Is Marriage Alliance’s CEO Damian Wyld being deceptive?

April 14, 2017

In an open letter published on March 31 2017, Marriage Alliance’s CEO Damian Wyld claims, in the absence of any evidence:

We are alarmed by the news that Mark Allaby has been pressured to stand down from the board of another faith-based institution because of the perception that such board positions are not compatible with employment with companies which have publicly expressed support for changing the definition of marriage.

Contrary to what is expressed by some activists, we do not consider that your company’s expressed commitment to diversity is undermined by allowing all employees, including senior executives, the ability to hold, express and act on their beliefs in relation to marriage.

Two weeks earlier I posted this tweet:

In this tweet (and others) I raised concern about Mark Allaby working for IBM, a pro-LGBTIQ Pride in Diversity member organisation, whilst being a Director on the board of a charity holding a strong anti-LGBTIQ stance.

It’s unclear on what sound basis Damian Wyld brought the issue of marriage into this conversation.  My tweets simply do not mention or allude to marriage.

What my tweets do is raise questions around how a senior employee of a leading pro-LGBTIQ corporation can, with any level of personal integrity, support their employer’s pro-LGBTIQ Diversity Statement, whilst also being on the board of a charitable organisation whose framework is based on a version of Christianity that is fundamentally opposed to LGBTIQ inclusion and equality.

If there is any doubt of the latter, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute is run by the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation that comprehensively dedicates significant resources to denying dignity and full societal inclusion to same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse Australians.

On the issue of marriage, to date IBM have never issued a public statement declaring support for marriage equality.  IBM’s logo did appear on the Australian Marriage Equality list of declared corporate supporters sometime between February 19 and March 20 this year.  However AME have told me that on the grounds of privacy they will not provide evidence of any correspondence authorising their use of IBM’s logo.  In the absence of any public statement from IBM or AME, it can only be concluded that IBM have privately declared support for marriage equality.

I can confidently state that during my employment at IBM, from October 2005 to February 2015, IBM had explicitly and variously declined to go as far as declaring support for marriage equality.  This was despite IBM being a solid supporter of LGBTIQ visibility and inclusion in the workplace, and being a founding member of Pride in Diversity.  Since February 2015 IBM has not issued a public statement in support of marriage equality.

On March 16 The Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine reported IBM’s Managing Director Kerry Purcell co-signed a letter, in his personal capacity, declaring support for marriage equality.  However it’s quite a leap to claim that IBM’s corporate entity declared support for marriage equality simply because their Managing Director declared personal support for it.

So where is Damian Wyld’s evidence to substantiate his claim that IBM “have publicly expressed support for changing the definition of marriage”?

And where is Damian Wyld’s evidence to substantiate his claim that “Mark Allaby has been pressured to stand down from the board of another faith-based institution”.

Further, where is Damian Wyld’s evidence of who pressured Mark Allaby to stand down from the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute?

I have certainly never contacted Mark Allaby, and IBM has refused to comment on the topic.

In conclusion, Damian Wyld has distorted my tweets, falsely claimed IBM have made a public statement of support for marriage equality, and claimed, without evidence, that pressure was put on Mark Allaby to stand down from the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, without stating by whom.

It seems that Marriage Alliance CEO Damien Wyld is being deceitful in his open letter.  He has provided no evidence of his claims and it would appear he has distorted and fabricated the truth.


Shining sunlight on the hypocrisy and darkness of Lyle Shelton and David van Gend

April 9, 2017

The Age – Letters – April 9 2017

Religious reversals

It’s a bit rich for religious conservatives to be denouncing gay activists for urging boycotts of companies that don’t support marriage equality. They do the exact thing in reverse. The religious right and other anti-LGBTI groups held an international conference in South Africa last December, largely to oppose the international spread of marriage equality.

All delegates, including Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby and David van Gend from Australian Marriage Forum, signed a pledge to what is now called the Cape Town Declaration. Apart from pledging to oppose same-sex marriage, the Declaration commits its signatories, where possible, “to refuse to deal with corporations” that deny their “religious truths”.

Brian Greig, Bayswater, WA


Apology from ABC The Drum.

March 30, 2017

ABC The Drum have issued an apology and correction in response to this segment that they ran on my activism on March 28 2017:

Full episode here.

