Kevin Rudd’s Labor leadership win this week received a cautious welcome from gay activists, who are hopeful the Queensland MP will pursue reform despite a questionable gay rights record as a public servant in the 1990s.
Academic and Queensland gay law reform commentator Paul Reynolds told Sydney Star Observer Rudd, a progressive person of faith, would find discrimination in areas such as federal superannuation law irrational.
I think if the case [for reform] was made to him he’d be in favour, Reynolds, associate professor in political science at the University of Queensland, said.
He describes himself as a Christian socialist, which means that he sees himself as a progressive person of faith.
In a recent issue of political magazine The Monthly, Rudd criticised churches’ preoccupation with sexuality. And in the lead-up to Monday’s Labor leadership ballot he told ABC Radio the government had a duty to champion social justice and protect the marginalised and the oppressed.
But the new Labor leader’s recent rhetoric contrasted with his gay law reform record as a top-ranking bureaucrat in Queensland, Reynolds said.
Rudd was chief of staff to then Queensland premier Wayne Goss after Goss won the 1989 state election and decriminalised gay sex.
They made the [gay] age of consent 18 [for heterosexuals it was 16] and there was a schedule attached to the bill which was a long diatribe about anal sex. That was written by Rudd in his capacity as Goss’s chief of staff, Reynolds said.
He’s got nothing against gay men and women but nor is he particularly interested in them.
A spokesperson for Rudd did not return the Star‘s calls before deadline.
Federal Labor MP Tanya Plibersek said Rudd’s leadership win would not alter the party’s policy of removing discrimination from commonwealth legislation if it won government.
I’m convinced that there’ll be no diminution of commitment, she told the Star.
Other activists were also cautious after Monday’s leadership vote, which saw Julia Gillard become federal Labor’s deputy leader.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby called on the new Labor leadership to include the gay and lesbian community in its planned reforms.
The new leaders have promised a new -˜style’ of leadership for the Labor Party, Lobby spokesperson Simon Levett said.
Will this mean a new style of leadership that recognises the rights of GLBT Australians and puts an end to our relationships being treated as second-class?
The new leadership of the Labor Party must make clear what it will do for the GLBT community.
The Lobby planned to meet Rudd and Gillard soon to discuss reform plans.
National activist Rodney Croome said Rudd would be more likely to cooperate on gay issues than predecessor Kim Beazley.
I’ve always found Rudd much easier to deal with than Kim Beazley and much more willing to listen to the concerns of the gay and lesbian community, Croome told the Star.
That said, I’ve been very critical of the conspicuous absence of gay and lesbian social issues from Rudd’s social gospel.
He only cites sexuality issues as something that Christians should get their minds off.
This week Croome and other Tasmanian activists wrote to the new Labor leader asking him to reform national relationship law.
Peter FitzPatrick, convenor of NSW gay and lesbian Labor coalition Rainbow Labor, was hopeful Rudd and Gillard would tackle anti-gay discrimination.
We believe that the fight against discrimination and marginalisation based on sexuality should and will continue to be part of the ALP’s work under the new leadership, FitzPatrick said.