The unequal age of consent in New South Wales has emerged as a campaign issue in the north shore seat of Ku-ring-gai, largely because of Labor’s outspoken and openly gay candidate, Andrew Hewitt.

The twenty-six-year-old public servant has taken on the -“ Herculean? Impossible? Let’s just say pretty tough -“ task of unseating Barry O’Farrell of the Liberals, who holds the seat with a whopping 20% margin.

Labor will not win Ku-ring-gai; not in this election anyway, Hewitt admitted. It’s an electorate where (the residents) have no real reason for wanting change, but that in itself offers opportunities for a Labor candidate to promote different ideas and different policies. The Liberal candidates don’t do a lot up here, and I have the ability to get my voice heard through the local paper and just campaigning.

A founding member of Rainbow Labor, Hewitt is using his Ku-ring-gai campaign to highlight issues such as the unequal age of consent and the lack of services for lesbian and gay youth in the area. He said he had had both positive and negative feedback from residents on the age of consent issue, some of whom regarded it solely as an inner-city problem.

And in a sad way, I think the gay community allows it to be seen that way. We allow ourselves to think that Oxford Street is the only place where gay people live so if you live anywhere else you can’t be gay, Hewitt said.

It’s all well and good to have a gay candidate standing in the seat of Bligh, because you’re preaching to the converted, but up here you can really open minds, he added. I can make people realise that these are issues that are out there. They may not be welcoming of these issues, but they are going to know about them.

Hewitt gets his first chance to debate O’Farrell face-to-face next Tuesday night at 8pm (during a candidate’s forum at the Lindfield Uniting Church) -“ and he said lesbian and gay issues would form part of his address.

With just over a week until polling day, Hewitt said he would be campaigning at railway stations and along shopping strips in the area. But doing the meet-˜n’greet presented a few challenges, he said.

There’s just one pub in the electorate, and just one shopping centre, in Gordon, which is no bigger than what’s underneath the Oxford Koala, so there’s not a great deal of scope for walking through, he said.

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