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Storm in a bus shelter
Adshel will extend by two weeks the safe-sex campaign it removed from bus shelters in Brisbane as a goodwill gesture to the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities (QAHC).
The Rip And Roll campaign, featuring two men hugging, was pulled last week as a reaction to a handful of complaints.
It was reinstated 24 hours later after Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Queensland director Wendy Francis acknowledged the organisation had orchestrated the complaints to Adshel, Brisbane City Council and the Advertising Standards Bureau.
Adshel CEO Steve McCarthy said it was clear Adshel was the target of a coordinated ACL campaign.
“This has led us to review our decision to remove the campaign and we will therefore reinstate the campaign with immediate effect,” he said in a statement.
There had been broad community outrage at Adshel’s earlier decision to take down the QAHC-funded posters, including both sides of politics in Queensland.
State Treasurer Andrew Fraser said complaints about the ad were “homophobic”, while Liberal leader Campbell Newman called on people to have an open mind and be tolerant.
“I cannot believe that in this modern age we still have members of our community who cannot accept that there exists an LGBT community and that health and safe sex promotion in this community is just as vital as any other,” Brisbane Central MP Grace Grace said.
“I find no offence whatsoever in the ads being currently displayed.”
QAHC executive director Paul Martin said he was pleased Adshel had reversed its decision.
“Obviously we would have preferred this not to have occurred and Adshel not to have bowed to a handful of complaints, but to their credit they listened to overwhelming calls of support to have it reinstalled,” he said.
Martin said he was surprised at the huge numbers of people pledging their support for the campaign.
“We had 80,000 people joining the Facebook campaign against the decision. Not just the GLBTI community, but the wider Queensland and Australian community — parents, grandparents, Christians, you name it,” he said.
National spokeswoman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Shelly Argent OAM said the ad was not obscene or crude in any manner. It was just sending a message about safe-sex practice.
“As a parent and national spokesperson for PFLAG, which is an international family support group, I am very angry and disappointed about the Christian Lobby’s complaint about the Rip and Roll campaign and its withdrawal from public view,” she said.
“If my son was young and just coming out, I, as a parent, would be wanting him to be informed and confident enough to seek information that would assist him to keep the risk of STIs and HIV minimised, and this advert would have been very helpful as a safe-sex message.”
Unlike Adshel, Goa Billboards refused to remove the Rip and Roll advertisements from its outdoor sites, instead posting pro-gay signs on their digital billboards around Brisbane.
The billboards reading ‘Our God loves everyone gay & straight’ ran with other messages of support until the end of the week.
“The advice I have is that this advertisement does not breach the Australian Association of National Advertisers codes nor any Australian law,” Goa Billboards managing director Chris Tyquin said.
“The ACL’s claim that these men are engaging in an act of foreplay is drawing a long bow. If that’s foreplay, then clearly I’m doing it wrong.”
ACL chief of staff Lyle Shelton said he was disappointed at the abuse levelled at Wendy Francis during the controversy.
“Homosexual activists have launched Facebook campaigns and emailed abusive letters and phone calls to intimidate the ACL and Wendy out of the issue of sexualisation of children,” Shelton said. “This sort of intimidation is unacceptable.”