More than 20 leaders from Australia’s LGBTI community have backed Labor Senator Louise Pratt (pictured) who is facing a challenge for the top Senate ticket position from one of Australia’s most conservative union movements.
In a joint letter signed by some 22 LGBTI rights advocates, the group said they were concerned amid reports Pratt was facing a challenge from Joe Bullock, head of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) in Western Australia.
Last week, reports suggested Pratt was at risk of losing her position at the top of the Senate ticket at the branch’s preselection’s on April 15.
It comes just six months after finance minister Penny Wong was temporarily demoted to the second Senate position in South Australia for senior Labor Right member, Senator Don Farrell.
“We were similarly concerned when South Australia’s Labor Party initially preselected Senator Don Farrell above Senator Penny Wong, another ally of our community. We are concerned about what these choices may say to LGBTI voters and progressive voters more generally about the priorities and values of the Labor Party,” the letter said.
“Senator Pratt is highly regarded by LGBTI organisations, as she has always supported and worked very closely with grassroots stakeholders. She has helped to deliver real results on the issues that LGBTI Australians care about.”
The authors of the joint letter expressed concern over the alternative candidate from the SDA.
“The SDA and its leadership have a long history of taking extremely conservative positions on social policy issues, and have been especially strident in opposing almost all LGBTI reforms over the past 30 years. Indeed we note that when marriage was debated at the last West Australian ALP Conference, Mr Bullock was quoted as stating his view that ‘homosexual relationships are naturally and necessarily infertile’.
“This is just one of the various comments by Mr Bullock that offend and disturb LGBTI families.”
They said they were “deeply concerned” about the potential loss of a strong ally of the LGBTI community and that if Bullock headed the top position, it would act as a strong disincentive for LGBTI members to vote for Labor in September.
Advocates who signed the letter included Pride WA co-presidents Daniel Smith and Michelle Rigg, Perth-based same-sex parenting advocates Kelly and Sam Pilgrim-Byrne and WA-founded Gay and Lesbian Retirement Association Inc board member June Lowe.
Others included Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Rodney Croome, Hobsons Bay councillor and former mayor Tony Briffa and long time LGBTI rights advocate Jamie Gardiner.
Rainbow Labor has called on party’s Western Australian State Executive to put Pratt on the top of the Senate ticket.
“Louise was elected to the first position on Labor’s Senate ticket for WA in 2007. She absolutely and unreservedly deserves to be retained in that same spot next week,” Rainbow Labor national co-convenor Sean Leader said.
“Her unimpeachable record of speaking up for the rights of these so-often marginalised people stretches back over a decade: from the 2002 Western Australian state law reforms on sexual orientation discrimination, access to adoption, estate inheritance and much more, right up to her bold and heartfelt co-sponsoring for Labor’s Senate Bill on marriage equality last year.”
“Senator Pratt is acknowledged nationally as a champion of human rights and equality for all Australians, but she is especially passionate in her untiring support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.”
While Pratt has been a pivotal campaigner on LGBTI issues, Leader said she had also been instrumental in supporting the development of five strategies for blood-borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), chairing the Parliamentary Liaison Group for HIV/AIDS, BBVs and STIs.
“Given the ALP National Executive had to intervene after a similar backroom deal threatened Senator Wong’s Number 1 position in South Australia, it is unthinkable that the only other Rainbow Labor member in the Federal Caucus would be similarly under attack from hostile forces so soon,” Leader said.
“The LGBTI-friendly reforms to Labor’s National Platform in 2009 and 2011 were led by Rainbow Labor; and Louise Pratt took a key role in planning, lobbying and advocating for them all.
“Louise has core Labor values that should be promoted; and Western Australians deserve to have the choice of returning Louise Pratt to Canberra as Labor’s Number one Senate pick in September.”
Pratt told the Star Observer she had a broad base of support in the Labor Party, especially in the WA branch and hoped that was reflected in the Senate preselection ballot.