Another South Sydney City Councillor has announced an intention to run for state parliament. Peter Furness, openly gay councillor for South Sydney’s south ward, will stand as the second candidate on the Australian Democrats ticket for the Legislative Council in the next state election.

Heading the Democrats ticket will be James Langtree, a staffer for Democrats senator Aden Ridgeway. Although Furness had been hopeful of being preselected for the top spot on the ticket, he told Sydney Star Observer this week that he was confident two representatives from the Democrats could be elected to the Legislative Council. Currently the Democrats have only one parliamentary representative in NSW (Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, who is not up for re-election) and have never had more than two MLCs at once.

There is probably a large part of the electorate that sees us only as a federal party, Furness said. But we can continue to be a very positive force in state parliament. We can provide the opposition to the Government that the Opposition is not providing.

A priority for the Democrats in the lead-up to the election (expected to be in March 2003) would be to draw the public’s attention to the policy similarities of the two major parties, Furness said.

Furness joins fellow South Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard in openly declaring his political ambition. Mallard, the gay Liberal councillor for South Sydney’s north ward, last month announced his intention to seek party preselection for the lower house seat of Bligh and this week he told the Star he remained very confident of his chances of winning preselection.

The existence of gay and lesbian votes could be important in the next state election, Furness suggested.

It’s critical that politicians recognise the existence of a gay vote; there is a political cost for ignoring us, he said.

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