Canberra’s first openly gay MP Trent Zimmerman reflects on historic win
THE first openly gay man to be elected into the House of Representatives expects to be the face of LGBTI issues in the Federal Parliament, but his priority will be in his electorate.
On Saturday, Liberal candidate Trent Zimmerman won a by-election in the seat of North Sydney after former Treasurer Joe Hockey retired from politics in October.
While there have been a few openly gay senators in recent years — former Greens leader Bob Brown was the first ever openly gay senator and federal parliamentarian when he was elected in 1996— this is the first time an out MP has been elected into the lower house.
Zimmerman said his team estimated a seven per cent swing against the Liberal Party of on a two-party preferred votes.
“To be the first (gay person) in Australian parliament is an important, historic event,” he said.
“I’m extraordinarily proud the electorate didn’t see it as an issue.
“For me I’d love to see the day when sexuality wasn’t an issue, but I know it’s not there yet.”
The 47-year-old hopes his election will help people who are struggling with their sexuality and concedes as the first out MP it will be inevitable that he will bear a lot of responsibility for speaking out on LGBTI issues.
Congratulations to Trent Zimmerman and the Liberal team in #NorthSydney on a great campaign and by election win tonight.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) December 5, 2015
“My first priority will be my electorate… I promised to support the local IT (information technology) and innovation sector,” he said.
“But I’m conscious I’m the only gay MP… and inevitably it will be the case (that I will speak out on LGBTI issues) .”
Zimmerman said marriage equality was the most important LGBTI issue and if he had been in parliament when the discussions about the issue were happening in the Liberal Party room he would have pushed strongly for a free vote.
“The path for plebiscite is set in stone now,” he said.
“I want to work with marriage equality organisations to make sure we get a yes outcome.
“I’m confident we would get that because there is strong support for marriage equality… having the leaders of all the major parties in support of marriage equality should help.”
The acting president of the NSW division of the Liberal Party, Zimmerman joined politics so he could pursue his passion for community service.
He worked as ministerial adviser for John Howard and Joe Hockey and served as a councillor at North Sydney Council for two terms.
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Zimmerman said the prospect of joining the Federal Parliament was daunting but he’s excited to represent his electorate.
Surrounded by volunteers and family following his win on Saturday night, Zimmerman said he and his team “had a good night of celebrations”.
“My mother was there on Saturday night and she’s not a very political person and I think she’d always hoped I’d grow out of my political phase, but she was the proudest person in the room,” he said.
A touching moment for Zimmerman came in the lead-up to the election when his niece and nephew made him a large photo, wishing him the best of luck and saying they knew he could win.
“It was the nicest thing,” he said.
In terms of starting his own family, the single Zimmerman realises the year ahead of settling into parliament life will be hectic and not allow much time for a social life.
“While work/life balance is important, next year it’s going to be frantically busy for me,” he said.
“It’s one of those things you have to expect is a compromise you have to make when doing this kind of work.”
The other current federal parliamentarians who are openly gay are South Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms, West Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith and South Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong.