With the 2013 federal election campaign finally drawing to a close, it is worth looking back over the last three years to gain some perspective.
Since the last election, marriage equality has come closer to reality than ever in Australia. Since 2010, one of Australia’s two main political parties has gone from outward opposition to support of same-sex marriage, albeit with the qualification of a conscience vote. Conservative politicians have increasingly broken their silence and spoken out in favour of reform, and earlier this week the sitting Prime Minister gave an impassioned and eloquent defence of the right of two people of the same sex to marry.
Marriage equality is the LGBTI issue that makes the front page, but the last three years have seen enormous leaps in the struggle for equality more broadly – not as eye-catching or headline-ready, but necessary and vital reform that has had a profound effect on the lives and dignity of hundreds of thousands of LGBTI Australians. The passing of the Sex Discrimination Amendment Act enshrined protection from discrimination against LGBTI people at a federal level; huge improvements were made in removing gender-discriminatory practices from Medicare; and legislation to protect intersex people from discrimination came into law – the first time anywhere in the world has done so. The complexity and relative obscurity of such achievements make them harder to enact and easier to oppose, making their passage all the more remarkable in a Parliament often dismissed as gridlocked and chaotic.
The Star Observer is not endorsing any one party or Prime Ministerial candidate – Australia’s LGBTI communities are too diverse, too complex and, frankly, too fond of an argument for us to presume to speak with such authority. We would encourage our readers, however, to apply the same long-term thinking that made these reforms possible to their choices when casting their ballot – there are a great number of politicians, on all sides of politics and none, who work tirelessly to further the rights of LGBTI Australians with little to no recognition. Conversely, there are others who pay lip service to LGBTI rights – and are happy to take your vote – but are nowhere to be seen when the hard work of reform is needed. It is up to individual voters to judge where their candidates fall on this spectrum.
Over the past month we’ve strived to bring this mindset to our election coverage – to help our readers look past the infuriating smoke-and-mirrors game of the election cycle and provide something that can help them make informed choices when they vote tomorrow. We’ve reported on plenty of stories that the mainstream media has also seen fit to cover, Victorian Labor MP Michael Danby’s how-to-vote debacle, Tony Abbott’s education policy announcement at a Christian school that regards homosexuality as a “perversion,” and Liberal Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro finally coming out in support of gay marriage among them.
But we’ve also kept our eye on what the big players, in the heat and light of election season, have ignored or largely missed – stories like the main parties’ responses, good and bad, to the National LGBTI Election Survey, or the gay Coalition candidate who’s preferencing the Christian Democrats. It’s also probably a surprise to learn that footage has emerged of a senior ALP official urging members of the Australian Christian Lobby to join the party and work to combat the push for same-sex marriage from the inside.
We’ve also given candidates the chance to speak for themselves – to defend their records and make their case. In the last week alone we’ve published extensive interviews with Finance Minister Penny Wong, Wentworth MP and former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, Greens leader Christine Milne and Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten. We also asked Liberal City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster, WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt’s partner Aram Hosie and Christine Milne’s son Tom to step up to convince us why their parties were the right choice for LGBTI Australia. Their responses generated considerable heat online as our readers debated whether their arguments held water. We welcome and encourage such debate as a sign our readers are critical enough not to take politician’s claims at face value, but demand they back up their words with action and evidence.
It is that critical thinking – that sense of perspective – that we will continue to strive for and foster. Whatever the makeup of the next Parliament, in election season or out, the Star Observer will continue to cover the issues that inform and serve our readers – their needs, their safety and their right to stand as equals in their own society – and hold the public figures who affect those rights to account. See you on the other side.
Alex McKinnon is the editor of the Star Observer.