ONE of Australia’s newest openly-gay MPs has told the Star Observer that while his focus is animal welfare he will approach other social issues with compassion and consideration, including those that affect the LGBTI community.
Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party was elected to NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council at March’s state election.
Pearson’s election means Australia is only the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Germany, to elect a parliamentarian from a party dedicated to animal welfare.
He has also boosted the number of openly gay MPs in NSW Parliament to six, with the Liberals’ Don Harwin, Shayne Mallard and Bruce Notley-Smith, Labor’s Penny Sharpe and independent Alex Greenwich also elected.
Pearson said the party had polled well in the LGBTI-heavy neighbourhoods of Darlinghurst and Surry Hills as well as in suburban areas.
“What’s interesting is our demography is quite broad,” he said.
“From the queer community to Liberal and Greens preferences, animals play an important role in many people’s lives or they hate live exports.”
The party’s policies include halting live animal exports, banning greyhound racing and outlawing hunting – none of which is likely to curry much favour with MPs from the Shooters and Fishers party.
“Our platform is compassion,” Pearson told the Star Observer.
“Stepping into the shoes of the other and thinking what will I do for them?”
During his first speech, Pearson listed none other than Queen Victoria as an inspiration.
Stating that evey year the late monarch was allowed to pardon a prisoner, he noted: “Where the prisoner presented had committed heinous acts of cruelty to animals, Queen Victoria never pardoned the prisoner”.
Born in Newcastle, Pearson has spent 25 years working in mental health and animal welfare and until recently was an executive director at Animal Liberation Australia.
Asked to nominate notable moments from his career, he lists the time he chained himself to former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s piggery to protest against sow stalls and a campaign he spearheaded which led Russia to ban imports of kangaroo meat.
But Pearson disagrees animal rights is a niche area.
“About 80 per cent of issues parliament has to deal with have animals,” he said.
“Health, mining, even poles and wires.
“If it isn’t an animal issue for parliament to deal with we’ll apply compassion and consideration.”
Pearson came out young and had the backing of a supportive family.
“My father said, ‘you do what you want in your life so long as you don’t harm anyone,’ and that’s instilled a confidence in me,” he said.
By his late teens he was in Sydney enjoying the gay scene and getting his first glance of a Christian Democrat he now shares the minor parties’ benches with.
“I was 17 years old and at Mardi Gras where Fred Nile was on his knees praying for rain,” Pearson said.
“We got some rain and I think he thought the Lord had answered his prayers.
“Then the sun came out and it became the hottest steamiest Mardi Gras.”
While not in the purview of state parliament, Pearson backs marriage equality.
“Same-sex marriage we would support because irrespective of your view of the institution of marriage no should be denied that,” he said.
However, he has no intention of heading down the alter himself: “I’m not that interested in the institution of marriage but they have the right to enjoy the institution and whatever it means to them.”
He said it just needs to get passed, “and then we can all go and enjoy lunch”.