Under-the-radar no voters could impact same-sex marriage postal vote

Updated October 01, 2017 13:25:42

Politicians, advertising and large rallies have made up a big part of the same-sex marriage campaign to date, but certain community groups flying under the radar may also have an impact on the postal survey.

The “silent” No voters are sticking to their own communities and common meeting places like markets, churches, and restaurants and their inconspicuous campaigning could sway the results.

The ABC spoke to No campaigners in three of those groups about how they are pushing the No vote.

Koreans

Luke Song, who migrated to Australia from South Korea 35 years ago, believes a lot of Koreans will vote no but he wants to be sure so he has been campaigning.

“We’re just talking and spreading our message through people, through SMS, or emails, or talks or [in restaurants],” he said.

“The majority of Korean people are very conservative and they go to church so we think most of them are against same-sex marriage.

“We do many campaigns so we know how to spread a message.”

The ambitions of the campaigners are modest and they are focussing on appealing to their community at a personal level.

Recently they invited about 20 people to a restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Ryde where most of the Korean population lives.

“We’ve been talking at our church to our congregation worship, we’ve been discussing this matter, it’s the main issue right now,” said No campaigner David Chung.

“This is a big issue not only in Australia but also in Korea.”

But the approach was not completely successful at the recent dinner with one attendee saying he would still vote yes.

“I will say yes…I respect their opinions and I want them to respect my opinion too,” he said.

Maronite Christians

Tony Matha, 26, is part of the Lebanese Maronite Christian community which he said has about 150 young people pushing the No vote on the streets.

“A lot of people don’t even know anything about the no side, when you have Westfields, Coca Cola and all these multi-million dollar corporations funding the Yes campaign, which is fine they’re allowed to,” he said.

“But I think it’s the grassroots campaigns that are more effective because they’re more personal.”

Unlike the Korean campaigners, Mr Matha and his campaigners’ tactics have been multifaceted and include holding placards on the side of the road to encourage everyone to vote no.

However, they have also been targeting the Maronite community — which includes about 160,000 people around Australia — through church talks, pamphlets in Arabic and social media videos.

Maronite Christian Marianne Dahar, 20, said the campaign has mainly been targeted at young people.

“We’ve been educating our youth to help them campaign further and giving them secular reasons to promote that it’s okay to vote no,” she said.

“We’ve been holding regular talks at the various Maronite parishes appealing to the youth particularly…we’ve had pamphlets printed in Arabic to appeal to our older members.”

Muslims

Almir Colan is a Bosnian Muslim from Melbourne and said most people advocating for the no vote in his community did not want to align with the established groups.

“The reasons why Muslims are not rushing to go towards these more right-wing campaigners is because a lot of people who are dominating discussion are seen as Islamaphobes,” he said.

“We don’t usually favourably look at them and they don’t usually favourably look at us, they’re not welcoming of Muslims in any way.”

Mr Colan has been campaigning for the no vote in his own community too but said views among Islamic groups, like all others, were mixed.

“They will choose either to vote no, be silent and a small portion will say yes,” he said.

Topics: marriage, community-and-society, government-and-politics, political-parties, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 01, 2017 13:04:55