Australians on Saturday voted decisively against wedge politics as Labor’s Anthony Albanese claimed victory, defeating Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Liberal party. 

National LGBTQI advocacy organisation Equality Australia called it a “stunning rebuke of the politics of division”. 

Morrison, who had vowed to bring back the un-amended anti-LGBTQI Religious Discrimination Bill in Parliament, if his government was re-elected, and endorsed a private member’s bill to ban trans women in female sport, was voted out of office. 

The Liberal party had one of its worst showings at the federal elections. One of the major casualties was the loss suffered by out gay Liberal MPs and moderate pro-LGBTQI Liberal MPs. Three out of four out Liberal MPs – Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman and Trevor Evans – were defeated. Liberal MP Angie Bell, the first out lesbian to represent a major party in the House of Representatives, was the only exception – she retained her northern Gold Coast seat of Moncrieff.

The message sent by Australian voters could not have been clearer than in Warringah, where Morrison’s “captain’s pick” candidate Katherine Deves managed to secure only 39 per cent of the two-party preferred vote against the 61 per cent polled by Independent MP Zali Steggal, who retained her seat. 

Morrison had refused to sack Deves, over her past anti-LGBTQI social media posts, including calling trans women “surgically mutilated”, describing surrogacy for gay couples as “a human rights violation” and “a vanity project”, comparing support for trans children to the “stolen generation” and likening her opposition to what she called “gender ideology” to the anti-Nazi resistance.

‘Stunning Rebuke Of The Politics Of Division’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) said he continues to back Liberal Warringah candidate Katherine Deves (left).

Liberal Senate leader Simon Birmingham in a TV debate admitted that a “contagion effect” might have affected the prospects of other candidates.

“I think it sends a message about what Australians believe when it comes to issues of respect, of inclusion, of diversity, and the message is, Australians want people to respect their lives but they also want to have a strong and profound respect for the lives of others,” said Senator Birmingham, in a thinly veiled swipe at Morrison.

According to Equality Australia, Saturday’s election results showed that Australia “overwhelmingly believes that every one of us should be equal”.

“This election campaign, some have tried to divide the community, using the lives of one of the most marginalised groups of people in the country in a cynical attempt to win votes,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia in a statement.

“Politicians and commentators have spread ill-informed and alarmist views about trans people – particularly trans women and children – in an effort to undermine their ability to participate equally in our society and to wind back the hard-fought gains of the LGBTIQ+ community.”

“But tonight’s result – particularly in Warringah – is a stunning rebuke of the politics of division, and another affirmation that the vast majority of the Australian community believes that every one of us, no matter who we are, whom we love, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Brown.

Anthony Albanese Signals Change, Appoints Out Lesbian Senator As Foreign Minister

Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese, on Saturday night, started his victory speech affirming that his government supported the Uluru statement in full and promising to lead a government that will unite Australians and not divide them. 

“I want Australia to continue to be a country that no matter where you live, who you worship, who you love or what your last name is, that places no restrictions on your journey in life,” said Albanese, adding, “I want to seek our common purpose and promote unity and not fear and – optimism, not fear and division”.

Albanese also announced that one of the first ministers to be sworn into his cabinet will be Labor leader in the senate, out lesbian senator Penny Wong as Australia’s new foreign minister. 

“Australians have chosen and they have chosen hope. Australians have chosen and they have looked to the future. A better future for all. A government that will act on climate change. A government for women. A government that will look to unify. To bring people together. Not to divide. A Labor government. An Albanese Labor government. Australians chose hope,” said Senator Wong. 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Senator Penny Wong at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in March 2022. Image: Supplied

Out Gay MPs Suffer Defeated

Out gay Liberal MPs were the casualties of Saturday’s vote. Liberal MP Tim Wilson lost his seat to teal independent and former ABC reporter Zoe Daniel. Wilson was first elected to the seat of Goldstein in 2016 and was reelected in 2019. 

Wilson had proposed to his partner, school teacher Ryan Bolger, in the House of Representatives in December 2017, after the same-sex marriage reforms bill was introduced in the lower house. Wilson married Bolger in March 2018. 

Trent Zimmerman, who was the first out LGBTQI member in the House of Representatives when he was first elected in 2015. Zimmerman lost his North Sydney seat to independent candidate Kylea Tink. 

Queensland’s first out gay federal MP Trevor Evans also suffered defeat, losing the seat of Brisbane to Greens’ Stephen Bates. 

Moderate Liberal MPs including Katie Allen, Fiona Martin, Dave Sharma, who, along with Zimmerman and Bridget Archer, had crossed the floor of the house during the vote in the Lower House on the Religious Discrimination Bill to introduce amendments to protect gay and trans students, also lost their seats. MP Archer, one of the five Liberal MPs who had helped stop the Bill in its tracks, was the only one to retain her seat of Bass in Tasmania. 

“We welcome the new members of parliament, some of whom have already spoken with us about their commitment to LGBTIQ+ equality, and we pay tribute to outgoing LGBTIQ+ members of parliament, including a number of gay MPs, who were integral in helping push internally for reforms, particularly on marriage equality and in support of LGBTQ teachers and students in religious schools. We look forward to working with all members of parliament to ensure all of us are equal under law, no matter who we are or whom we love,” Equality Australia CEO Brown.

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