POLITICIANS from Victoria’s major parties have pledged a homophobia-free campaign in the lead up to the state election in November.
Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown, Albert Park state Labor MP Martin Foley and leader of the Victorian Greens and upper house MP Greg Barber made the pledge in response to a question at an LGBTI community election forum on Thursday night.
Topics included LGBTI youth homelessness, state-based marriage equality legislation, special religious instruction in schools, rainbow families, HIV and ice addiction in the LGBTI community.
All speakers were supportive of reform on marriage equality, but acknowledged the barrier to state-based marriage presented by last year’s High Court decision on the ACT’s marriage law.
The politicians were also grilled on general state issues including transport infrastructure, with the government copping flak from the audience over the East-West Link road project, and both government and opposition representatives coming under fire for cuts to the TAFE sector.
Newton-Brown said the government’s legislation to allow historical gay sex convictions to be expunged would go to parliament next week, but later told the Star Observer this has not been confirmed, and he was “hopeful” the bill would be tabled next week.
Newton-Brown announced if re-elected he would establish a Parliamentary Friends of the LGBTI Community group in the next term of parliament to encourage cross-party engagement on LGBTI issues.
He also announced he has booked space in Parliament House for an exhibition of material from the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives in the first sitting week of the next parliament.
The politicians praised the engagement of LGBTI community in the lead up to the election, and told the Star Observer some of the tough questions from the audience had kept them on their toes.
“This was a really engaging evening, with all the hard questions being asked, which is great,” Barber said.
Foley remained tight-lipped on any announcements from the opposition relating to the LGBTI Victorians.
“I’m confident there will be an array of announcements,” he told the Star Observer.
“LGBTI Victorians want to know about jobs, education, health and public transport, but they also want to know about legislative programs, legal certainty and health programs, ageing programs and legal programs that affect them and their community, and watch this space.”
The politicians also thanked GLOBE for hosting the event, recognising the importance of engaging directly with the LGBTI community.
“I congratulate GLOBE for putting this on, and it’s great to come in and be able to go head to head with your political adversaries and state your case,” Newton-Brown told the Star Observer.
“I recognise that individually everybody has the best will in the world for advancing GLBTI issues.”
GLOBE’s Damien O’Meara told the Star Observer he was impressed by the community’s engagement with the event, saying organisers had “a tough time” narrowing the list down from the host of questions submitted.