When gay and lesbian voters go the polls this Saturday it will complete an extraordinary campaign that saw equality reforms promised by both alternative governments.
The inner suburbs of Sydney have become a battleground for the gay vote, with equality playing a notable role this election on the back of Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes’s groundbreaking recommendations earlier this year.
All people are equal, the major parties have agreed, but some commitments are more equal than others: the Liberals have promised to fix discrimination in Commonwealth superannuation, while Labor will reform all 58 areas identified by Innes and offer a relationship registry.
Smaller parties and high profile independents -“ including the Greens, Democrats, Hear Our Voice, Dani Ecuyer and Philip Nitschke -“ have also campaigned strongly to appeal to the gay community -“ with most supporting same-sex marriage.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has called for volunteers to hand out the results of its election survey at polling booths in Marrickville, Newtown, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and Elizabeth Bay.
It acknowledged that not everyone in the community votes on gay issues, and weighed into the debate of supportive candidates versus party commitments.
Having people within parties who are active and positive voices for gay men and lesbians is incredibly important, however that has to be balanced with which government is going to institute that policy and what policies they have, Lobby co-convenor Peter Johnson said.
Gay and lesbian community supporters Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek are expected to retain their safe Labor seats, but Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth has come down to the wire.
Labor’s candidate George Newhouse said if he wins it would show the impact of the gay vote possibly for the first time in the country’s history.
Whether I win or lose, I’m proud that issues of discrimination have been debated and brought to the wider community’s consciousness, he said.
This week’s polls showed Newhouse ahead with 52 percent of the vote after preferences, but the poll has a three percent margin of error making it too close to call.
Out Liberal Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard warned it would be a mistake for the community to be captured by just one party.
I think we should be picking out heroes and not just blindly following mantras, he said.
We need to support Malcolm Turnbull and candidates in other areas to make sure our support is spread across the political range and that we move forward with bipartisanship.
In the senate, Greens’ GLBT spokeswoman Kerry Nettle will face a tough battle to retain her spot, likely to depend on preferences from Labor.
The Democrats, who introduced the Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Bill, are seeking the re-election of Lyn Allison and Andrew Bartlett, with Natasha Stott-Despoja and Andrew Murray retiring.
Labor, Greens and Democrats also gave commitments to the GLBT Health Alliance, including consultation and reviews, on a range of issues for the community including STIs, ageing, dental, and mental health.
It’s unfortunate that the Coalition and Family First have chosen not to respond as this makes it difficult to provide a full comparative analysis, Alliance spokesman David Scamell said.
Neither major party has responded to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations’ (AFAO) questions on HIV funding and policy by time of print, but will be available from www.afao.org.au.
AFAO CEO Don Baxter said he was disappointed prevention and health promotion hadn’t played a larger role in the campaign.

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