The electorates of Grayndler, Sydney and Wentworth are three of the gayest seats in the country, so it’s little wonder many of the political candidates in these areas are trying to woo the pink vote. Sydney Star Observer looks at the main contenders in each of these electorates to see what they’ve done for the LGBTI community in the past and what they promise to do in the future.
The electorate of Wentworth in Sydney’s east became one of the most controversial seats in the country when the Liberal Party dumped Peter King for Malcolm Turnbull. King, who has held the seat for three years, is running as an independent and is actively seeking gay votes. As part of this election campaign he launched his own policy on LGBTI issues.
King was one of the few federal Liberal ministers to publicly speak out against his party’s gay marriage ban. He told Sydney Star Observer he would support repealing the legislation if elected but said it was unlikely to be supported by the coalition or Labor Party. King was the only Liberal MP to speak out against Bill Heffernan’s homophobic attacks on Justice Michael Kirby.
If elected King says he will demand a parliamentary inquiry into all commonwealth legislation to amend whatever discriminates against same-sex couples, a policy flagged by the ALP earlier this year. He says the area that needs the most urgent attention is superannuation.
King also promises to fight for equality in public service employment conditions, social security, veterans benefits, immigration and access to IVF treatment. And he says he wants to be involved in creating better HIV/AIDS policies.
Labor candidate for Wentworth David Patch told Sydney Star Observer he’s proud to be a 78er -“ as a lawyer he helped organise the demonstration at Central Local Court where all the people who were arrested at the first Mardi Gras march appeared.
Patch also went on the record to condemn the marriage ban his party supported. I describe Howard’s ban on same-sex marriage as 19th century morals in 21st century prejudice, he said.
He says he will ensure the ALP keeps its promise of removing all aspects of discrimination in all areas of government activity, including things such as superannuation, migration law, adoption law and inheritance rights.
If I’m elected as the member for Wentworth I will be a strong and unrelenting advocate for the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexual people, he said.
Greens candidate for Wentworth Mithra Cox, who at 24 is one of the youngest candidates in the country, says she would not have joined the party if they didn’t have a strong policy on LGBTI issues. I’m totally committed to working toward implementing the Greens policy in parliament, like amending the marriage act to recognise gay marriage, she said.
Cox has been involved in organising the Greens Mardi Gras float for the past two years.
I am heterosexual and have always felt it’s inappropriate to try to be a voice for the LGBTI community, but I’ve always been totally supportive and doing stuff for gay rights in the community in a social framework as well, she said. I never put up with people discriminating against LGBTI people in any social situation.
Liberal candidate Malcolm Turnbull did not return Sydney Star Observer’s calls by time of print. He does not mention LGBTI issues on his website. In the past he and his wife Lucy have hosted functions for the AIDS Trust in their home.
The seat of Grayndler is the electorate with the second highest number of same-sex couples in the country, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Labor MP Anthony Albanese has held the seat of Grayndler for the past eight years.
In an advertisement he recently took out in Sydney Star Observer Albanese said he understood the community was upset the ALP didn’t oppose the same-sex marriage ban. Albanese and fellow Labor MP Tanya Plibersek both tried to convince their party to oppose the legislation. While they failed on that issue they did get the ALP to pledge to remove all other discriminatory legislation from commonwealth law if they win the election.
Over my eight years as a federal MP I have fought for the recognition of same-sex relationships, Albanese says. During this time not a single person raised marriage as an issue until, of course, John Howard put it on the agenda as a cynical election strategy.
Albanese introduced the first-ever private member’s bill recognising same-sex relationships into the House of Representatives. His Superannuation (Entitlements of Same Sex Couples) Bill was moved on 22 June 1998, then reintroduced another four times -“ on 7 December 1998, 22 December 1999, 25 June 2001 and 21 June 2004.
If elected I will be a minister in a Latham Labor government and a strong voice for gay and lesbian reform, Albanese says.
Greens candidate Phillip Myers is an openly gay man. Myers is part of the Greens LGBTI working group, which focuses on policies and coordinating with our MPs on how to close all discrimination loopholes on a state and federal basis, he says.
This includes campaigning to amend the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act which allows homosexuals to be discriminated against in private schools and small businesses.
On a federal level, after more community consultation, we’re going to review and reintroduce our private member’s bill for full equality regardless of sexuality, he said. If I’m elected it will be me introducing this into the lower house.
Myers was previously involved in the campaign for equal age of consent in NSW. He says the Greens would support the Labor Party over the Liberals in the event of a hung parliament: Hopefully we can bring the Labor Party back to the left.
The Liberal candidate for Grayndler, Stephanie Kokkolis, did not return Sydney Star Observer‘s calls by time of press. Campaign material obtained by the Star contained no references to LGBTI issues.
For the past six years Labor MP Tanya Plibersek has held the electorate of Sydney. An active supporter of the LGBTI community, Plibersek tried to convince the ALP not to support the coalition’s same-sex marriage ban. Along with colleague Anthony Albanese, she got a promise out of Mark Latham to remove all other legislation which discriminates against same-sex couples from federal law if they win the election.
Plibersek says that if re-elected she will ensure the commitments Labor made will be a priority. She has also been asked by shadow health minister Julia Gillard to be responsible for making sure the health department takes into account specific gay and lesbian health issues in their policies.
Of course I will be continuing my support at a community level for the local groups that I’ve worked with over my whole time as federal MP for Sydney, Plibersek told Sydney Star Observer. And I’ll be pushing for further reform in relationship recognition.
Plibersek has spoken out in parliament against Medicare discrimination and in support of IVF for lesbians and equality in superannuation. She introduced her own private member’s bill to amend the Citizenship Act to recognise all de facto relationships for immigration purposes, and has lobbied to ease immigration restrictions for HIV-positive partners of Australian citizens.
She has been an active supporter of ACON, PLWHA, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, the Luncheon Club and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, and was the first MP in Australia to adopt the Safe Place program at her office in Surry Hills.
Greens candidate for Sydney, Jenny Leong, has been heavily campaigning within the LGBTI community since June. Leong has consulted with community organisations on a range of issues, was involved in organising petitions against the same-sex marriage ban, and has helped Community Action Against Homophobia organise a number of rallies.
She said that if elected she will introduce legislation to amend the Marriage Act to redefine marriage as the union of two persons, regardless of their sexuality, gender or gender identity.
Leong said she would continue to campaign for the removal of all forms of discrimination from commonwealth legislation on the basis of sexuality, gender and gender identity. She would offer a direct challenge to the Labor Party to support our call for full equality, she said. Anything less than this is unacceptable and discriminatory.
Liberal candidate for Sydney, Michael Shevers, when asked about his stance on LGBTI issues, told Sydney Star Observer, I very strongly believe in freedom of the individual.
If I was to be elected to parliament I would support the freedom of all individuals. When questioned on gay marriage and supporting LGBTI rights Shevers refused to comment on the record.