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November 2014 News

The highs & lows of political engagement

  • Written by  Comment: Lyle Shelton
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in a Q&A session with ACL’s Lyle Shelton Photo: Rammon Williams

I’m grateful to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for speaking at our national conference last month.

Enormous pressure was put on him to stay away, such is the antipathy to free speech of many of those seeking to redefine marriage.

When this failed, a vicious social media campaign was organised to have the venue, the Hyatt Hotel, cancel our conference.

Thankfully Hyatt staff acted professionally and did a great job assisting us with what became our best conference yet.

Mr Shorten showed courage to stare down the vitriol.

His speech, however, raised eyebrows. His characterisation of Christians as people who invoke God and the Bible to attack blended families and demonise people for who they love was wide of the mark.

The debate about changing the definition of marriage has certainly been robust at times, but I have never heard anyone from our side use this kind of language. ACL certainly has not.

I was able to politely tell Mr Shorten this during the Q&A session.

The Australian National University’s John Warhurst commented in the Sydney Morning Herald that “the free speech credentials of the marriage-quality lobby” had been “threatened” by the actions of those seeking to shut down our conference.

After years of difficult struggle in this debate, I’m glad this is finally coming to light.

These tactics have successfully scared many Christians, and even leaders, away from participating in the public discourse on marriage.

ACL does not agree with every political leader it engages. But it is vital we engage, especially those who aspire to lead at the highest levels, as Mr Shorten does.

Apart from our disagreement on marriage, Mr Shorten was warm and genuine. I believe he has the best interests of our nation at heart. We look forward to continuing engagement.

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