That time AusPol crashed the party
By LJ Donnelly
You know that annoying friend you have, the one that loves a good party but sucks at the planning and never stays for the clean up? When our major political parties march at Mardi Gras Australia feels like that friend.
You do love them –they’re fun, a babe, and they mean well most of the time –but they’re only really good at the showing up part. You don’t want to resent them for it, but it gets pretty tiresome when you feel like you’re always the one doing everything while your mate’s cutting shapes all night, adorned in glitter.
Of course we make sure we get the dancing and the glitter, but why are our leaders, whose actual jobs are to plan and clean up policy, rocking up to participate in a celebration of pride and equality when everyday they make decisions that actively jeopardise it? Malcolm Turnbull might be the first Australian Prime Minister to attend the Mardi Gras parade while in office, but he is also the first Australian Prime Minister to be in office while 72% of the population support marriage equality and yet remain unheard. It matters because the Marriage Act is the only remaining federal law that still discriminates, and the negative messaging, prejudice and unequal treatment it fosters is the crux of Mardi Gras’ existence.
Let’s be clear: Turnbull did not march in the parade. He sat and watched from afar, much like he and the rest of Australia have while more and more countries around the world take action to achieve marriage equality. Though his party marched on, taking time off from planning a damaging plebiscite and launching an enquiry into the Safe Schools program to wave their flags in the faces of the people whose rights they’re denying.
And then there’s Bill Shorten and his Labor party entourage, cheering lads and ladies in red who appeared more concerned about trumping the Opposition’s efforts and ragging on Turnbull’s VIP viewing than they did about championing equal rights. Thanks for the support guys, but where were you all when you actually had the power to change things? Watching from the sidelines, waiting for it to become your drawcard, your pass back into office? Shorten was –he’s attended a few Mardi Gras parades but he’s never marched until now. The one year the Prime Minister attends, he goes ‘one better’ and takes his crusade to the streets. Go figure.
And sure, every year we get closer and closer. The NSW Parliament were among other lead institutions that apologised for the heinous mistreatment of members of the 78ers whom were ostracised and arrested for their involvement in Sydney’s first pride march. That’s great, but it’s baby steps, like when your mate picks up a couple of empties and slings them in the recycling on their way out. Not really the kind of effort you had in mind, but you’ve come to expect so little from them that what is a no-brainer for most seems as grandiose a gesture as the Oxford St carnival itself.
I get it, we throw one hell of a party and everybody wants to come. Hell, we keep inviting everyone over and over and over again to the call for equality, but it seems the ones who can help the most are either fashionably late or first to bounce at any sign of heavy lifting.
Australia, you look gorgeous darling, but your leaders need to put their placards down and get back to work. Better yet, they should march those placards into parliament to remind themselves of the work they should be doing. There’s more to be done so Mardi Gras can be the true celebration of equality that it deserves to be.