Key Australian politicians pull out of controversial anti-gay conference

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Various high-profile politicians scheduled to speak at the anti-gay World Congress of Families (WCF) this weekend have pulled out over issues to do with who will host the event.

Those who had been scheduled to attend the Melbourne conference, but have now pulled out, include social services minister Kevin Andrews and Victoria attorney general Robert Clark.

Andrews, who had been intended to give the opening address at the event, released a statement attributing his decision to pull out to the fact that the controversial right-wing Christian group Catch the Fire would be hosting the event.

Catch the Fire’s founder Daniel Nalliah is known to be strongly anti-abortion and anti-Islam, and previously blamed bushfires on Victoria’s abortion laws.

“Tolerance is a critical value in a western liberal democracy like Australia,” Andrews said in a statement.

Clark also released a statement saying he would no longer attend.

“In view of the fact that the World Congress of Families conference is now being hosted by Catch the Fire, the attorney general will not be attending the conference,” his spokesman told the Guardian.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi and senior minister Eric Abetz have also pulled out of attending the event, despite being listed as supporters in the conference brochure.

Abetz appeared to be reprimanded by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, after he linked abortion to breast cancer.

A spokesman for Bernardi said the organisers had been notified he would not attend in July.

The WCF is partnered with about 40 other organizations including the Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America. Speakers include anti-gay, anti-divorce and anti-euthanasia activists from across the globe.

The Guardian reports that 350 people have signed up to attend the event.

Protests are scheduled to take place on Saturday, with thousands planning to march against the WCF.