Though the election of Coalition leader Tony Abbott as Australia’s 28th prime minister has caused concern amongst some sections of the LGBTI community, marriage equality advocates have pointed to at least one positive, with the number of MPs in the Lower House supportive of marriage reform expected to rise to at least 50.
High-profile NSW Greens candidate Cate Faehrmann seems likely to just miss out on a Senate seat, while longstanding LGBTI advocate WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt is also close to losing her seat to Australian Sports Party member Wayne Dropulich, despite the next-to-unknown Dropulich receiving only 0.22 per cent of the primary vote.
Both Pratt and Faehrmann have now joined growing calls – including from ABC election expert Antony Green – for an overhaul of either the regulations governing the eligibility of micro-parties to contest the Upper House or for the Senate voting system to allow for preferential voting above the line.
Claiming victory just after 10pm on Saturday, September 7, Abbott told a 1000-strong crowd gathered at Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel to celebrate the Coalition’s victory, that while Labor’s vote at the election was at its lowest level in 100 years, he would govern for all Australians.
“A good government is one with a duty to help everyone to maximise his or her potential – indigenous people, people with disabilities, and our forgotten families, as well as those who Menzies described as lifters not leaners. We will not leave anyone behind,” Abbott said.
“I am both proud and humbled as I shoulder the duties of government. The time for campaign has passed. The time for governing has arrived. I pledge myself to the service of our country.”
Abbott’s election was quickly greeted by dismay by some within the LGBTI community, including activists with Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) who have called for an “urgent rally” on October 12 in Sydney to fight back against Abbott’s “bigotry” starting from midday at Town Hall.
“Remember when Abbott said he was threatened by homosexuality? Let’s keep that in mind in every personal, sexual and political act we make from here. Just think of all the ways you can threaten him and his Prime Ministership,” organisers from CAAH said in a statement.
“We intend to show our intransigence and determination to undo these homophobic marriage laws, just like we did when the ALP had homophobia enshrined in their party platform.”
The new make-up of the 150-seat House of Representatives will see the Coalition with at least 85 seats, Labor with 54, while Greens MP Adam Bandt has held on to his seat of Melbourne along with Denison Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Kennedy MP Bob Katter.
Eight seats remain in the balance, with Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella close to losing her seat to Independent Cathy McGowan and Clive Palmer set for a shock win in the Queensland seat of Fairfax.
Campaigners from Australian Marriage Equality (AME) are said to be encouraged with the election results, with 50 MPs in the Lower House believed to be supportive of equal marriage laws, up from 42 in the previous parliament.
“Our priorities now are to bring marriage equality supporters together through a cross-party working group, to work with supporters within the Coalition to map a path to a conscience vote and to lobby newly-elected Coalition members who have yet to declare their personal position,” AME national director, Rodney Croome, said.
Representatives from Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia also welcomed the incoming Coalition government while thanking parties for their multi-partisan support of legislation earlier this year that now prohibits discrimination against intersex people in Australia.
“Sadly, the previous term of government also left the most important issue for intersex people unconcluded,” OII President Morgan Carpenter said.
“The significant issues of bodily autonomy and freedom from unnecessary medical intervention are the most crucial matters facing intersex people in Australia.
“The Coalition hasn’t always been clear about the biological nature of intersex, or our distinctive health needs, but we are glad they have indicated they are willing to learn more about us and our issues.”
Melody Moore from Trans Health Australia told the Star Observer the transgender community was decidedly worried about the impact of potential cuts to health services, which are already minimal in most areas across the country.
“I am concerned for the community because as things stand it is already pretty dire in Queensland as it is,” Moore said from Cairns. “At the moment there is only one place in Cairns for trans people to get proper support. If a lot of the places offering services get shut down where will that leave the trans community, both here in Queensland and across the country?
“I recruited Liberal MP Warren Entsch in 2010 to advocate for trans issues and he helped set up the bi-partisan LGBTI Parliamentary Friendship Group. I know he is approachable but I’m not sure who else will be in the rest of the Cabinet.”
While counting for the final Senate positions continues this week, it is predicted the 76-seat chamber will comprise of 33 Coalition members, 25 Labor, 10 Greens, SA Independent Nick Xenophon, two Palmer United Party, one Democratic Labor Party, one Liberal Democrats, one Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and one Family First, as well as the almost unknown Wayne Dropulich from the Australian Sports Party, who is set to take the final WA Senate spot from Pratt.
“I’m sitting on 0.88 of a quota,” Pratt said pessimistically over the weekend. “If the Sports person does get up, they are sitting on an eighth of my vote.”
Pratt’s campaign to hold on to her Senate seat was also hampered by Labor officials who placed her second on their ticket for WA behind former union stalwart Joe Bullock, despite the senator being a sitting member of Parliament since 2008.
In NSW, Faehrmann, who was until recently a member in the Upper House of NSW Parliament, told supporters this morning in a statement that it was likely the Greens would miss out on gaining a NSW senate seat.
“We ran the best campaign we could but unfortunately a micro party – the Liberal Democrats – has been elected on almost 9% of the vote with no campaigning,” she said.
“They got the ‘donkey vote’ on the massive ballot paper with 110 candidates as well voters unsuspectingly thinking they were voting for the Libs. They were then elected on Sex Party, WikiLeaks, Animal Justice Party preferences among others.
“The Greens will work to fix our broken senate system.”