10. Were the police using the Mardi Gras to embarrass the Labor government?

When Neville Wran’s Labor Party won the 1976 election, the activists called on his libertarian credentials to decriminalise gay men’s sexual activities and include ‘sexual orientation’ in his anti-discrimination bill. But even before the Mardi Gras, some observers argued that the conservatives were using the police to attack his reforms.

They know Wran is unable to defend homosexuals and it would be very easy for the casino issue to be transformed into a more general attack on vice (Red & Lavender no 9 1977).

Other people thought that the police wanted to discredit Wran because he threatened their lucrative scams. The National Times was running many reports on police corruption and calling on Wran to reform them. Some of the ‘78ers still hold this position. However, the evidence suggests that the police bungled their responsibilities. On the face of it, Head Office and Inspector Millar were independently concerned about controlling the traffic and maintaining law and order. They made several bad decisions and this led to the violence.

Authors: Gavin Harris and John Witte.

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