Official ABC correction:

Michael Barnett

Posted about an hour ago

The Drum: On 28 March 2017, during a panel discussion on same-sex marriage activism questioning the connections between companies supporting same-sex marriage and organizations opposing it, the program included graphics of three ‘tweets’ from Michael Barnett. These questioned the decision by companies and a university, to employ people who hold anti-LGBTI views. The Drum incorrectly drew a connection between the marriage equality debate, and Mr Barnett’s reference to corporate commitments to Pride and Diversity – a national employer support program which campaigns for LGBTI inclusion.

20170330_ABC_The_Drum_March_28_correction

20170331_The_Drum_March_28_-_iView_correction

Thank you ABC.  Apology accepted.


Straightening out Professor Iain Benson

March 26, 2017

On Wednesday 22 March 2017 ABC Radio National’s Religion and Ethics Report aired “The culture war of marriage equality in Australia”.

Host Andrew West interviewed Iain Benson, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame.  Prof Benson is also a contributor for the Catholic Weekly.

I thought this interview was both intellectually dishonest and biased.

The interview presented only one side of the story around my raising awareness of a perceived conflict with Lachlan Macquarie Institute Board member and former Australian Christian Lobby board member Mark Allaby, and his current employment at IBM Australia.

Andrew West incorrectly framed the conversation in terms of “same-sex marriage” within the opening four seconds of the story and at 7:56 left unchallenged the insinuation by Prof Benson that my activism was a “witch-hunt” targeting Mark Allaby.

In the intellectual void of Prof Benson’s argument, he makes a range of assumptions, factual errors and omissions.  First off he claims this is about marriage equality.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not once have I mentioned or implied the words “marriage equality” in relation to Mark Allaby’s association with IBM.  For me, this particular issue is definitely not about marriage equality.

To this day IBM has no on-the-record corporate position on marriage equality, despite their Managing Director Kerry Purcell recently declaring his personal support for it, first reported on March 16, and despite a few media articles circa 2013-15 incorrectly stating so.  As of February 20 IBM’s logo was absent from the Australian Marriage Equality list of corporate supporters, yet it appeared subsequently, and surprisingly without fanfare, sometime around the publication of the CEO letter, but before March 21. As yet there has been no public announcement from IBM or AME substantiating its appearance.

As such, it is not possible for Prof Benson or Andrew West to actually know what IBM’s public corporate position on marriage equality is given it has not yet been communicated officially.

Given that Prof Benson has not actually spoken to me, he could not know my motivation for bringing to public attention Mark Allaby’s simultaneous connection with IBM and the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.

If he had asked me, without jumping to conclusion, I would have told him that for me, this is only about holding IBM to account as a founding member of Pride in Diversity.  I simply sought to question IBM’s rationale for employing to a senior leadership role a person whose personal stance appears to be in direct conflict with IBM’s stated goals as an employer of choice for LGBTIQ people.

How can IBM, in all sincerity, guarantee their same-sex attracted, gender diverse, and intersex employees an unbiased, safe, discrimination-free and fully participative environment in the workplace under the leadership of someone like Mark Allaby?  The Lachlan Macquarie Institute trains future leaders in Christian values that are intolerant of legal equality for LGBTIQ people.  The Australian Christian Lobby actively deploys campaigns and lobbies politicians around issues that include degrading the legal rights and equality of LGBTIQ people. Knowing that such a senior employee currently or previously had significant leadership influence with these sorts of organisations would leave any reasonable person hesitant to openly broach such important topics with them, for fear of not being afforded unconditional acceptance, dignity and respect.

Prof Benson gets it wrong in assuming this specific issue for me is about marriage equality.  The ACL and those aligned with the organisation are undeniably on the record for targeting every initiative that furthers the removal of discrimination against LGBTIQ people.  Examples of relevant ACL campaigns include Safe Schools, same-sex parenting, same-sex adoption, safety for transgender and intersex people, safe-sex awareness, removal of gay-panic laws, religious workplace and faith-based school protections, and equal relationship recognition (including and most notably marriage equality).

Given that I have not mentioned this is about marriage equality, it seems Prof Benson is driving an agenda in making it appear to be about such.  What this is actually about for me is the guaranteed dignity, inclusion and respect of LGBTIQ people and our families, wherever in society, and in whatever form it takes.

Prof Benson alleged that the key activist, namely me, was embarking on a witch-hunt against Mark Allaby.  It is unclear to me how he came to this understanding given the way events unfolded.

Lyle Shelton excoriated me in the ACL’s widely publicised March 14 blog.  The first tweet I sent on this topic was on March 17.  If Prof Benson had researched this issue, he would have known that Lyle Shelton and the ACL went after me three days before I was even aware of Mark Allaby’s employment at IBM.

