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There has been debate both inside the Labor Party and out over marriage equality lately. A subject which has once again been pushed to the front of social policy debate, this time by Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek.

Plibersek would like to see the ALP embrace marriage equality as a part of its ideology of equality and fierce opposition to discrimination of any kind.

For some MP’s however the issue of equality in marriage is something that they feel needs to remain a matter of conscience. This probably comes as a surprise to those who mistakenly assume that MP’s are elected to represent the views of the majority of their constituents, no matter how that fits in with their own.

There has been an avalanche of MP’s in the past who oppose marriage equality, largely due to their own religious affiliation, claiming to have come to their position after community consultation. Those critical of that view have often claimed that the consultation process involved must have been anything but widespread given the overwhelming public support for marriage equality.

One of those MP’s who claimed to have relied on community feedback for maintaining his position of opposition to marriage equality is Liberal MP for the electorate of Mitchell, Alex Hawke. More on that later.

Weighing into the debate now is the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA) or Shoppies Union as they are often called.

This union, widely regarded as a lead contender for most piss-weak union award as far as members are concerned, is however one of the countries largest unions and as such has some sway in the Labor Party. It can use its proxy vote power and its control over the members that are in their positions due to those proxy votes to maintain the union’s leadership position of opposition to same-sex marriage.

Tanya Plibersek - Fighting for equality Image - The Monthly

Tanya Plibersek – Fighting for equality
Image – The Monthly

Recently Fairfax reported on the Shoppies Union’s need to pay Coles and Woolworths up to $5 Million to prop up the unions membership, in a manner that sounds not dissimilar to branch stacking. This practice would also seemingly have a similar motive to branch stacking, a means to inflate your voting numbers to achieve an objective.

The Fairfax article also went into the outspoken unions lobbying efforts into the Labor Party’s position on marriage equality. Positions that would appear to be conflicting.

Fairfax reported;

“National SDA president Joe de Bruyn insisted that, while the union had never polled its members on the issue, they agreed “absolutely” with the union leadership on same-sex marriage.”

I’m sorry Mr de Bruyn, since when did you have supernatural powers?

Assuming that your membership is somehow different to the approximate 70% of the public that is widely believed to be in favour of marriage equality would certainly seem more than a touch arrogant.

Joe de Bruyn in speaking for his members is making a huge assumption and we all know what the first three letters of that word are…

Earlier today I thought I’d do what Joe de Bruyn doesn’t want to do or couldn’t be bothered doing, I went out and asked a few “shoppies” myself.

I chose a shopping centre that would more than likely be of the highest opposition to marriage equality due to its location. That shopping centre was Rouse Hill, a GPT shopping centre.

I figured this would be high in opposition towards marriage equality for a number of reasons.

  • It sits in one of Australia’s most conservative electorates
  • It is less than 10km from Hillsong
  • It is an area known as Sydney’s “Bible Belt”
  • Finally, because it’s Federal Member Alex Hawke had assured us he had heard his community voice on the issue.

The results of my survey surprised even me.

I spoke to a total of 138 “Shoppies”, of those I spoke to three chose not to disclose their views, and two were undecided.

There was also one who said that for religious reasons she did not believe same-sex marriage was right, however she believed that god is the only one that can make any sort of judgement so believed that people are free to do whatever they like as they will be judged later.

Joe de Bruyn - Views reflecting the earliest of the behind date range Image - Fairfax

Joe de Bruyn – Views reflecting the earliest of the behind date range
Image – Fairfax

All in all a total of six people were opposed to marriage equality while 126 were in favour of doing everything possible to ensure marriage equality for all.

That equates to a figure of 91% of shoppies in one of the country’s most conservative area’s totally opposed to the position that the SDA’s Joe de Bruyn is taking on their behalf.

Many I spoke with voiced anger and frustration at their unions misrepresentation of their membership.

26 of those surveyed also volunteered they were Catholic after I mentioned religion, of those 26 only one was opposed to marriage equality.

Several pointed out that it seemed ironic that as a debate was raging over the morality of marriage equality that Channel 9 are to soon air a programme called “Married At First Sight”.

I don’t know who is more delusional, Alex Hawke or Joe de Bruyn, but I do know that both have clearly set out to misrepresent those who trust them to represent their interests.

In a world where people marry for money, family pressure, accidental pregnancies, reality TV programmes, and even to get ahead at work, and couples divorce for all sorts of reasons such as infidelity, and all too often domestic violence situations, is it too much to ask that a world exists where two people be allowed to marry because they love each other?

Clearly that’s a world Jo de Bruyn does not want to live in.

Let’s hope someone shows him to the door.

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10 thoughts on “Equalize – A Union seeking to cloud the marriage equality debate

  1. Well, Peter, your survey wasn’t scientific but we can take it as a pretty good indication. As for Joe’s community consultation – perhaps he conducted it at an Opus Dei meeting by show of hands.

  2. I wasn’t wearing a white coat or anything, but I walked from store to store asking the question :-)

    More than either Joe or Alex appear to have done

  3. The SDA is at least as democratic an institution as the Sultante of Brunei.

  4. I like the new article layout. It looks great and is easy to read.

    Did you talk to”shoppies” being unionists, or members of the public?
    It’s not clear.
    Carole Wiles.

  5. The SDA has unhealthy close ties with big business. It’s a union that is held in high disregard by other unions and it’s retail workers. These heavily casualised, transient, poorly paid, secondary family income type jobs are of little consequence to Joe De Bruyn. His unions EBA negotiations with their corporate employers are a joke to behold just like any consultation this homophobe might have had with its union members.

  6. Thanks Carole, I only spoke to store employees, no general public

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