FOLLOWING a recent reshuffle of the Victorian opposition government’s cabinet, Albert Park state Labor MP Martin Foley (pictured) has become the first cabinet member in any state, territory or federal parliament to hold an LGBTI portfolio.
Foley was promoted by Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews in December, becoming Shadow Minister for Water, Arts and Youth Affairs, while retaining his role as adviser to the opposition leader on LGBTI equality, a position he has held since May 2013.
Both the Coalition and the Labor parties are set to make LGBTI issues central to this year’s state election.
“At a personal level this is a tremendous opportunity to have rights and equality for LGBTI Victorians taken to the heart of policy and decision making for the Labor Party,” Foley told the Star Observer.
Although upper house Greens MP Sue Pennicuik has served as the party’s spokesperson on LGBTI issues for some time, there is no equivalent position within the state’s Coalition Government.
However, Prahran state Liberal MP and LGBTI advocate Clem Newton- Brown argued all Victorian cabinet ministers contributed on LGBTI issues within their respective portfolios.
“For example, the Minister for Health has a GLBTI advisory committee and has introduced many initiatives including rapid-testing for HIV and research into premature ageing for people with HIV,” Newton- Brown told the Star Observer.
“I hope that within the Labor Party the various shadow ministers similarly take up GLBTI issues, rather than leaving it all up to Mr Foley.”
Foley’s move to the shadow cabinet has been applauded by LGBTI advocates.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convener Corey Irlam said it provided a “dedicated point of coordination for LGBTI issues” across multiple portfolios, comparing the role to existing positions around multicultural groups, women, and people with a disability.
“Since Martin Foley’s appointment in May 2013 as Parliamentary Secretary for Equality, there has been a pleasing increase in discussions about LGBTI policy matters between community leaders and ministers in the ALP shadow cabinet,” he said.
“As we enter an election year and with Mr Foley’s elevation to shadow cabinet, we remain confident of continued dialogue and hope to see improved policies by the ALP on issues that are important for Victoria’s LGBTI community.”