Victorian Labor is now the first state Labor branch in the country to have a dedicated GLBTI policy committee. The committee recently voted in its first president.
The ALP State Conference last June approved the establishment of both a GLBTI Affairs Policy Committee and a Victorian Rainbow Labor Network.
Committee president and South Yarra branch member Steve Perryman told Sydney Star Observer the move was historic, with Victorian Labor the first major state political party to have an official gay voice.
“Instead of shouting from the outside, we’re on the inside and we’ve got a voice,” he said.
“What it means is our community has direct input into policy-making processes of the Government. It’s very important.
“It’s never happened that there’s a specialist committee that’s able to directly link with the community. It’s the first in Australia — it’s quite a significant move.”
Perryman said the committee will develop GLBTI-specific policy by engaging with the GLBT community and liaising with ministers and other policy committees.
“We’re not going to pontificate on this or that issue. We want to find out what the community wants and then we can work out how we respond to it,” he said.
However, with state and federal Labor policy platforms already slated for the election year ahead, voters shouldn’t expect a marked change to the party’s stance on issues affecting the community.
“The main thing we’ll be looking at is getting to know the different stakeholders in the community and listen to what they have to say and their ideas. Next year will probably be the year we start developing policy,” Perryman said.
Perryman wouldn’t be drawn on specific areas of focus but said the committee will shortly hold a planning meeting and start consultations with the GLBTI community.
Victorian Labor passed a resolution at last November’s state conference calling for same-sex marriage, however, Premier John Brumby is a known conservative on gay rights issues.
Victoria remains ahead of other states with both the introduction of the Relationship Register and allowing same-sex parents to be registered on a child’s birth certificate, however, it’s unclear where or if a re-elected Brumby Government might move further on GLBTI issues.
Same-sex parents still do not have adoption rights in Victoria and recently the Government was criticised for continuing to allow religious organisations to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality.
The Star contacted ALP state secretary Nick Reece for comment but did not receive a response.