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Title: What Went Wrong in Australia? Credit: Craig Young Comment Thursday 7th April 2016 - 11:52am1459986720 Article: 18141 Rights
 
What can New Zealand LGBTI community welfare and youth organisations learn from the debacle against Safe Schools in Australia?   1. Foresight:I've said this repeatedly, but apparently it bears further repetition. Always monitor your opponents continuously and do not take them for granted. Always take careful note of their information/propaganda sources, tactics and strategies. Long before the attack happened, there were clues on other conservative Christian websites (such as the Bible Society of Australia) that the Australian Christian Lobby was preparing to attack Safe Schools. This needed to be picked up beforehand. Why wasn't it? 2.Ready Response: Ready response to one's antigay/antitrans opponents depends on foresight and competitor intelligence related to anti-LGBT/Christian Right organisations, tactics, strategies and overseas relationships with their propaganda suppliers, the US Christian Right. One case in point is related to the New Zealand marriage equality debate over here. We had a national civil unions debate beforehand and I reviewed antigay propaganda against marriage equality in the United States well beforehand, as well as tracking things back to the Family Research Council, from which New Zealand's Family First derived most of its propaganda, tactics and strategy. It proved easy to also track back to US LGBTI organisations and their responses to this propaganda well in advance of when Family First and its fellow travellers actually fielded it. Again, as I've noted in these columns, the US Christian Right has been targeting transgender child and youth protection and safety policies and its satellites will obviously try something similar if they judge that the legislative and social environment is ripe and that no-one is watching. Unfortunately, in the context of Australian LGBTI lobby groups and media, no-one was watching. 3.Evidence-based rebuttal and professional allies: As part of ready response, it is necessary (mandatory!) to locate relevant pertinent scientific, medical and social scientific evidence in support of your positions. Contact professional allies well beforehand and point out when the opposition is trying to spin or guy unwary media. For example, the US "American College of Pediatricians" is not a mainstream professional association- its members broke away from the more mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports marriage equality, transgender rights, same-sex parenting and other mainstream LGBTI political positions. Similar shell groups exist in the context of other public policy debates. Be aware of what these US Christian Right pressure groups are, what they claim, and contact mainstream overseas professional associations for rebuttals and useful mainstream evidence-based research that validates the mainstream position. Usually, members of these groups manufacture questionable 'research' that is inadequately peer reviewed, badly constructed and can easily be jettisoned ie the Regnerus 'research' during the New Zealand marriage equality debate. The Safe Schools Coalition had numerous professional allies- why didn't it use them to counter the histrionics from their opponents? 4.Call the Antigay/Antitrans Side on Junk Science: The Christian Right may try to lob subcultural luminaries at you as if they were mainstream, robust and objective researchers within their disciplines. They're not. Take appropriate steps beforehand if you're going to engage in debate. 5.Note ad hominem abuse: Point out that you have abundant mainstream professional evidence on your side. Resorting to this is the sign of a desperate opponent who knows she or he is losing ie Ian Wishart's silly article against marriage equality in the defunct Investigate. 6.Maintain the pressure:Strategic planning isn't one of Family First's strong points. Continue to observe your opponents, their sources and prepare responses beforehand. Do not take anything for granted before the final vote. Prepare meticulously. 7.So, what did go wrong? And what went right?: As I've noted above, it was obvious that the Australian Christian Lobby was going to target the Safe Schools Coalition, using prompt notes from the US Christian Right's anti-transgender campaign against transgender child and youth safety. Someone should have been on permanent monitoring duty within one or more of Australia's state or territory LGBTI lobby groups or media outlets, which did not happen. Either Australia needs to form a national LGBTI lobby organisation akin to the UK Stonewall Group or US Human Rights Campaign, or it needs to appoint a permanent media watchdog to keep the Australian Christian Right under constant surveillance. Due to our rugged experience during homosexual law reform in the mid-eighties, New Zealand LGBTI organisations do not take our opponents for granted and we do keep an eye on their activities. In Australia, Rodney Croome and the Tasmanian experience are the closest parallels and the Australian Marriage Equality organisation is the closest counterpart to our own. Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Eric Abetz should have faced immediate responses. The Safe Schools Coalition should have immediately asked its professional allies for assistance. So, what went right? It's not all bad news. The Australian LGBTI communities did respond quickly and provided articulate responses to their opponents. Unfortunately, while mass marches and media replies were effective counters, they were no substitute for preparation beforehand. Turnbull resorted to the strategy of asking an independent academic to analyse the programme, and then preserved it in the short term, albeit with constraints on its activities and scope, although it will not be renewed past next year. That is, unless the Liberal/National Coalition lose the forthcoming Australian federal election to the progay and inclusive Australian Labor Party under Bill Shorten. Finally, could this happen here? I note that Family First didn't spend much time on events across the Tasman, possibly because we outflanked them and beat them to the substantive news story arc, thus setting the news agenda should anyone get curious about what happened across the Tasman. Instead, Bob McCoskrie appears to have a bee in his car bonnet about the vulgarity and double entendres on display with Wicked Campers for some reason. However, we cannot discount this possibility in the New Zealand political arena, either, even if McCoskrie neglected this issue over here. We need to monitor, prepare and focus on this pro-bullying contingency should it surface at some point in the intermediate or long-term future. Recommended: Safe Schools Coalition:http://www. safeschoolscoalition.org.au Sydney Star Observer:http://www.starobserver.com. au Samesame:http://www.samesame.com.au MelbourneAge:http://www.theage.com.au\ Not Recommended: Australian "Christian" Lobby:http://www.acl.org.au Family First:http://www.familyfirst.org.nz Craig Young - 7th April 2016    
 
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