Newhouse address to gay Sydney
If there is a single reason why I was decided to run for Federal parliament in the seat of Wentworth at this election -“ it is the way in which the Australian values of fairness and decency have been twisted and perverted by the Howard Government.
For me the decision to become more active happened almost accidentally.
I attended a community forum to hear the journalist David Marr speak about the Tampa.
Like so many other Australians I had been following the story every night on the TV news and felt totally helpless but David Marr’s presentation made me feel I had to get involved in some way.
Quite coincidentally, a few days later, I happened to read about the case of Vivian Solon -“ an Australian citizen with two small children who had been wrongfully arrested and deported to the Philippines.
I took up Vivian’s case -“ and later Cornelia Rau’s case -“ in their quest for justice over their shameful treatment at the hands of the Immigration Department.
Now-¦ a moment ago, I referred to the Australian values of decency and fairness that we all grew up with. But I know that not every Australian has been given a fair go.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians have had to fight for equality in the streets and with painful slowness.
It is easy to forget that just over 20 years homosexual sex was illegal in this state and whilst a persons sexual preference may have been recognised in law, relationships have not.
Well the law has changed. The visibility of the gay community has changed – on the street, in the workplace, in business, on our TV screens, in high public office. Life has changed.
The attitudes of the Australian public have also changed to a remarkable degree, and they will go on changing. A recent Galaxy poll found 71% of Australians support idea same-sex couples should have same rights and entitlements as heterosexual couples.
If the 2007 election is about a return to the Australian values of fairness and decency, this is one way in which the election of a Rudd Labor Government will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of members of the GLBT community.
It’s time to do away finally with every last one of the 58 federal laws identified by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that discriminate unfairly against gay people.
I feel sure it must have come as a shock even to many gay and lesbian people to hear that there were as many as 58 different pieces of legislation still discriminating against them. Anyone who has read HREOC Report will be truly shocked and saddened to realise just how discriminated against the gay community continues to be. Those 58 laws confirm that the gay community is not yet equal.
The laws that HREOC has identified discriminate unfairly against gay people in the workplace, in the army, in the public service, on the High Court. They discriminate against gay people in their families, in retirement, and in the loving relationships that the rest of us are able to take for granted.
Labor’s policy has nothing to do with special pleading on behalf of gay people and their relationships. It is not about asking for favours.
What it is about is fairness -“ giving all Australians equal rights under the law irrespective of their sexual orientation, or the nature of their personal relationships, or the relationships of their parents.
There are now thousands of Australian families with two mums, or two dads, or some other co-parenting relationship in which three or four people share the parenting responsibilities. Public awareness and support for these families is growing. But the Howard Government say they will move to introduce legislation banning same-sex adoptions -“ legislation that was previously opposed by the ALP.
So this evening I want to take this opportunity to place it on the public record that I believe that same-sex couples and their children are entitled to the same treatment, protection and support as heterosexual couples.
Gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Australians are all citizens. They are all taxpayers. And above all, they are all people who deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else.
And that’s a crucial point of difference between the Coalition and the Labor Party. John Howard has blocked legislative amendments removing discrimination against gay people. Philip Ruddock has even made the outrageous suggestion that it’s too expensive to amend these discriminatory laws because gay people pay earn high incomes and pay high levels of tax!
But Kevin Rudd has given a guarantee that if Labor is elected we will move quickly to remove all 58 discriminatory laws. You can’t get a simpler statement than that.
What the Labor Party understands -“ and what I understand – is that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are not looking for special favours. You are looking to be treated with fairness. And this is also what the Australian community wants -“ a return to a decent and fair society for all Australians.
Since September 11 and the Bali Bombing, the Howard government has placed enormous emphasis on our security as a nation -“ and rightly so.
But what about our safety and security as we go about our daily lives in our local communities? Because if gay people are not able to feel safe as you go about your daily lives in your local community, moving from venue to venue, to dinner or a hotel or club, walking home, or even in the short space to where your car is parked around the corner in Riley Street -“ then there really is no gay community.
