How pink will the new entity formed by the merger of Sydney City and South Sydney councils be?

That is the question many community leaders pondered this week. Some believe gay and lesbian community issues could be sidelined within the big new CBD-focused council; others believe the new entity will be even pinker than the old South Sydney Council, because the new Sydney City Council will have an even greater proportion of gay and lesbian residents.

South Sydney’s former deputy mayor, Peter Furness, told Sydney Star Observer he was concerned that the interests of the gay and lesbian community will be subsumed within this larger council.
There were four openly gay councillors on the old south Sydney Council -“ it remains to be seen what kind of representation we have on the new City of Sydney, he said.

But Shayne Mallard, who is the Liberal Party’s candidate for lord mayor at the 27 March elections, said that the larger concentration of gay and lesbian people in the one council area was one of the few positives to come out of the amalgamation process.

Mallard is running for an ordinary council position in addition to the lord mayoralty, and will claim a council seat if the Liberal Party vote holds.

The ALP also has a number of openly gay and lesbian candidates vying for positions on the party’s ticket (to be determined this Saturday), including Furness, former South Sydney councillor Greg Shaw and New Mardi Gras board member Diane Minnis.

But Pride Centre co-president Lou-Anne Lind said that having out gay and lesbian candidates was no guarantee that they would be supportive of community initiatives and causes.

The bottom line is, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but the gay and lesbian community is not unique in that respect, she told the Star. Pride would maintain its occupancy and management of Erskineville Town Hall (under a deal brokered by the former South Sydney Council) and discuss arrangements with the new Sydney City Council after the election, she said.

New Mardi Gras co-chair Michael Woodhouse said that Mardi Gras had negotiated agreements with both Sydney City and South Sydney councils for this year, but the merger would allow us to negotiate with just one player.

We’ll be looking towards a partnership agreement with the new City of Sydney, and we’ll be seeking commitments about that from the candidates, he said.
ACON president Adrian Lovney said that the merger meant there would be challenges ahead but ACON’s happy that the uncertainty of the past two years has been resolved.

He said the new council should continue the subsidised tenancies enjoyed by groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, but expressed some concern about the new council’s treatment of sex industry issues. A sex industry policy document released for comment last year by the former City of Sydney would have meant dramatic changes for the governing of the sex industry in the area, Lovney warned.

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