This election we need to get rid of the Howard government but we also need to get rid of his divisive and destructive project, a project that plays the race card, uses banning of marriage as a political tool, fails to act on climate change, introduces unfair workplace laws and prioritises tax cuts over investment in public services.

We need a change of Government, but a change of Government isn’t all we need. It is time for a clear change of priorities, a change of direction, and it is The Greens who offer that alternative.

The Greens have been the strongest voice of opposition to the Howard Government attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community. Voting for The Greens is the strongest vote against the Howard Government this election, because The Greens stand for full equality – no exceptions.

As many of you know I became very actively involved and passionate about the issue of marriage equality after both of the old parties supported legislation banning same-sex marriage in our federal parliament in the lead up to the 2004 election. For me this discriminatory behaviour exemplified the continual attacks of the Howard Government on certain sections of society that did not fit with his conservative, white-picket-fenced family version of Australia. But it also exemplified the weak opposition we had come to see from Labor in failing to stand up against the divisive and destructive policies of the Howard Government.

It is unacceptable that the elected representatives of the two old parties, whose job it is to represent us in Federal Parliament, stood together to insert discrimination into our legislation.  Call me idealistic, but I would have thought the aim should be to try to remove all discrimination in legislation– not to insert more. The fact that there was not one representative in the federal parliament from the Labor party that stood up publicly and condemned their party’s blind support of John Howard’s agenda, not one member who crossed the floor, is seriously disappointing, although perhaps not that surprising.

On many issues, it has been The Greens who have stood strongly and consistently as the opposition to the Howard Government’s divisive and destructive policies. And it is this commitment to the principles that underline policy decisions, a commitment to equality, without exception or compromise, that I am pleased to say that not only am I personally committed to the removal of all discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (including marriage) but The Greens, the party I am a candidate for, are also 100% behind full equality, without exceptions.

At the time we knew, and still today we know, that it isn’t all about marriage – there are many other inequalities that people living in same-sex relationships, or who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, face as a result of federal legislation. In fact the HREOC Same Sex: Same Entitlements identified 58 federal laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in the area of financial and work-related entitlements. The Greens are committed to prioritising the removal of this discrimination, but we go beyond this in our commitment to full equality and also want to see the marriage ban removed and the introduction of a bill of rights to prevent future discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender.

Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Member for Wentworth, seems to have been making some noise about wanting to raise the issue of equality within the Liberal Party. The Labor members for Sydney and Grayndler continue to speak as if they support full-equality. But it is important to remember that neither of the major parties will support equal access to marriage.

Just recently, on the same day that Labor leader Kevin Rudd confirmed his party’s opposition to same-sex marriage, the sitting Labor member for Sydney began delivering flyers to households in her Federal seat of Sydney promising equality for gay and lesbian couples. The leaflet distributed states: ‘Labor will eliminate all discrimination in federal laws and ensure same sex de facto couples are treated equally to heterosexual couples. This is a priority.’ This material is in clear contradiction to Kevin Rudd’s comments on 2Day FM, which reconfirmed that the Labor Party does not support same-sex marriage. Mr Rudd said ‘Look I know it’s not a popular opinion on this program and with you, but I actually believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.’ It is disappointing that the ALP in Sydney continues to make promises to the LGBTI community which it has no intention of keeping.

Whether the Labor member for Sydney agrees or disagrees with her leader, she is required to follow ALP policy just as she has done in the past on this issue she has to toe Kevin Rudd’s line. The Greens unequivocally support equality for same sex couples. The Greens are the only major party that support the interests of the LGBTI community without compromises or exceptions.

This is clear at a state level also where in NSW the State Labor Government has refused to remove exemptions from the Anti-Discrimination Act, despite strong campaigning by the community and The Greens for this change.

While it is important to recognise that the Labor Party has committed to implementing the HREOC recommendations, the decision by Kevin Rudd to come out during the election campaign and affirm his party’s commitment to the same sex marriage ban raises real concerns about the Labor Party’s commitment to equality. The Labor members for Sydney and Grayndler have fallen into line behind this blatant discrimination (as they did in 2004 when the initial legislation was put through). This leaves the community with the disappointing choice between a conservative and divisive Liberal party, and a slightly better Labor Party.

The Greens recognise this choice, and for this reason is preferencing the Labor Party before the Liberals in Sydney. But The Greens also understand that equality is equality, it is not possible to have partial equality or equality with exemptions or compromise. The community understands this – with a recent poll showing that the majority of Australians support the right of same sex couples to marry.

While it is a credit to you for the committed campaigning on issues of equality to have made the old parties pay attention, it is also crucial that you keep the pressure up.

I give you my commitment that if elected as The Greens member for Sydney I will campaign publicly and within the parliament to have the marriage ban amended as well as the HREOC recommendations implemented.

Don’t compromise on equality this election. Use your preferences to Vote 1 The Greens and kick Howard out. By voting 1 The Greens you can send a strong message in favour of full equality, including marriage, as well as The Greens commitments to real action on climate change, fair workplaces and respect for human rights. Then by preferencing Labor above Liberal you can also ensure we kick out the Howard Government.

Voting 1 The Greens in Sydney, Grayndler, Wentworth, or whatever seat you live in as well as voting 1 for Greens Senator Kerry Nettle in the Senate will send a strong message that you prefer The Greens equitable, sustainable and just vision for the future and help to re-elect Kerry Nettle.

And in the lower house, if The Greens candidate isn’t in the race to win your vote for The Greens will flow on at full value to who you preference Labor or Liberal – depending on who you preference. In Sydney we will be suggesting voters vote 1 The Greens and then preference Labor ahead of Liberal.

On November 24 tell the old parties you won’t accept conditional equality.

Jenny Leong is the Greens candidate for Sydney.

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