And from my conversations with my friends in the gay community, or the people I meet when I’m out on the campaign hustings or door knocking around the Wentworth electorate, this issue of personal safety has been raised with me over and over again.
I know that many of you are deeply concerned that Oxford Street is filthy and run down. That shops are boarded up, that gay owned businesses and gay venues are moving away, and gay people feel increasingly unsafe moving around on foot, so they’re staying away.
In the gay press, I read about how people are sick of walking down Oxford St each morning and seeing blood on the pavement from the night before.
In 1995 a NSW Police service report entitled Out of the Blue, found that gay men in our community are four times more likely to be violently assaulted than straight men and lesbians are six times more likely to be violently assaulted than straight women.
A more recent report from 2002 called You Shouldn’t Have to Hide to be Safe, found that 85 percent of gay people surveyed had experienced some form of abuse or violence, and that 56 percent has experienced that abuse or violence in the previous 12 months.
I want you to know that as your local candidate in Wentworth I take these problems seriously buy I also want you to know that your relationships, your esteem, your pride, your security, your health and wellbeing are important to me.
As a member of the Jewish community I understand what it means to live with the threat of intimidation and violence permanently in the background. I’m also understand that the nature of these threats, and the level of security measures you need to put in place in order to keep yourselves safe, are not necessarily something the wider community will even be aware of.
As a well as this personal understanding, I also bring 12 years of experience on local Government dealing with personal safety and security issues at place like Bondi Beach.
Working together with police, small business, and other community leaders, we developed a public safety strategy at Bondi that has been so successful the beachfront at Bondi is now a safer environment than the beachfront at Coogee.
In August I wrote to the Minister for Police on policing issues.
I’m not into pointing the blame at one level of government or the other. The solution will involve the community, the police and all levels of government.
I will make further announcements about my plans to improve Oxford Street soon but certainly Waverley council’s safety committee is a model that should be considered.
The Liberal Party is extremely worried about the gay vote, especially in the seat of Wentworth, and they deserve to be worried.
As a member of the Labor Party I don’t mind saying that some liberals did attempt to raise public awareness about the discriminatory federal legislation during the life of the last parliament.
But the fact is that under John Howard’s leadership these efforts went nowhere. And there is no guarantee that these urgent reforms would be passed if the Howard Government were re-elected.
Not only has John Howard refused to back the changes recommended by the HREOC report to end discrimination, he has aligned himself with the far-Right Christian lobby and with that bigoted cult, the Exclusive Brethren. He meets with them and takes their money, and the Exclusive Brethren are already actively campaigning against me in the seat of Wentworth.
I believe decent and fair-minded voters in the seat of Wentworth will see through this dirty little campaign, and it will backfire on Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party.
I am not suggesting that Mr Turnbull isn’t personally supportive of gay people and gay rights -“ I’m sure he is. But there is no getting around the fact that poor Malcolm belongs to a political party that is aligned with a group of intolerant bigots intent on attacking the dignity and equality of gay Australians.
Going into this election, we should all cast our minds back to recall just how unfriendly this government has been towards gay people.
To the Prime Minister’s henchman Senator Heffernan and his disgraceful campaign to destroy the reputation of Justice Michael Kirby. To Phillip Ruddock’s attempt to deny lesbians access to IVF treatment. Or John Anderson’s attempt to intimidate the ABC because it broadcast an episode of Playschool that featured a small child visiting the zoo with her two mums. The Prime Minister’s steadfast refusal to send a goodwill message to Sydney’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. And his intervention to overturn a new ACT law recognising same-sex relationships.
Members of the gay community who might be considering a vote for Malcolm Turnbull in the seat of Wentworth should be under no illusions about just what it is that they would be voting for.
Only the election of a Rudd Labor Government will ensure fair, equal and respectful treatment of gay people and their relationships in Canberra.
Only the election of a Rudd Labor Government will ensure those 58 discriminatory laws are removed.
Your rights, your security, your personal safety, your pride as a community are at issue in this important election.
That’s why I am asking for your vote in the seat of Wentworth. And if elected, that’s what a Rudd Labor Government will work to deliver.