Our Motions for the 2020 Mardi Gras AGM

Each year, members of Mardi Gras have the opportunity to vote on motions at the AGM. This year, Pride in Protest has submitted these eight motions

1. Removing Corrective Services and Police float from the parade

I move that the NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police, the Police Association, and any other associated organisations, be barred from having floats in the 2020 Mardi Gras Parade and all future parades.

This is in recognition of the immense violence perpetrated by the police and corrective services towards First Nations communities who are over-policed and over-incarcerated, particularly LGBTQIA+ First Nations people who do not feel safe and are excluded as a result of police and corrective service’s participation in the parade.

2. Motion in Support of Black Lives Matter

All state and federal police forces have recorded misuse of power and physical force. Many Mardi Gras members, including as a result of the very first Mardi Gras, have suffered from state-sanctioned police brutality. The NSW Police failed to adequately investigate almost 90 suspected gay hate murders between 1970 and 2010, Indigenous trans woman Veronica Baxter died in a male prison in 2009, and queer and trans people are disproportionately impacted by punitive policing around sex-work, drug use and mental illness. It is therefore paramount that the Mardi Gras community continue to stand against the human rights abuses perpetrated by police and corrective officers.

Aboriginal deaths in the custody of corrective officers or police have been a reality since British colonisation. Since the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody, 441 (and increasing) Indigenous people have died in custody. This reflects the history and ongoing impact of invasion, occupation and dispossession of First Nations communities from their land across this continent. 2020 brings the very first instance of police officer Zachary Rolfe being charged and standing trial for the murder of an Aboriginal death in custody, which in and of itself speaks volumes about the deep racism and violence embedded in these institutions. The NSW Police specifically has recorded 16 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the last decade and corrective services has recorded 21, including the unnecessary deaths of Tane Chatfield, David Dungay Jnr and Nathan Reynolds. All corrective officers and police are inherently complicit in the systemic racism related to these deaths, the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in general and the damaging state-sanctioned violence and punitive legal systems.

Similarly, the NSW Sniffer Dog Program disproportionately targets Indigenous people and young people. People, including festival go-ers, have been met with sexual abuse and humiliation during searches, often conducted within metres of other public members. The NSW Police Force’s own report from Lessons Learned Unit in November 2018 reported detailed findings that police inconsistently applied their powers relating to sniffer dog related drug searches, revealing the targeted and discriminatory treatment of young people, LGBTIQA+ people (including at Mardi Gras events) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There has been an almost 50 per cent increase in strip-searches between 2014–18, despite sniffer dogs giving false positive indications 4 out of 5 times. Additionally, The Herald reported almost 300 minors, including a 10-year-old, were strip-searched by police over a two-year period between 2016–2018.

The violent police crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to protest during the coronavirus pandemic has been well-documented. From unnecessary police brutality towards rally attendees protesting Latham’s transphobic Education Bill, the use of pepper spray at the Black Lives Matter rally on June 6 2020, and the hypocritical issuing of fines at University protests related to cuts to higher education. In comparison thousands flood sports stadiums and shopping centres everyday. Many of these rallies had covid-safe action plans and to date, no transmission of covid cases have been traced to rallies. Yet the state and the police have consistently pursued a violent strategy of suppressing protest, fining organisers and passers-by alike.

I therefore move that Mardi Gras:

  1. Stand openly in support and solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement

3. Motion regarding Corporate Sponsor ANZ

Mardi Gras must immediately review and condemn its corporate sponsorships on ethical grounds using a transparent and member accessible process. Mardi Gras should not be taking money from companies that profit from the destruction of the environment.

ANZ bank is a major investor in fossil fuels and mining in Australia.

ANZ has invested over $10b in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement came into effect in 2016. This continued investment shows that ANZ does not care about climate change or the people that climate change effects.

ANZ has a terrible environmental track record. They were the last of the Big Four to commit to a phase out of thermal coal investment, which came over four years after the Paris Agreement came into effect. During that time, ANZ loaned $5.50 to fossil fuel projects for every $1 loaned to renewable energy projects and enabled 4.1 billion tonnes of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere.

Climate change will disproportionately affect Australia’s island neighbours — displacing hundreds of thousands of people including our LGBTQIA+ family from their homes.

As an inspiring and major global event representing the Queer community, Mardi Gras has a responsibility to act on climate change and support mass campaigns calling for systematic action to address the root causes of climate change, beyond the realm of what is possible through individual consumer action.

I therefore move that:

  1. Mardi Gras condemn ANZ for their continued investment in the destruction of the planet

4. Motion regarding corporate sponsor Star Casino

Mardi Gras must immediately review and condemn its corporate sponsorships on ethical grounds using a transparent and member accessible process. Mardi Gras should not be taking money from companies that profit from addiction and financial bankruptcy to the community.

Star Casino is responsible for continued community harm through gambling business and their rorting of the JobKeeper scheme.

Star Casino is a company that actively profits off of the addiction, suffering and financial devastation caused by gambling. The community harm resultant of gambling is extensive during times without a recession, let alone during one. According to a study conducted in 2006, LGBTQIA+ people are much more likely to suffer from gambling addiction than their heterosexual counterparts.

The effects of gambling are vast — ranging from economic to social — and cause higher levels of domestic violence and alcohol and substance abuse.

Further, Star actively utilised the JobKeeper program (receiving $9.6m) while paying out their executives almost $1.4m in bonuses. These bonuses were paid by the board ‘exercising their discretion’, despite the company missing their financial targets for the year.

I therefore move that:

  1. Mardi Gras condemn Star Casino for their damaging business in the gambling industry, to communities with high rates of addiction and financial hardship

5. Motion regarding corporate sponsor Qantas

Mardi Gras should not be taking money from companies that profit from the human rights abuses directed towards people of colour, in particular asylum seekers and refugees.