Lyle Shelton’s blog implied Mark Allaby was forced to step down from the board of the Australian Christian Lobby in March 2016 because of me.  As there is no public statement from either Mark Allaby or PwC on this matter, the reason for him stepping down is entirely speculative.

Lyle Shelton has a significant negative influence in the public sphere.  He is frequently in the mainstream media, with ready access to radio, television, newsprint and online outlets.  His decision to name me personally, an individual activist without the level of access to mainstream media he enjoys, demonstrates an apparently disturbing level of bullying and harassment.

If there is a witch-hunt going on, it is one being spearheaded by Lyle Shelton, and not me.  I had no intention or motivation to review Mark Allaby’s circumstances until Lyle Shelton chose to bring both Mark Allaby’s and my name into public conversation on March 14.

In fact, it is a testament to my integrity as a human rights campaigner and advocate for equality that I did follow-up with IBM on Mark Allaby’s circumstances.  It would be remiss of me to turn my back on any additional perceived conflict.  I would hate to be labelled by Lyle Shelton as being inconsistent.

So really, Prof Benson got it all wrong, and disappointingly Andrew West did not offer me a right of reply, or let Prof Benson’s apparent prejudice go unchallenged.  In the future this ABC presenter should provide a more balanced perspective when interviewing guests with intolerant ideological perspectives on human rights and equality.


MikeyBear: 1. Lyle Shelton: 0.

February 21, 2016

Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (a gay hate group) regularly tells the world gays are not good enough to get married (mainly because he thinks it will make people think he’s gay).  He also tells the world children of gay parents are neglected.  He also thinks homosexuality is wrong.  He has no intelligent justification for these bigoted perspectives.

I find that message exceedingly foul.

Now when someone sends Lyle a message that he thinks is foul he sticks his fingers in his ears and says “la la la la… I can’t hear you… la la la la…”.

Mikeybear: 1.  Lyle Shelton: 0.

Lyle Shelton blocks me on Twitter


A letter to Andrew Laming, MP for Bowman

August 8, 2015

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 8 August 2015 at 13:00
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Bowman
To: Andrew Laming – MP for Bowman <andrew.laming.mp@aph.gov.au>

Dear Mr Laming,

I’m writing to you regarding the issue of mental health in young people in your electorate of Bowman.

In your first speech to Parliament in November 2004 you spoke of wanting to help young Australians make a difference about the issues important to them:

Lastly, I want to engage young Australians. Our young Australians out there still do not have the faith in this parliament that I would love to see. How do I convince those young Australians that this political process is one in which they can have faith? How can I convince them that the issues that they want to talk about are ones where we can really make a difference?

You also spoke about knowing your limitations, about drawing from but not being a slave to your lived experience, and realising that celebrating diversity is something you value more than enforcing your ideology on others:

I am grounded by the humility of my limited knowledge. I hope I am guided, but never coloured, by my life experiences. I tell my story not to hammer some ideological stake in the ground but to celebrate the diversity of experiences that are here. Different backgrounds add to the breadth of this parliament…

I refer you to a statement on mental health on your web site claiming:

75% of all mental illness presents in people aged under 25, that’s why I’m so pleased to announce Capalaba is one of 15 locations across Australia that will get a new Headspace centre.

A further such statement on your web site claims:

Mental health is a topic I take very seriously, and for those interested we’ve just announced a new Headspace facility for Capalaba where youth can get early intervention and treatment for drug, alcohol and mental health issues. This kind of facility is the key to prevention and supporting our young people long before they’re rolling into emergency. It’s a passionate topic for many, and the majority of us have been touched by mental health in some way. Let’s work together to come up solutions and constructive feedback so we can support our young people.

It is evident that you not only care about giving young people opportunities, but that you care deeply about their mental health and well-being.  I am confident most people would align with you on these concerns.

What strikes me as a little odd is that whilst you are passionate about these issues, you appear to be lacking the necessary degree of commitment to stand by them.

There is ample evidence that young people who are marginalised and discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity have poorer mental health outcomes than their peers:

Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf

Young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex who are denied hope, opportunity and the rewards of society are those who are most likely to be in need of the mental health services you have campaigned so passionately for.

You voted strongly against marriage equality in 2010 and 2012, and declared in 2011 that you are personally “opposed to SSM [same-sex marriage]” but “support legally-equivalent civil unions as an alternative“.

The masthead on your web site states:

andrew laming mp hope reward opportunity

andrew laming mp   member for bowman   hope|reward|opportunity

I understand you are presently surveying your electorate on the issue of marriage equality and of this you stateI pledge to vote according to your verdict.

