PENNY Sharpe, the openly-gay former NSW shadow transport minister, is officially back in state parliament brushing off an unsuccessful tilt at a lower house seat at March’s NSW Election
At a ceremony today, Sharpe was officially sworn as one of Labor’s 10 members of the NSW Legislative Council.
On Twitter, the MP said to followers: “Thanks to the Labor members who supported me and those who encouraged me back”.
Just been re-elected to the NSW Legislative Council. Thanks to the Labor members who supported me & those who encouraged me back. #nswpol
— Penny Sharpe (@PennySharpemlc) May 6, 2015
A member of NSW Parliament’s LGBTI cross-party working group, Sharpe has been one of the highest-profile voices in state politics advocating for marriage equality.
She was instrumental in persuading NSW Labor to adopt marriage equality as an official policy platform and helped change opposition leader Luke Foley’s view on the issue.
But this wasn’t enough for voters in the Sydney inner west seat of Newtown who thwarted Sharpe’s plans to move to the lower house by comprehensively voting for the Greens’ Jenny Leong.
Some commentators have speculated that Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek’s recent call for federal Labor MPs to be mandated to vote for same-sex marriage was a reaction to the defeat and an attempt to rebuild the party’s vote in inner city areas where the Greens have made gains.
“If I don’t win Labor will look to fill the upper house seat but that won’t be me,” she said.
However, early last month Sharpe said she had changed her mind and would put her name forward for her former upper house seat.
As the seat wasn’t up for reelection this year it could be filled simply by a vote within the party.
“This decision was not my original intention nor my intention after the disappointing result in Newtown,” Sharpe said in April.
However, the former minister said: “I have been overwhelmed by the number of calls and messages I have received from members of the community, members of the Labor Party and many Labor colleagues asking me to return to the Legislative Council.”
She said one of those messages came from Foley, who urged her to reconsider her position.
Sharpe is not the first MP to return to the NSW upper house after vacating their seat.
Notably, the Christian Democrat’s Fred Nile left his upper house seat to contest the 2004 federal election but returned to Macquarie St when he failed to win a Senate spot.
The returning MP is one of a clutch of gay politicians in NSW Parliament, including Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich and Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith, and upper house Liberal MPs Shayne Mallard and Don Harwin.