Western Australia’s new premier is Labor leader Mark McGowan. Matthew Wade spoke with him about what the new state government has planned to address its LGBTI community.

Western Australia’s Labor leader Mark McGowan was recently sworn in as the state’s 30th premier, marking the end of an eight year Liberal-National alliance government.

For his acceptance speech, he stood in front of a rapturous audience and recounted travelling across the Nullarbor in his Corolla to move to the state 27 years earlier.

“Western Australia is truly a wonderful state,” he said.

“The greatest people and the greatest state, in the greatest country in the world.”

He told voters in no uncertain terms that by electing him as premier they’d opted for ‘hope and opportunity’ over ‘desperation and division’.

And given the divisive nature of many issues afflicting LGBTI Australians, McGowan has no plans to omit them from the agenda. In fact, his election has meant that every state and territory leader in the country now supports marriage equality.

He said marriage inequality is a fundamental issue, but one he doesn’t see being resolved in this term of parliament. He believes it likely won’t be legislated until there’s a Labor government in office.

“It’s about treating everyone fairly and making sure that no-one is discriminated against,” he said.

“I think the Australian community has moved a long way over the last ten years, it certainly wasn’t the same issue back then that it is today.”

When it comes to anti same-sex marriage proponents, McGowan believes it comes down to the ‘perceived’ and largely inaccurate pitfalls posed by allowing same sex and gender couples to legally wed.

“People are elevating the perceived pitfalls beyond the status they deserve,” he said.

“I think same-sex marriage has become a bogeyman for anti-marriage equality advocates in Australia, which it doesn’t deserve to be.

“It’s not actually a big deal to let people get married, it’s not the end of Western civilisation.”

During his election campaign, the Labor party committed to use $1.4 million in funding towards the Safe Schools program over the next four years to ensure its continuation.

Both Labor and the Greens had promised to fund the anti-bullying and pro-LGBTI program if elected, while the then-government said it wouldn’t.

A handful of Liberal members such as Joe Francis and Peter Abetz even took to social media to deride the program with ‘facts’ that were dispelled by many community advocates.

McGowan said the program is important in making sure young people are free from bullying and discrimination.

“It saves lives and it saves anguish, it’s hard enough being a young person without having to go through bullying about your sexuality,” he said.

“I remember being a 15-year-old – it’s a tumultuous time.

“People don’t need that additional pressure.”

Looking ahead, McGowan’s government also plans to introduce legislation expunging historical gay sex convictions, following in the footsteps of a number of fellow states and territories.

“One law we’re going to introduce is about expunging the historical convictions for the offence of homosexuality,” he said.

“Only 25 years ago people could be convicted for the ‘offence’ of being homosexual, and that should be expunged.

“I think psychologically it’ll be important for those convicted, because what they were convicted of isn’t a crime.”

While advocating for marriage equality, funding the Safe Schools program, and expunging historical gay convictions are on Western Australia’s agenda during this term of parliament, McGowan said he plans to continue championing equality beyond these areas.

“Equality is the Australian ideal,” he said.

“Other countries don’t have it as their driving factor whereas here it’s made us one of the greatest countries on earth.

“We believe everyone should be treated fairly and equally.”

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