IN the last few days large newspaper advertisements and mass-mailed leaflets targeted at the Greens’ gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender policies have been exposed as the work of the Exclusive Brethren.

Now, Liberal Leader, Rene Hidding, and Party Director, Damien Mantach, have both admitted they met with the representatives of the virulently anti-gay Exclusive Brethren in the lead up to the current state election campaign.

None of this should come as a surprise.

In places, the wording of anti-gay election materials issued by the Liberals and the Brethren are identical.

Both refer to “full access to marriage laws for same sex couples in Tasmania” either destroying or ruining society.

Is that just a coincidence?

Then there’s links between conservative parties and the Brethren that have already been proven in places like New Zealand.

The conclusion many people will come to is that the Tasmanian Liberal Party has been colluding with the Brethren behind-the-scenes to stir up fear and hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and our human rights.

But it’s not as simple as that.

Better than any other Australian Liberal Party state branch

This is the first election ever to see representatives of the Liberal Party attend gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender candidate forums (Sue Napier in Launceston and Will Hodgman in Hobart).

The Tasmanian Liberal Party’s voting record and election policy on GLBT issues is better than any other Australian Liberal Party state branch.

A majority of sitting Liberal MPs support identical or similar policies to the ones the Brethren’s mass-mailed, anti-gay diatribes condemn.

How can this be?

The war the Liberal Party is using the Brethren to wage against the GLBT community and the Greens is nothing compared to the war within itself.

Practical, down-to-earth, local candidates in touch with community feeling are at odds with ideologically-driven, nasty-cons willing to dispense with truth and fairness in the pursuit of votes.

The former see GLBT people as friends, relatives and compatriots with genuine demands on justice and deserving of a fair go.

The latter see us as pawns in their electoral chess game, or, worse, enemies in their culture war.

What this election has exposed is that there are two souls in the one Liberal body.

Unfortunately for the culture warriors and game-players their soul is bound to wither away.

Turned off by the extremism

The reason is that they brought anti-gay election tactics from Washington and Canberra to Hobart without even considering if these tactics would fly here.

I’ve already explained why I think gay seachangers are transforming the Tasmanian electorate: How the new Tasmania will vote

Beyond this, many steadfastly middle-of-the-road Tasmanian voters will be turned off by the extremism the Liberal Party has tainted itself with.

These are precisely the voters the Liberal Party needs to capture if it is to win Government.

They may have little or no sympathy for gay rights, but, for the same love-of-centre reasoning, they have little or no sympathy with shadowy religious cults and those who deal with them.

The Tasmanian Liberal Party’s current flirtation with the Christian Brethren and anti-gay electioneering will backfire in exactly the same way it did in New Zealand.

The Liberals will lose Saturday’s election.

That loss will give the pragmatists opportunities they must seize, first, to commit their current electoral strategists to the far-right think-tanks they should never have been allowed out of, second, to break all ties with theocrats, and third, to build a Liberal Party that’s deserving of the name.

Rodney Croome
15.3.06

For Liberal, Green and Labor policies on GLBT issues in the 2006 election, as well as statements by individual candidates visit
www.movingforward.org.au

For the latest GLBT election campaign news visit
www.tglrg.org

For more by Rodney Croome visit
www.rodneycroome.id.au
26 Apsley St, South Hobart, 7004.