THE Australian Labor Party has appointed the country’s first national equality spokesperson as part of its shadow cabinet in Parliament.
Federal member for Griffith Terri Butler was announced as the party’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality over the weekend, a role that will be responsible for issues affecting Australia’s LGBTI community.
“I’m proud that for the first time the nation’s alternative government has a role focused on addressing discrimination and disadvantage for LGBTI people,” she told the Star Observer.
“I hope that one of the consequences of having a role like this in the nation’s shadow executive will be to reduce marginalisation and disadvantage, and for the LGBTI community’s needs to be considered in the course of lawmaking and government.”
On a recent episode of ABC’s 7.30, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggested the government’s planned plebiscite on marriage equality may take place early next year.
Butler said she plans to advocate against the costly and potentially harmful plebiscite, instead championing the idea of a free vote.
“Obviously I’d like to see marriage equality become a reality in this country,” she said.
“If parliamentarians were allowed to do their job and legislate we could get this done before the end of the year.
“Beyond that, there are so many priorities if as a nation we want to stop discrimination and vilification, and build a society which is inclusive and safe.”
Alongside same-sex marriage, Butler said she plans to advocate for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) access, LGBTI aged care, and the mental health of queer youth.
Butler’s appointment follows in the footsteps of the Victorian government, who appointed Rowena Allen as the state’s first gender and sexuality commissioner last year.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) co-convenor Rachael Hambleton believes Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s announcement has led the way in creating a party spokesperson for LGBTI affairs.
“Labor took a strong LGBTI platform into the federal election, and were rewarded with an increase in representation,” she said.
“Now they are leading the way again with the appointment of an equality spokesperson to liaise with the LGBTI community on issues that are affecting us.”
Honoured to have been re-appointed to the family violence role, and to have new responsibilities regarding equality & universities.
— Terri Butler MP (@terrimbutler) July 23, 2016
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) July 23, 2016
In the VGLRL’s Rainbow Votes election survey, the Liberal National Coalition stated their Attorney General would have responsibility for LGBTI issues in the new government, while the Greens committed to including a stand-alone portfolio to help achieve equality.
“We’re pleased that a Coalition Attorney General will have responsibility for LGBTI equality, ensuring our issues are heard at the Cabinet table,” Hambleton said.
“We hope that Senator Brandis will continue to consult with LGBTI groups on the issues affecting our community.”
Labor has also appointed openly gay Senator Penny Wong to the foreign affairs portfolio.