The Lyons Forum is a group of Federal Parliamentarians from the Liberal and National parties who support family values. It was subjected to a 30 minute expose by the SBS Insight program on May 29.
The program was ostensibly a documentary giving the pretence of a neutral, objective examination of various social issues. It was clear from the beginning, however, that Insight had a definite viewpoint, namely, that the Lyons Forum and the Christian Right pose a serious threat to Australia.
The program featured a half dozen “experts” eagerly sharing their concerns about Christians and pro-family supporters. Indeed, it was amazing to hear how many times the word “concern” was heard during the show.
Insight’s agenda was therefore obvious from the start. The interviews and subsequent editing were aimed at supporting these preconceived opinions.
I happened to be one of the guests interviewed. For about 25 minutes the interviewer and I discussed the work of Focus on the Family Australia. In the end I was featured on the program for about 60 seconds and only then to reveal the association Lyons Forum members had with Focus. My discussion was pared down to support the point SBS wanted to make, that there is a sinister conspiracy between certain elements of church and state in Australia aimed at imposing some sort of right-wing fundamentalist dictatorship on the country.
Indeed, that was the whole drift of the program: conservatives and Christians are conspiring to take over the Howard Government and through it the nation. I only wish we had so much influence!
The double standards were amazing. One commentator who is working on a biography of John Howard warned about the danger of factions inside the Liberal Party and how they should be avoided at all costs. Yet the program featured members of the newly-formed John Stuart Mill Society, a group of libertarian Federal MPs, which opposes the Lyons Forum. Here is a clear-cut lobby group with political clout pushing its own values, and nobody complains.
Supporting the case against the Lyons Forum was the Liberal MP for Adelaide, Susan Jeans. She said that the traditional family was basically dead, that few people lived in traditional families anymore, and the traditional family was just some invention from the 1950s.
Her views were echoed by others on the program, all warning against turning back the clock. Of course, the fact that the family unit has been the mainstay of most cultures throughout most of history was conveniently overlooked.
Two Christians also appeared on the program to voice their “concern”. Democrat Senator from Queensland John Woodley and David Millikan from the Uniting Church spoke of how un-Christian the Lyons Forum was. Even the interviewer had her two cents worth claiming Jesus was a revolutionary who supported the welfare state.
Inaccuracies abounded. For example, an Australian Christian Prayer Breakfast was featured with the claim that locals were copying a concept introduced by Ronald Reagan. In fact it was President Eisenhower who started the breakfasts in the 1950s.
All in all, the program was a perfect example of how elements in the media will use misinformation, half-truths and deception to push their own agenda. And all in the guise of impartial reporting. The underlying assumption which permeated the program was the belief that Christians have no right to represent their values and beliefs to the rest of Australia.
But values are pushed all the time by all kinds of groups. Why can’t we? After all, secular humanists promote their values all the time and are largely financed with public money through the ABC and SBS in particular.