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Former Liberal MP Chris Miles: anti-gay activist, caught misusing NIS-4 study in leaked anti-marriage-equality leaflet

Image: Anti-gay campaigner and former Liberal Party MP Chris Miles. [Source: Fairfax Media]

On the back of the recent Say Yes fact check, we noticed something on the leaked anti-marriage-equality leaflet authorised by former Liberal Party MP Chris Miles.

It’s another claim that “married biological parents have a better record for providing safety and development of healthy, well-adjusted adult children” and that such parents “minimise abuse and neglect of children”.  The leaflet (see below) then cites a report to the US Congress by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Image: Excerpt from anti-gay leaflet authorised by Chris Miles. [Source: Fairfax Media]

And you guessed it: It’s the NIS-4 study being misused again.  We recently sought comment from NIS-4 author Dr Andrea Sedlak, PhD, who was concerned about the research being misused in relation to LGBTI parenting and relationships.

And it’s not the first time that Chris Miles has authored and distributed an anti-gay leaflet!

As we mentioned in our original fact check into claims by FamilyVoice Australia’s Roslyn Phillips misusing this research:

… the report does not delve once into the sexual orientation or gender identity of parents.  Not once.  Nowhere in the study does it mention sexual orientation, sexuality, gay, lesbian, same-sex or homosexual parenting.

Similarly, the NIS-4 study does not make any findings about “married biological parents have a better record for providing safety and development of healthy, well-adjusted adult children” whatsoever.

 

So who is Chris Miles?

Chris Miles is pictured above, just in case you might run into him on the street.  You might want to know what he looks like, given his anti-gay past.

He was the former Liberal Party MP for the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, holding the seat from 1984-1998.  You can read a brief bio of him from his Wikipedia page.

Scouring the web, Say Yes has managed to uncover one of Miles’ more sordid past as one of Tasmania’s notorious anti-gay activists.  According to a 1994 article in Green Left Weekly, by Tom Flanagan, Miles was working to preserve Tasmania’s anti-gay sex laws in the wake of a UN Human Rights Commission decision that they breached the ICCPR:

A federal Liberal MP is playing a key role in the mobilisation of bigoted right-wingers in defence of Tasmania’s anti-gay laws.

Chris Miles, MHR for Braddon and opposition spokesperson for schools, vocational education and training, is campaigning in support of laws that criminalise a range of consenting sexual activities between adults in private, including all forms of sexual contact between men, as well as anal and oral sex between heterosexuals.

That’s right — Chris Miles was also targeting consenting sex between heterosexuals.

The article continues:

Miles was one of the main speakers at a “Say No To Sodomy” rally, in defence of the laws, which drew 700 people to the Burnie Civic Centre on June 8.

Prior to the event, Miles’ electorate office posted notices publicising the rally to households along Tasmania’s north-west coast.

Seems like this latest leaflet is not the first offensive leaflet Chris Miles has ever circulated.  Charming!

In 1992, he was also one of the ultra-conservative Christian MPs — along with Senator John Herron, Senator Eric Abetz, Senator John Tierney, Alan CadmanJohn Bradford, Kevin Andrews and John Forrest — that founded the Lyons Forum.

He also served as Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister John Howard from 1996-1998, after the Liberal-National Coalition won the 1996 federal election.

 

Well, who were the Lyons Forum?

The group was once described as ‘The God Squad’ by journalist Nikki Savva, and concerned itself with a grab-bag of issues like conservative family values, lobbying to ban R-rated pay TV and X-rated videos, anti-violence, pro-censorship, anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia causes.

The Savva article cited their 1996 manifesto:

Members of the Lyons Forum believe that: the family is the fundamental unit of society; the family is the prime agency for the development and primary socialisation of children; marriage provides the optimum environment for the nurturing of children.

About the same time, Electronic Frontiers Australia compiled a list of Federal MPs that had been linked to the Lyons Forum, and the names included:

Executive Members:
The Hon. Chris Miles, Chairman (Lib – Tas) Parliamentary Secretary to the PM
Mr. Noel Hicks, Deputy Chairman (Nat – NSW) National Party Whip
Mr. Kevin Andrews, Secretary (Lib – Vic)
Ms. Elizabeth Grace, Treasurer (Lib – Qld)
MHRs:
Mr. Tony Abbott (Lib – NSW)
The Hon. John Anderson (NP – NSW) Primary Industries Minister
Mr John Andrew (Lib – SA)
Mr. John Bradford (CDP – Qld)
Mr Robert Edwin Charles (Lib – Vic)
The Hon. Peter Costello (Lib – Vic) Federal Treasurer
The Hon. Alexander Downer (Lib – SA) Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ms. Trish Draper (Lib – SA)
Mr. Tim Fischer (Nat – NSW) Deputy Prime Minsiter
The Hon. Robert Katter (Nat – Qld)
The Hon. Dr. David Kemp (Lib – Vic) Minister for Schools etc.
Mr Peter Lindsay (Lib – Qld)
Mr Paul Neville (Nat – Qld)
Mr William (Bill) Taylor (Lib – Qld)
The Hon. Andrew Thomson (Lib – NSW) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr. Warren Truss (Nat – Qld)
Senators:
Senator Eric. Abetz (Lib – Tas)
Senator the Hon David Brownhill (Nat – NSW) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade
Senator Paul Calvert (Lib – Tas) Government Deputy Whip
Senator Hedley Chapman (Lib – SA)
Senator Alan Ferguson (Lib – SA)
Senator the Hon Brian Gibson (Lib – Tas)
Senator the Hon. John Herron (Lib – Qld) Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Senator Nick Minchin (Lib – SA) Parliamentary secretary to the PM
Senator the Hon Jocelyn Newman (Lib – Tas) Minister for Social Security and
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women
Senator Bill O’Chee (NP – Qld)
Senator the Hon Warwick Parer (Lib – Qld) Minister for Resources and Energy
Senator John Tierney (Lib – NSW)
Senator John Watson (Lib – Tas)

 

Naturally, this is a very old list of MPs — and some may have changed their views markedly on issues like equal marriage.

According to long-time federal parliamentary journalist Michelle Grattan, the group was reportedly defunct by 2004.

In 1997, Lynette Dumble wrote a piece for The Committee on Women, Population, and the Environment detailing the political influence of the Lyons Forum as a bulwark of conservative Christian influence among Coalition MPs.  In that same article, Ms Dumble reminds us of Chris Miles’s anti-gay history in Tasmania:

Miles himself is best known from his days in opposition when he advocated the continued criminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults in the Australian state of Tasmania. Back in 1994, when Justice Michael Kirby … visited Tasmania to explode some of myths around homosexuality, and speak up for gay rights, Miles accompanied Kirby’s opponents, who included Senator Eric Abetz and other Coalition cronies, who opposed Kirby at the public meeting with a variety of fundamentalisms and homophobic vitriol.

The same Dumble article also reported that Senator Eric Abetz had taken over from Chris Miles in the top job at the Lyons Forum.

 

Conclusion:

Chris Miles has cited a US study that makes no claims about same-sex parenting and has inferred that non-heterosexual parenting may be inferior and may lead to greater risks of harm, abuse and neglect to children.  The reading of this research in this way has been criticised by the author of the report as unsafe.

This is unsurprising, given Miles’ more than two decades of anti-gay activism.

 

Citations:

Sedlak, A.J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., and Li, S. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

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