AN issue that initially appeared to have had bipartisan support within Brisbane City Council has been voted down when a petition to establish an “LGBTIQ Advisory Committee” was rejected yesterday by council.
The advisory committee was an initiative of the Brisbane Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex and Queer Action Group (BLAG), which was presented to council two months ago by convenor Phil Browne.
“Therefore a separate LGBTIQ Advisory Committee is not required,” a council statement said.
Speaking in support of the IBB and his role on it, Queensland University of Technology law lecturer and Brisbane Pride president Peter Black said that while he would have welcomed a specific LGBTI advisory committee, he understood council’s decision.
Citing his working relationship with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, along with several other councillors, Black said council had shown a keen interest in inclusion efforts and representing Brisbane’s LGBTI community.
That relationship was already bearing fruit, according to Black, with several symbolic gestures on behalf of council such as the rainbow lighting of the city’s Story Bridge, the Lord Mayor’s involvement with the Queen’s Birthday Ball Awards, Brisbane Pride Festival rally and march, and more.
“[The IBB is] is also a far more effective body (and far more cost-effective) than having dozens of different advisory committees, each one representing a different minority group,” Black said.
Browne disagreed, raising concerns that the scope available to the IBB may be too narrow to address the wide range of issues facing the LGBTI community.
“Does the IBB have the capacity when already dealing with so many other issues?” he told the Star Observer.
“Why does council believe the IBB is the best mechanism, when multiple other councils [around Australia] have chosen to create their own committees?
“If the IBB is to do these things, this is to be praised and I thank Dr Black and the rest of the board.
“However, the only official correspondence from council makes no mention of any plan to advance LGBTI-specific work via the IBB.”
Speaking in defence of council’s decision yesterday, Lifestyle Committee chair Cr Krista Adams said one reason for declining the new committee was to avoid “segmented” groups.
“We outlined [earlier] we absolutely respect the need and support required for the LGBTIQ in Brisbane,” said Adams, a Liberal-National (LNP) councillor.
“We are very, very much a council around inclusion and when we talk about inclusion, we’re talking about everybody coming together.
“We don’t want to see segmented councils and advisory committees for each different little group… we want to see all of those groups and all of those important groups that want support are able to come together.
“We are the only local council that is involved in Pride in Diversity to make sure that we are the most supportive employer of LGBTIQ people as well.”
Labor Cr Jared Cassidy said the decision was “hugely disappointing” and accused the LNP of paying the LGBTI community “lip service”.
“It seemed like such a simple issue. It seemed like it did have bipartisan support,” he said.
“All of a sudden we realise that it all was just lip service.
“The Lord Mayor says in this place and elsewhere that he prefers actions over meaningless gestures. Well, here is one way he could act and act right now just like other councils around Australia and around the world.”
Independent Cr Nicole Johnston also criticised the decision, admonishing council for only delivering what she saw as token gestures from the Lord Mayor, who was absent during debate over council’s decision.
“I am very disappointed that this city which the Lord Mayor stands up and claims is a ‘new world city’ does not have the respect to create a committee that will represent one of the most disenfranchised groups in our community,” she said.
“The problem with Cr Adams is that this is a part of our community that she does not want to give a voice to. A dedicated committee would do that.”
Speaking in her defence, Cr Adams said critics were putting their own spin on the debate, accusing them of “selective reading” when it came to the role of the IBB.
“The IBB is the right place to make sure that we are supporting the LGBTIQ community… [it’s the] place where you talk about social inclusion,” she said.
“This is not about saying no to the LGBTIQ community, this is about saying we are already working with you on this and keep working with us because we welcome that feedback.”
The LGBTI advisory committee looks set to become an election issue next year for Brisbane City Council, with both Labor and Greens candidates for Lord Mayor, Rob Harding and Ben Pennings committing to its creation.