We’ve been told many times that the marriage equality plebiscite isn’t actually actually about same-sex marriage at all. Instead, what it’s “really” about is political correctness, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender fluidity, boys in dresses and potential marriage to national monuments. This is not accidental. As a Crikey spy has found out, it’s the No campaign’s central strategy.
Our tipster got curious after seeing a link to the website of No campaigners Coalition for Marriage on Senator Eric Abetz’s Twitter feed and decided to get inside information by volunteering to help. She was subject to a group induction/interview over Skype, and took some screen shots of the material they were sent.
They show that No campaigners are telling their volunteers to stick to the “slippery slope” line. As the document says: “The grassroots NO campaign engages people’s natural sense of caution and suspicion.” Doorknockers are given a script, including possible conflicts they will encounter and how to answer them, broken down into different age groups and their likely responses. Engaging this natural sense of fear, forms a free-floating basis of the No conversations. In their opening lines, doorknockers are encouraged to mention they are voting no because they “don’t trust what the government will do”.
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The talking points also breaks down the likely views on same-sex marriage based on age.
The 18-to-25-year-olds are classed as “mostly yes”. The volunteer is encouraged to congratulate the householder on their democratic participation and applaud the compassion that makes them likely to vote yes. However, they are to be reminded that this is actually a question of free speech, which they will “feel later on if this is lost”. The notes sadly leave out the most difficult part of the argument for the doorknocker: how to make the connection between the two concepts less opaque.
People between 35 and 45 are described as a soft yes “mostly from compassion if their own children identify as LGBTQI”. Doorknockers are encouraged to again acknowledge their compassion, but also that these voters should be told to worry about their children “now” not “if” — again, our spy said the campaign didn’t really explain what that meant.
The No campaigners see the over-55s as the most likely to agree with them. Men in this bracket, according to the CFM, distrust the government, the LGBTQI lobby and “trendies”(well, who doesn’t?). Women over 55 are also suspicious of change and worry about the futures of their children and grandchildren. The main challenge is ensuring they translate that distrust and suspicion into a vote for No.
Under “general conversation”, volunteers are encouraged to use the full acronym LBGQTI — our spy told us that the Coalition believes the full acronym “scares” people. The talking points set out rebuttals to common Yes campaign arguments. If they say “all love is love”, doorknockers are to say “not all love is marriage”. And if the punter says it’s about equality, the response is supposed to be the not at all baseless and/or insane assertion that “we have equality between the sexes, this will include 260 new genders” (sadly the genders remain unspecified).
If they do receive sustained argument from someone whose door they have knocked on, volunteers are encouraged to wrap up the conversation, say that they don’t hate anyone, they’re just worried about freedom of speech and children’s education. If they think they’ve clinched support, they are supposed to invoke the same two non-marriage-related topics (kids ‘n’ freedom) to make sure that support becomes a No vote.