Wednesday 12th of December 2018


coke love

Whatever’s happened to free speech?


Last summer, its champions were all for clawing back section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Exposing Jews, blacks and Asian Australians to intimidation at the hands of racists was seen as an imperative of liberty.

Roll on a few months and some of the same voices are demanding Canberra make special laws to protect traditional marriage Christians from the “retaliation” of their adversaries in the marriage battle.

Does contradiction mean nothing to these people?

Here we are: in the name of free speech some of the most vulnerable Australians were to lose protection from scorn and abuse. But the churches – so heavily defended already by their prestige and wealth – must be given further legal protection in the name of religious liberty.

“This is the core point,” thundered Paul Kelly in the Australian this weekend. “Will [Malcolm] Turnbull before the next election face the prospect of believers in traditional marriage being penalised or intimidated because his government refused to provide legal protections?”

Strange how many laws seem necessary to do God’s work.

Kelly gathers grim evidence from around the world of believers suffering retaliation: a spat in Canada, trouble in Tasmania, a showdown in the United Kingdom and a boycott by Coca-Cola in Georgia. In short: “Prejudicial treatment of people and institutions because they support traditional marriage.”

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no, we won't say no...

Marriage equality opponents are trying everything to complicate this decision, but at its heart the question is simple: “Should all adults have the right to marry the person they love?”

The Coalition has contorted the decision-making process because it cannot manage its internal divisions, with political consequences as yet unknown, but we should not allow the question itself to be diverted or twisted out of shape.

As we start this unnecessary, voluntary, snail mail survey-thingie, the “no” case is loudly demanding the media run “both sides” of the question.

That makes it critical to precisely define the “question” itself. Because running both sides of the actual question is not the same as running “both sides” of all the other spurious “questions” the anti-equality case is setting up as obfuscations.

So here, at the get-go, is a list of the arguments this is not about, and to which Guardian Australia will definitely not be giving “equal time” or attention.

This is not about “political correctness”, that wonderfully nebulous term subverted by the right to become a catch-all cri de coeur against elites refusing to listen to the common sense views of ordinary people. Former prime minister Tony Abbott and the Australian Christian Lobby were both employing this handy it’s-really-about-something-else-entirely tactic from day one. “Voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks,” Abbott claimed, champing to lead the march into another war on something or other.

But quite obviously “political correctness” does not apply – even if we were clear about what it meant – because we already know (from actual, properly weighted, surveys) that the overwhelming majority of Australians want marriage equality and that it is the elites, in this case some churches and a determined group of politicians like Abbott, who are resisting.

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a sadness with a view...

Sydney photographer William Yang was unexpectedly reunited with a former boyfriend, Allan Booth, while walking through ward 17 of Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospital. It was 1988; they had not seen each other in four years. Yang took a photograph of Booth – a patient there, propped up in bed – and wrote on it in black felt tip pen: “He seemed like an old man and I had a strong desire to burst into tears.”

The photograph was among the first of a devastatingly truthful series that Yang would present as part of a slide photo talk called Sadness, later made into a documentary film. The series ended with a 1990 portrait of Booth’s deceased body, eyes and mouth open, a scarf reading “freedom from want” around his neck.

Richard Perram, an art curator who would become director of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, had also dated Booth, an impish young man whom he remembers was “really lovely, and quite talented”. Perram had not known Booth had died when he went to see Yang perform Sadness live downstairs at Belvoir Street Theatre. Perram cried during the performance and a woman, a stranger, held his hand as the slides were projected, one by one, taking Booth from glowing presence pre-illness to hollow absence.

The Sadness series is part of The Unflinching Gaze, curated by Perram and now showing at Bathurst Regional Gallery: an extraordinary assemblage of provocative photographs from Australia and overseas, interrogating and celebrating the male figure, and privileging the perspective of same-sex attraction. In an era in which queer relationships are once again under intense challenge in Australia and elsewhere, these oft-autobiographical, pictorial tales of image-makers and their subjects is acutely apt.


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I saw William Yang perform Sadness live downstairs at Belvoir Street Theatre. One could not be unmoved... 

a dishonest ultimatum and a procrastination...


Turnbull could, if he was willing, cut short the 'No' campaign shenanigans by simply calling a vote on Senator Dean Smith’s long-standing motion but this would take plain old-fashioned guts, so it probably won't happen, writes Mungo MacCallum.

SENATOR SIMON BIRMINGHAM and other exasperated colleagues are quite right: it is bizarre and dishonest in the extreme for those who have spent the last months – years even – implacably opposing same-sex marriage to now demand the right to determine how it is to be implemented, assuming the interminable plebiscite get a majority this week.

But then, the whole 'No' campaign was bizarre and dishonest so really we should not be surprised.

"The Victorian senator, a former policy fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs..."

"Policy Fellow"?

The IPA is not a learning institution - It's a right-wing think tank.

Bestowing illustrious epithets upon its operatives.