Qantas plays a direct role in deporting asylum seekers back to danger, and it breaches our values to collaborate with them.

One of the worst atrocities committed against LGBTQIA+ people today is Australia’s treatment of refugees. These are people who’ve fled war and persecution or death for their identity. Many have been locked on Manus or Nauru, where homosexuality is still illegal, for years and years on end, with no light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve faced beatings, and have little or no access to healthcare. Some are on their deathbeds. Some have been forcibly sent back to face executions in their countries of origin.

Mardi Gras allows Qantas to sponsor and march in the parade, even though they are active participants in Australia’s mistreatment of refugees. Qantas willingly deports refugees on behalf of the Australian government. This is an act of racism and homophobia.

It is up to all of us in the LGBTIQA+ community to take a stand on human rights like the racist, violent treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, their deportation, detention and treatment by the Australian government. It is unthinkable for us to sit by and do nothing.

I therefore move that:

  1. Mardi Gras condemns the violent and brutal treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by the Australian government and the particular impact on LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees

6. Barring Scott Morrison, Gladys Berjiklian and Liberal Party from the parade

Mardi Gras must review the inclusion of floats such as the Liberal party who have been instrumental in their harm to the LGBTQIA+ community, BIPOC and people from low socio economic backgrounds. This year alone, the Liberal party has agreed to cuts to Job Keeper and JobSeeker that will take JobSeeker recipients below the poverty line. We know that members of the LBGTQIA+ community are far more likely to experience homelessness due to a variety of factors such family violence and ignorance, harassment and explicit discrimination. It stands to reason that support systems such as Job Seeker are essential in ensuring low income members of our community can access basic necessities such as food and rent. The Liberal Party has shown time and time again they do not care about the basic necessities our community should be afforded, so why should they be included in such an important event for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Furthermore Scott Morrison, Leader of the Liberal party and current Prime Minister, continues to show unspeakable levels of ignorance and incompetence. Not only was Scott Morrison a No campaigner in the Marriage Equality Plebiscite, he voted against Safe Schools, continues to support conversion therapy, refers to our community as ‘gender whisperers’, and has proposed a heinous so-called religious freedoms bill. We know conversion therapy kills and for Scott Morrison to dismiss it as “not an issue for him” should tell us everything we need to know. Scott Morrisons cruelty knows no bounds and has continued to show unimaginable cruelty towards refugees (many of whom are LGBTQIA+). The Liberal party continue to place obstacle after obstacle for immigration, including measures which feel all too close to the White Australia policy.

Again key leaders of the Liberal party have failed us time and again this year. Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Liberal Party leader and NSW Premier, has not used her platform when we needed her to. Mark Latham has put forward a vile and disgusting bill that aims to force Trans kids back in the closet and eliminate any support for them at an early age. We know how dangerous this is and Latham’s bill reeks of Anita Bryant nonsense that should be found in a history book and not debated in our parliament. Gladys has done nothing to call this bill out or publicly denounce it.

I therefore move that:

  1. The Board acknowledge Scott Morrison’s role as a No campaigner, supporter of gay conversion therapy, his comments about ‘gender whisperers’, his cruelty toward refugees (many of whom are LGBTIQA+) and his attempts to implement a Religious Freedoms Bill mean that he and any party he leads are homophobic and transphobic

7. Motion regarding Price of Membership

As it currently stands, the price of Mardi Gras membership is $50 for an Australian resident and $40 for a concession or student membership. This price makes Mardi Gras completely inaccessible to working class, ordinary people and excludes valuable members of our community from being able to have a voice in how the Mardi Gras Parade is run.

I therefore move that the Board:

  1. Acknowledge that people from a lower socio-economic background deserve to be able to access Mardi Gras membership in order to diversify the membership and be accessible LGBTQIA+ folks who come from an economically disadvantaged position in our community

8. Corruption and Democracy in Mardi Gras

It is essential that anti-corruption and democracy are at the core of Mardi Gras’ values as a non-profit organisation, as a Parade for and by the community, and in the processes and practice of all Board members. In the last year we have seen a huge swathe of constitutional changes that aim to suppress voters, limit access to proxy voting, add additional Board Directors that are appointed not elected by the members and extend the length of Board Directorship.

As an organisation led by and for LGBTQIA+ communities, ordinary community members deserve to be able to engage in Mardi Gras decision-making processes and have their voices heard. This blatant aim to limit the opinions and participation of members who are: young, trans, people of colour, Indigenous, and suppress their ability to vote for motions they believe in, for candidates that represent them and to create the change they want to see in Mardi Gras is an attack on the democratic capacity of Mardi Gras as an organisation. It also allows older, wealthier, cis, white members to hoard power and remove decision-making accessibility from members. Transparency and accessibility around the actions of the Board can foster trust, increase community engagement, and ensure that the board is in alignment with community perspectives — that is what democratic representation should mean.

Further, when members pass motions they have no access to the decision making process after that point — this creates a hierarchical division between Mardi Gras members and the Directors that should be accountable to them. This is in the wake of two motions passed last year in which we believe the Board did not action nor act in the spirit of those motions; those being the condemnation of sponsor Gilead, and community consultation on an Ethics Charter, neither of which occurred. Open board meetings will encourage a more transparent relationship between members and the Board, and hold the Board accountable to direct democracy processes when engaged by the membership.

I therefore move that:

  1. The Board make all Board meetings open — members can attend and all minutes and Board Packs are made freely available to members

Written by

Pride in Protest is a Sydney-based collective of activists who campaign for social justice and recently won a position on the Sydney Mardi Gras Board

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