Liberal candidate for Sydney Sean O’Connor has come under fire from sections of the local LGBTI community after the openly-gay aspiring politician decided to preference the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) highly on his How To Vote card, with Labor and Greens last, ahead of next month’s federal election.
O’Connor, a marketing manager with Chevron subsidiary Caltex, was chosen last November by the Liberal Party to contest the safe Labor seat held by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.
The 32-year-old, who currently resides in Darlinghurst with a long-term partner, has lived in the electorate for the past nine years and is on the record as being a supporter of marriage equality. O’Connor is also a volunteer on the Board of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association.
The Star Observer was alerted to O’Connor’s How To Vote card by a local constituent over the weekend and noted that after preferencing Palmer United candidate Tim Kelly second, O’Connor’s third preference was for CDP candidate Lesley Mason. According to the card, O’Connor will also be preferencing a Socialist Alliance candidate ahead of Labor and Greens despite the Liberal Party’s longstanding opposition to socialism.
The CDP is led by Reverend Fred Nile, who as an Upper House MP in NSW Parliament is already well-known to Sydneysiders for his decades-long attempts to introduce and promote anti-gay policies while railing against Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as a “public parade of immorality and blasphemy” and praying for rain to wash the event out each year. Only a month ago, Nile wrote in a submission to a NSW parliamentary inquiry looking at the possibility of state-based same-sex marriage laws that homosexuality was a “mental disorder” while warning that legalising same-sex marriage could lead to state-sanctioned incest and paedophilia.
When contacted by the Star Observer this week, O’Connor declined to be interviewed about his preferences or the views of the CDP but left it to a Liberal Party media spokesperson to state that “preferences are a matter for the party”.
“In 2010 our preferences weren’t distributed to any other party,” the spokesperson added. “The only preference deal that exists is the grubby preference deal between Labor and the Greens to keep them in government.”
Soon after the election was announced earlier this month, Coalition leader Tony Abbott pledged that all Liberal candidates would preference The Greens last in both the Lower House and Senate ballots.
Greens candidate for Sydney Diane Hiles told the Star Observer it was odd to see a gay candidate who supports marriage equality decide to back such an anti-gay party.
“It should also be of great concern who the Liberal Party think are deserving of their preferences,” Hiles said.
“The majority of Sydney voters who voted for Greens and Independents in the last State election need to consider this vote extremely carefully.
“Discrimination is never right in any form, and the Greens stand proudly as a party in our long-standing support of marriage equality.”
Plibersek, who took 43.2 per cent of the primary vote at the 2010 election and 69.3 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote, told the Star Observer that O’Connor’s decision to preference the CDP was certainly worrying.
“It’s interesting to see that the Sydney Liberals think they’ve got more in common with Fred Niles’ Christian Democratic Party than Labor,” Plibersek said.