NSW Premier Mike Baird has made a direct appeal to the state’s LGBTI community ahead of tomorrow’s state election, saying a Coalition government would judge people only on what they contribute to society and not on their sexuality.
However, Baird, who spoke exclusively to the Star Observer, said his opposition to marriage equality remained firm.
Based on the 2011 result and taking into account boundary changes, election analysts say the seat of Sydney – which includes the LGBTI-centric suburbs of Potts Point and Darlinghurst – is a notionally much closer battle between the Liberal’s Patrice Pandeleos and sitting independent MP Alex Greenwich.
However, in the inner west seats of Newtown and Balmain, which are also LGBTI-centric, it’s set to be a battle mainly between Labor and the Greens.
The Star Observer reported on research last week that showed gay men, who are heavily represented in the Sydney electorate, were more inclined to vote for the Coalition than gay women.
Asked if LGBTI voters could trust the Liberals to protect their interests, Baird said a “hallmark” of his premiership would be the respect given to all the communities of NSW.
“My government will not judge people on the basis of race, religion or sexuality,” he said.
“My government will judge people based on how they behave and what they contribute to the community and those around them.”
Baird said he was “very proud” of an election pledge he made last Sunday to provide free medicine to people suffering with chronic illnesses such as HIV.
Currently, patients must contribute $37.70 – or $6.10 for concessions – per prescription for drugs specified as “highly specialised”.
Baird said a Coalition Government would absorb the $76m cost from early in the next term meaning no out-of-pocket expenses for seriously ill people.
Despite figures from advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality showing 72 per cent of people are in favour of marriage equality, and reports this week that support is growing in Liberal ranks, Baird said he remained opposed to same-sex marriage.
“I am on the record as not personally supporting any change to our current marriage laws, but under my leadership my team will be allowed conscience vote on this issue,” he said.
The Premier would not be drawn on whether the federal Liberal Party should follow the example of the NSW branch and permit a free vote on the issue.
In the seat of Sydney, both the Greens and Liberals have asked their voters to preference Greenwich while Labor supporters are being asked to vote for only their candidate. Greenwich has also stated he would not allocate preferences to any other candidate, due to his independent standing.
At an election forum this week, Greenwich said in the event of a hung parliament he would consult the community and the other crossbenchers before making a decision on which party to support.
“The winner in a hung parliament would be Sydney,” he said.
He said that at this point, before the results are in, “I’m not going to do a blank cheque for the Labor Party or the Liberal Party”.
Meanwhile, talking to the Star Observer earlier this week, the Greens’ former leader Bob Brown crticised both major parties for their slow progress on marriage equality.