IF YOU'VE seen the latest TV ad from the Coalition for Marriage, the chief campaign group pushing Australians to vote No, you may have noticed something missing.

The mums, who have become some of the most prominent anti-same-sex marriage advocates, claim their children are being taught "radical gender programs"; they tell the viewer, "you can say no".

But there's something they're not saying; there's a word that's not mentioned and yet it's central to the survey.

The word "marriage" isn't uttered once in the advert. Neither does it appear on screen, aside from in the logo of the organisation.

In the No campaign’s latest ad, the word 'marriage isn't spoken, neither is marriage discussed.Source:Supplied
In the No campaign’s latest ad, the word 'marriage isn't spoken, neither is marriage discussed.Source:Supplied

Similarly, speeches and campaign materials from the No side talk repeatedly about "political correctness" and "freedom of speech".

But, again, the pros and cons of whether two people of the same gender, committed to one another, should be allowed to be married under civil - not religious - law, is almost entirely missing.

It seems that in the No campaign, marriage is the relationship that dare not speak its name.

A prominent same-sex marriage campaigner has told news.com.au the strategy is "deeply dishonest and very deliberate". On the contrary, say the No campaign, it's the other side being dishonest.


But an expert in political campaigns says the No campaign needs to shift the discussion, because, quite simply, they will lose a debate solely focused on relationships and whether couples should be treated fairly.

On Monday morning, crossbench Senator Derryn Hinch, who supports Yes, lashed out at the No campaign saying similar, "divide and conquer" tactics employed in the republic referendum were now being used in the marriage debate.

On Channel 7, he said the No side's plan was to "sow seeds of doubt (and) spread the issue so it's not about Yes or No to same-sex marriage".


Mr Hinch said he was worried the more confused people were about the issue, the more they might side with the status quo.

On the survey itself, the ABS states that they are "asking just one question". That question is "should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

But the Coalition for Marriage (CfM) insists the issue is a "package deal" with the now largely withdrawn Safe Schools program and freedom of religion.

In a recent flyer sent to homes, the words "radical" and "religion" appear three times each, "freedom" six times while "schools" takes out the crown appearing seven times.

The words "love" and "relationship" do not appear once.

Critics say the No campaign is tying issues to the survey that would not be affected by a Yes victory.


News.com.au asked the CfM to detail exactly how a change in Federal law to allow same-sex marriage would lead to changes in the school curriculum, a State issue, and reduce freedom of speech.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: "Changing any law has consequences and the marriage law is no different ... Australians have the right to know the consequences."

She added, "those who seek to penalise those with a traditional view of marriage" would be bolstered by a law change.`

It seems the CfM are expecting to be challenged on the issue. A document given to volunteers suggests a response in case someone on the doorstep pushes back and says the vote is just about love.

These volunteers have been asked to reply: "This is more than a vote about people's feelings. It is about the bedrock of our nation's stability. It is about providing the environment for growing children."



Sally Young is an associate professor of social and political science at Melbourne University.

"[No campaigners] aren't bringing up marriage because people will just say 'yes'," she told news.com.au.

At the heart of the No campaign is an attempt to steer the discussion away from the question on the ballot paper and to create doubt, Prof Young said.

"To scare people, muddy the waters and conflate issues is a standard political tactic.

"The No side are willing to try anything because if they ask the straightforward marriage question, they will get a straightforward answer [from voters]".

Just like a political party during an election campaign - where the Liberals talk about the economy and Labor health - the aim of No is to move the discussion onto turf where they have an advantage, she said.

"You want to shift the debate to where your strengths and the No campaign has done a pretty good job of shifting the debate away from marriage and relationships."

Prof Young also said there was a conservative streak in Australia that anti-SSM campaigners were looking to tap into.

"We think we're a really progressive country, and we were in the 19th century (when Australia was one of the first in the world to give women the vote), but we're a long way from that now and often in referendum questions, we say no.

"We think we're mavericks but we're actually very rule bound," she said.

Same sex couple raise over a dozen foster children: 20 years of caring for children in need.
Same sex couple raise over a dozen foster children: 20 years of caring for children in need.

Certainly, the No campaign is finding traction with some voters. A Newspoll, released on Monday, said support for same-sex marriage as now at 57 per cent, compared to 63 per cent in August.

The No vote has lifted to 34 per cent, from 30 per cent with 9 per cent uncommitted.

The CfM told news.com.au the Yes campaign had a duty to be "honest" about the run on effects of same-sex marriage.

But Tiernan Brady, who leads the Equality Campaign, said the CfM's tactics were clear.

"If there is one thing the No side understand it's that Australians support marriage equality. So they've decided to do everything apart from talk about marriage.

"It's deeply dishonest but it's very deliberate and there is method to the dishonesty," he told news.com.au.

Mr Brady dismissed the strategy as a "debating trick" that Australians "aren't going to fall for."

"What we have to do, all the time, is call out their dishonest strategy. We have to remind people that this is a very simple question about whether a member of our family, or our neighbours and friends who happen to be lesbian and gay, should be treated fairly in law.

"That's the only question," he said.

The Yes campaign will be hoping the voters agree.