We reported on Friday that the Australian Christian Lobby was recruiting new staff, and a tipster tells us the recruitment at the anti-gay marriage group could be linked to the slated upcoming plebiscite on marriage equality. If a plebiscite on marriage equality is held next year and the government provides funding for both the pro and anti campaigns, the ACL could be in line to receive funding. The ACL’s managing director, Lyle Shelton, told a Senate inquiry on a plebiscite that both camps should receive equal funding from the government in the case of a plebiscite, as were provided to the yes and no cases in the referendum on an Australian republic. If the money was available, a struggle would be on for which group could claim it, says our tipster. “The ACL has always assumed that it would be the chosen organisation to lead the NO case in a plebiscite and it’s hungry for the anti-gay cash to splurge in a nationwide fear-campaign against the the gays,” writes our tipster. The Catholic Church is apparently also keen to be the funded voice of the no campaign, and the Church has already begun its freedom of speech campaign with the case between the Catholic Church and transgender activist Martine Delaney in Tasmania being used as a test case.

But ACL managing director Lyle Shelton told Crikey today that the ACL wouldn’t seek federal funding in the case of a plebiscite. “I wouldn’t see that as ACL’s role,” Shelton said. “It depends how the government conducts the plebiscite, obviously there needs to be an official yes or no campaign, if that’s the ACL, I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t see that as ACL’s main role.”

The ACL currently runs completely on donations, according to a post on its Facebook page last week. It previously took corporate donations, but says it no longer does. According to the 2014 directors report filed with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission, the ACL received more than $2 million in donations that year, with employee expenses the major outlay of the lobby group. According to the ACNC website, the ACL has 13 full-time and seven part-time staff, and the names of donors are not required to be declared. The 2015 financial year reported is yet to be uploaded.

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Peter Fray

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