— Coalition Tea Lady (@ItsBouquet) November 12, 2017


The idea that the movement for gender equality which began at least 50 years ago and has moved forward – at times slowly, sporadically but always with a remorseless inevitability about it – could suddenly cut short in its tracks was never realistic — and to be fair, most of the nay-sayers understood that. With few exceptions (invariably religious) most of them were concerned not to consign it to oblivion – they never had the numbers to succeed in that – but to delay it indefinitely, to keep putting conditions and obstacles in the way at every step in the process.

Thus we had the invention of the original plebiscite, which morphed into the bastard voluntary version we have now been forced to endure, in the promise that this would end the issue forever. But of course it won’t; as soon it became clear that they were likely to lose the vote, the warriors of the reactionary religious right swiftly moved the goalposts.

The verdict of the people did not matter — they now wanted what Senator Eric Abetz described as a conversation (by which he meant an ultimatum and a procrastination) about what he described as religious freedom (by which he meant religious privilege). Abetz and his vigilantes want legislation to wind back existing anti-discrimination law to empower anyone who feels like it to refuse goods and services of any kind to those they suspect of intending to embark on same-sex marriage.

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read from top...


yes to yes...

ABS survey: 

Yes: 61.6 %

No: 38.4 %

for more analysis...


Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey
Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. News Alerts. The Marriage Survey has now closed. Thank you ... Find out more about the release of the survey results.


fondling at the apollo...


The story of Hyacinthus is one of love and jealousy.

Apollo was unfortunate in friendship, so one day he came down to earth to enjoy the company of a young man, a mortal, called Hyacinthus. They “passed the time” by playing coits... Hullo? How prude... Zephyrus, the god of the South Wind, was also in love with Hyacinthus.... Hullo? Jealously, Zephyrus blew Apollo’c coit so violently that it struck Hyacinthus, who bled to death. Apollo tried in vain to stop the blood gashing from the wound, but Hyacinthus was dead, so Appollo changed the blood-drops into a bunch of flowers... We know these flowers. Meanwhile Zephyrus, forever after, carressed the flowers that sprung from his love’s blood. 

         “Zephyr penitent,

    Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,

             Fondles the flowers.” 


The doomsayers lost the vote...

For a moment my exhilaration was mixed with rage. The crowd in Prince Alfred Park was cheering. The place had gone off. Applause was rolling across the country. Even in the newsroom of the Australian there was whooping when the news came through – yes: 61.6%.

But I was furious, too. How could we have been put though this wretched exercise? Why has politics in this country been for so long in the grip of preachers and moralising politicians obsessed with doom, sin and sex?

They long ago lost the numbers but they never lost their clout.

Whatever mayhem they provoke over the next weeks, equal marriage will become law. And when that’s done and dusted they may, at last, lose their power to make change so hard in this country.

This is shaping as a double victory. The doomsayers have their constituency, one that cannot be ignored. But today’s result said once again and emphatically, they don’t speak for Australia.

But for a couple of grim days in September when the Guardian Essential poll suddenly slid away, the victory for yes was never in doubt. Even so we’ve been anxiously talking numbers for months. How high could the yes vote be? Might it reach the 70s? Could we live with something in the 50s?

The result loomed as a verdict on Australia. It would put a figure on our commitment to fairness and good sense, to our freedom from old bigotry and even where we stand in the 21st century.

But this morning it suddenly felt personal. I had a nasty sense of waiting for my exam results. I haven’t felt that for more than 40 years. This was a national verdict about my lot, too. That fed my anger.

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not required to pay taxes? a tax heaven !!!


'Such is the privilege of the religious conservatives, they feel that disagreement with their beliefs is tantamount to persecution ... Being white, privileged, Christian and largely male, they can, unlike the truly persecuted, go anywhere at any time — probably travelling business class.' 

Dr Jennifer Wilson

WHEN I ticked "Yes" in the despicable marriage equality postal opinion poll – to which we were all subjected because Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lacked the courage to deal with it in Parliament and, instead, outsourced the decision in an effort to appease the right wing of his party – I did not notice anywhere on the form a question about the protection of religious freedoms as a consequence of a "Yes" victory.

1. “Protection of Religious Freedom”

And yet, the right wing has assumed a mandate to demand amendments to the Marriage Act that have nothing whatsoever to do with marriage equality and are, for the most part, covered in our anti-discrimination legislation which, inexplicably, already gives religious institutions the right to discriminate against fellow human beings.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has seized the opportunity to parade his leadership credentials by demanding that parental rights and “conscience protections” be included in the marriage bill and that the “very fundamental issues of faith and belief” are adequately covered. Morrison is a Pentecostal Christian.  


Anti-discrimination exemptions are not extended, thankfully, to bodies or individuals other than the religious. It remains a mystery to this writer that:

a) religious institutions need to be discriminatory;

b) they are not required to pay taxes; and

c) our secular state panders to religious exceptionalism.

Why are we even tolerating Senate debates as to the nature and extent of proposed “protection of religious freedoms” and why are we not, instead, questioning the very existence of this concept in our secular Parliament?  

Our Constitution covers the matter of religious freedom. I have seen sensible interrogation of the proposed amendments currently before the Senate that suggests they may, in fact, be in breach of Section 116 of the Australian Constitution Act, which states:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

With any luck, protection of religious freedom will be the next challenge to front up to the High Court. Crowdfunding, anyone?

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