THE Victorian Liberal Party has continued to face accusations of homophobia this week over Attorney-General Robert Clark’s association with the World Congress of Families conference later this month, and the resignation of candidate Aaron Lane over homophobic social media posts.
Clark has been repeatedly criticised by LGBTI advocates and politicians from other state parties over his plans to give a “Welcome to Victoria” address to open the World Congress of Families regional conference in Melbourne later this month.
The WCF is a conservative Christian organisation known for its opposition to same-sex marriage and trans* rights, and for its support of Russia’s homophobic “gay propaganda” laws.
“On 30 August, we will see the chief law officer of this state open a conference for and welcome to Victoria one of the most hateful, extreme groups that regards, in particular, LGBTI communities as abhorrent,” Foley said.
“They (the Liberal Party) have forgotten those Victorians on the margins. They have forgotten Victorians whose sexuality and gender identity place them beyond the mainstream, and they are run by an anti-gay, anti-lesbian hate faction that controls their destiny.”
Foley also specifically criticised the government’s 2011 amendments to the state’s Equal Opportunity Act to expand exemptions for religious organisations to discriminate against many LGBTI people.
Other high-profile political speakers at the WCF conference will be Federal Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews, Victorian upper house member and anti-abortion campaigner Bernie Finn, and NSW MP and long-time anti-gay rights campaigner Fred Nile. Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz and Federal Senator Cory Bernardi are also listed as supporters of the WCF.
The Victorian Greens have also slammed the Liberal Party over its involvement in the WCF conference, and over the resignation of Lane and another candidate Jack Lyons for offensive social media posts, with a number of candidates signing a pledge against homophobia in response.
“It’s unacceptable that today, homophobia and discrimination are still rife in the Liberal party,” said Greens Melbourne electorate candidate Ellen Sandell.
“Their policies show it, their candidates say it and their actions confirm it.”
Although the Victorian Liberal Party was heavily criticised over homophobic comments revealed on Lane’s Twitter account, Premier Denis Napthine swiftly called for his resignation and he stepped down as a candidate for the upcoming November election.
This week Foley also put a number of resolutions on notice for debate calling on parliament to condemn the Clark, Finn, Lane and Lyons.
The Star Observer contacted the Attorney-General for a response to the criticisms of his involvement at the WCF conference, but did not receive a reply before the time of publication.
Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown reiterated the importance of distinguishing free speech from the incitement of hatred in relation to the conference.
“I hope and expect that the free speech being exercised at this conference will not incite hatred towards the LGBTI community,” he told the Star Observer.
“No one in Victoria has the right to use any forum to incite hatred towards any sector of the community.”
Newton-Brown also defended his party’s record on LGBTI issues, citing the government’s plans to allow for the expungement of historical gay sex convictions and to amend the state’s Crimes Act to remove discrimination against people living with HIV in section 19A.
The WCF conference has been in the spotlight this week over comments made by Senator Abetz appearing to support the views of a conference speaker linking abortion to breast cancer. Abetz has since denied he personally agrees with the view.