Activists and politicians have paid tribute to the courageous rights record of retiring Western Australian premier Geoff Gallop, whose Labor government introduced some of the country’s most comprehensive gay law reforms.
Gallop announced on Monday he was leaving politics to seek treatment for depression, five years after winning government and almost 20 years since first entering state parliament.
It has been an enormous privilege and pleasure to serve this state and witness the wonderful progress that is being made, Gallop said in a statement announcing his resignation.
Even though change of the sort I announce today will bring its challenges and will be disruptive in the very short term, I am confident that the government will continue its excellent work.
While opposition leader in the late 1990s, Gallop pledged to give gay men and lesbians equality in most areas of Western Australian law.
That was done as one of their first acts of government, the convenor of Gay and Lesbian Equality (WA), Rod Swift, told Sydney Star Observer.
The reforms, which took effect in 2002 and 2003, included adoption rights for same-sex couples and an equal gay age of consent.
That was a strong and courageous move and showed the leadership and foresight of his government, and he will be sadly missed in the leadership in WA for that reason, Swift said.
Federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese said the Gallop government’s initiatives had set a national standard.
There’s no better model than Western Australia, Albanese told the Star. He said Gallop’s departure was a big loss for the party under quite tragic circumstances.
Despite the WA premier’s resignation, the state would most likely remain progressive until the next state elections in 2009 at least, Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne, also from GALE (WA), told the Star.
He is not the only person in the WA Labor party who does support GLBTI people and rights, she said.
Possible Gallop successor Attorney-General Jim McGinty probably had the best gay rights credentials, but other potential premiers hadn’t proven to be less supportive.
At this point we’re not overly concerned, Pilgrim-Byrne said.
But with the opposition Liberals reportedly considering a reform rollback if they win office at the next state poll, gay rights in WA remained a long-term political issue, she said.
In the lead-up to the WA elections last February, then Liberal leader Colin Barnett promised to take back some gay rights if his party came to power.