A newly-formed Victorian Rainbow Labor body has played down factional differences with the South Yarra branch of the Labor Party which also advocates gay and lesbian issues inside the party.

Rainbow Labor received in principle support from the party’s Administrative Committee at last Thursday’s meeting and will advocate for GLBTI issues within the ALP’s Victorian branch.

Party member Sarah Cole, who is heading up Rainbow Labor, denied a report on Crikey.com last week which said the group had been consistently rejected by members of the South Yarra branch because it was too left-wing.

Cole said members of the South Yarra branch are welcome in Rainbow Labor which will be a statewide advocate for gay and lesbian issues and intends to encompass all views within the party.

This organisation will provide a forum for policy discussion and influence and ensure GLBTI voices are heard on relevant issues, she told the Star.

It’s a statewide group -” it won’t be right or left faction -” that’s what it will be officially and I hope that it will work practically.

South Yarra branch spokesman Steve Perryman denied his branch would create division in fighting for gay and lesbian concerns. He said the branch will look at a variety of issues and simply wants to create a new community branch for interested party members.

We wanted to get away from the old style of branches which are extremely bureaucratic, he said.

We’re not in the business of branch-stacking … we’re just interested in ordinary ALP members who want to make a contribution to the party in terms of policy and helping out in different campaigns, he said.

Perryman said the branch supports a statewide group advocating for gay issues, however, he pointed to factional differences for not associating with Rainbow Labor.

It seems to be run by the left somehow and they seem to have got this thing running and I’m not a member of the left so I don’t know, he said.

Cole said she supports the South Yarra branch, however, she said its membership is limited to those party members who live in the federal seat of Higgins.

Certainly Steve Perryman comes from the right of the party, but we hope they would get involved, she said. State Rainbow Labor groups operate independently, although they put forward joint submissions on GLBTI issues at the ALP National Conference.

The Victorian group plans to make a joint submission with NSW Rainbow Labor on marriage equality at the upcoming July national conference.

Perryman said the South Yarra branch is likely to weigh in on gay issues. He did not name particular policy positions, saying the branch is yet to establish itself.

Any branch is free to put policy suggestions though to a policy committee and I would expect that our branch and any other branch would do that.

We set up this branch because we’re local activists wanting to do something for the party -” we’re not a single issue branch.

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