Pink vote key to Wentworth

Pink vote key to Wentworth

For the first time the pink vote is a serious consideration in the fate of a federal electorate as the national spotlight turns to one of NSW’s most marginal seats.

But the local Liberal MP dismissed the idea of equality issues dominating the gay community’s ballot intentions.

The Eastern Suburbs electorate of Wentworth, held by Malcolm Turnbull, has been redrawn to include Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Woolloomooloo alongside Paddington and Potts Point.

“The new boundaries mean Wentworth now vies with Sydney in having the highest number of gays,” Labor strategist Shane Easson wrote in a June assessment for the party.

He argued the new demographics made the seat increasingly marginal and up for grabs by the party that best appealed to the mixed constituency.

Both Turnbull and Labor’s candidate George Newhouse have openly courted the gay community, promising support for equality reform.

“For the first time, their bloc vote makes a big difference, I’m very aware of that,” Newhouse said at his recent campaign launch.

“I’ve already met with ACON and gay lobby groups with Joe Ludwig and Tanya Plibersek.”

A swing of just 2.6 percent would hand the seat to Labor for the first time since Federation. Nobody is suggesting that would be easy this time around, but Labor leader Kevin Rudd has picked it as one of 16 seats in which to personally campaign.

“Rudd spending his time here is a fair indication that the ALP considers Wentworth to be marginal. It’s really on our target list,” Newhouse said.

As the Mayor of Waverley, Newhouse already had a profile in the Jewish community and the Eastern Suburbs, but has yet to build similar recognition in the new Wentworth constituency.

Turnbull also saw the gay community as an increased component of his electorate, and credited his wife Lucy as an asset to understanding its needs and issues.

“Lucy and I are working as a team in these areas – she knows the new areas of Wentworth well having represented them as Lord Mayor of Sydney and as chair of the AIDS Trust.”

With the new Wentworth areas containing the highest rates of HIV infection in the country, Turnbull added that he and Lucy would continue to host fundraisers for the Trust and Bobby Goldsmith Foundation.

Although he acknowledged equality reforms were an issue of particular interest to the gay community, Turnbull believed it was an oversimplification to say it defined their voting intentions.

“Issues of concern to the general community are often equally of concern to the gay community,” he said.

No matter what the outcome later this year, Easson argued the seat would shift further into Surry Hills by the 2010 election, making the gay community even more important for Wentworth candidates on both sides.

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