You are registered as a medical practitioner Mr Laming and have worked as a GP.  You will no doubt be aware of how risk factors play out in the well-being of people’s lives.  I ask you to think hard about the implications of choosing to vote against marriage equality, knowing that maintaining the status quo is linked to poorer health outcomes.  I also ask you to consider that a vote against marriage equality will obliterate the hopes, opportunities and rewards for the same young people whose welfare you so passionately and genuinely care about.

Polling by Crosby-Textor, the go-to pollsters for the Liberal Party (the party that you are a member of) showed that in 2014 there was very strong support nationally for people aged 18-34 (female: 90%; male 81%).  In 2010 the News Ltd Same-Sex Marriage poll indicated 43% support in Bowman, 40% opposed and 17% indifferent.  That means 60% of Bowman are not opposed to marriage equality.

In 2004 you claimed that you wanted to empower young Australians to actively engage in politics and to speak out about the issues that are important to them.  In 2015 you are asking your electorate to tell you about marriage equality yet you are bypassing the credible polling that exists.  The young people of Australia and in Bowman want marriage equality very much.

You talk of hope, reward and opportunity.  You talk of wanting to reduce the plight of mental health issues in young people in Bowman.  You talk of wanting to give young Australians faith in their parliament.  You talk about wanting to see young people achieve what is important to them.  You talk of knowing your limitations and not hammering your ideology.  You talk of celebrating diversity.  Yet despite all this talk you are prepared to turn your back on it if the unscientific and clumsy polling that you are engaging in suggest you should not support marriage equality.

What exactly are your priorities Mr Laming?  Are they centred around the welfare of your electorate, or are they centred around your further reelection to office?  Because it strikes me that the people of Bowman are not getting the best representation you could give them if you continue to turn your back on what all the evidence is showing.

I leave you with the quote that you borrowed from Robert F Kennedy in your first speech and your closing paragraph.  Perhaps now would be a prudent time to contemplate them.

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. That ripple builds others. Those ripples – crossing each other from a million different centers of energy – build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice.”
Senator Robert F. Kennedy

While there are no mighty walls to sweep down in Bowman, there are plenty of opportunities for ripples of hope—opportunities to enrich a beloved community, to preserve our Redland character and to provide choice and opportunity for those whose faith has put me here.

In the best interests of the young people of Bowman, their families, friends and communities, I urge you to vote for marriage equality.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
Ashwood VIC


A letter to Dr Peter Hendy, MP for Eden-Monaro

July 20, 2015

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 20 July 2015 at 12:45
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Eden-Monaro
To: “Dr Peter Hendy (MP for Eden-Monaro)” <peter.hendy.mp@aph.gov.au>

Dear Dr Hendy,

I’m writing to you regarding the issue of mental health in young people in Eden-Monaro.

Please allow me to take you back to your first speech in Parliament in November 2013, to reflect on the values that are important to you and the issues that you care about.

In opening, you gave thanks to the people of Eden-Monaro for electing you to office and gave a committment to do your best for all of them:

As I said at the declaration of the poll, the first thing I need to say today is thank you to the people of Eden-Monaro. I am greatly honoured to represent this region. I pledge that I will work to the best of my ability for the people whether they voted for me or not.

You reiterated a core value of the Liberal Party:

I joined the Liberal Party because I believed it genuinely encourages people to be the best they can be, not telling them what to be.

I’d like you to pause for a moment and reflect on this sentence.

You spoke of economics, and doing the right thing for your electorate:

I am an economist by profession but let me emphasise I am not an ivory tower ideologue who simply cares between Right and Left. What is important is between right and wrong. We need to do the right thing by the people of Eden-Monaro and all people who live in regional areas. I hope to be a strong advocate in this parliament who can support both good economic policy and the regions.

Making the ultimate point on why I am writing to you, you told of the tragic realities of living in regional and rural Australia:

In health terms, life expectancy is lower by up to seven years, depending on remoteness. People are up to four times more likely to die from accidents. It is up to 2.6 times more likely for men to die from suicides in the bush.

You said that facts are important to you, along with developing an intellectual case for building the nation:

Part of my new job here in parliament is to use the facts about disadvantage to revive the country-city compact. Priorities can be set better; however, we cannot just cry poor. We have been doing that for the last 30 years as our services and infrastructure have been increasingly run down. The intellectual case needs to be built so that we can get that fair share. An intellectual case needs to be built around nation building. I believe that we can further build that intellectual case, and I can help do that.

As a husband and father you promised to do the best to make your family proud of the work you did in public office:

Lastly, I want to thank my wife, Bronwyn, and children, Caroline and Patrick. They are my rock, and what I do is also for them. I hope they can be proud of what I will do in public life.

In closing, you again thanked the people of Eden-Monaro and reiterated your promise to do the best possible for them:

But what I can say in conclusion is to repeat the sentiments of my remarks at the beginning of my speech: for as long as I am the member for Eden-Monaro I will cherish the honour bestowed on me and I will humbly seek to do the best for the people that I represent.

What you delivered on that day in 2013 was a noble commitment to your electorate, one both heart-felt and genuine.

Yet despite your fine words, you are not delivering on them.  Why do I say that?  Simply, you are forgetting what you have committed to the people of Eden-Monaro.

You told them you wanted them to be the best they can be, without telling them what they can be.  How do you tell a young child to go out and do great things in their life, find that special person to share their life and love with, and perhaps raise a family with, if you put limitations on whom they can marry?  Is your campaign promise on marriage more important than your campaign promise to do the best for your electorate?

Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy recently said he remained opposed to changing the Marriage Act as that was the stance he took to the last election.

Dr Hendy said it was not an issue people often raised with him.

Many parents raise their children with the expectation in life that they will one day meet that special someone and get married to them, in front of their community, with celebrations, food and drink, gifts and unending love.  Tell me how can a young person aspire to that if they know deep within them they can’t have any of this, under the law, and in their community, because they simply aren’t allowed to marry the type of person they’d genuinely want to?

How is your claim of being opposed to changing the Marriage Act in line with giving that child the best start in life and not telling they what they can be?  Because in being opposed to this reform you are denying them hope, you are denying them participation, you are denying them equality, and you are telling them they can only get married to the sort of person that they would not want to get married to.

When you spoke about the reduced life expectancy of people living in the bush, of their increased chance of dying from an accident or having a higher-than-average rate of suicide, how do you justify promoting attitudes that contribute to these serious problems?

I don’t think you understand the disconnect in your message, because on the one hand you are saying people in Eden-Monaro are victim to factors that reduce their life-span, and on the other hand your desire to deny equal rights to same-sex attracted and gender-diverse people feeds directly into their poorer mental health outcomes, rates of self-harm and suicidality.

Should it be a surprise to you that the underlying reason for the accident of the car wrapping itself around a tree-trunk on a lonely stretch of highway was not due to the state of alcoholic intoxication by the driver, but rather, that as a star player of the local football team he was too ashamed to tell his team-mates that he loved men, and that after years of struggling with this secret of his, the burden became so great that the only way he could deal with his reality was to get himself sufficiently plastered to numb the pain and then slam his car into that tree.  Think of this next time you see a roadside memorial Dr Hendy.

You cannot tell people they are valued and equal members of society when you promote one section of society above another.  When you tell some people their relationships are not equal in merit to those of other people, do not be surprised when you read about the tragic death of yet another young man or woman in a community, the person everyone loved and whose death was totally unexpected.  You should not be surprised when a community is fractured into a million pieces when these deaths occur, because Dr Hendy, you are able to help prevent this, if you really want to.

There is sufficient evidence on what the relevant risk factors are for same-sex attracted and gender-diverse youth:

Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf

Please read this research and understand the harms young people can face due to prejudice and discrimination.  All children, yours included, need to know they will be loved and cherished, unconditionally.  If parents create conditions or expectations around who their children can love, don’t be surprised when their quality of life suffers.

You spoke of using facts and intellectual cases for nation building.  These are the facts and this is the intellectual case.  A nation is built of people, and if you can’t empower people to be their best, the dreams of building a great nation will fall far short of expectations.

In terms of economic outcomes for the region, you claimed your professional experience as an economist would be of benefit.  There are significant economic benefits for supporting marriage equality.  The wedding industry is huge and the economic potential for the region cannot be understated.  As an economist, how can you hand-on-heart tell the people of Eden-Monaro your refusal to endorse a platform that has known economic benefits could be in their best interests, especially when you hand-on-heart told these same people you would do whatever reasonable measures it took to stimulate their regional economy?

You genuinely care about the people of Eden-Monaro Dr Hendy, but your talk and your walk are going in different directions.  Draw on your Liberal Party values of individual freedoms and of not telling people how to live their lives, get up to speed on mitigating risk factors for same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people, understand the economic benefits of marriage equality, and do your family and electorate proud by being that strong advocate, not another disappointing yes-man.

If your priority is what is best for the people of Eden-Monaro, you will realise supporting marriage equality is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


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