Out Gay Sydney MP Alex Greenwich Reflects On A Decade In NSW Parliament, Oxford Street And His Equality Bill

Out Gay Sydney MP Alex Greenwich Reflects On A Decade In NSW Parliament, Oxford Street And His Equality Bill
Image: Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich

Alex Greenwich was in his late 20s when he was pushed to the national stage as convener of the Australian Marriage Equality campaign in 2009. He took on religious fundamentalists and right-wing conservative politicians on the opposing side of that debate. That baptism by fire, spurred him, a few years later, to put his hand up for a career in politics. 

In 2012, Greenwich was elected as the Independent member for Sydney, in the by-election necessitated by his mentor Lord Mayor Clover Moore resigning from Parliament. 

As he completes a decade in the NSW Parliament, Greenwich has proved his critics, who had called him a “single issue” politician, wrong. 

‘I Learnt A Great Deal From The Marriage Equality Campaign’

Sydney Mp Alex Greenwich and Lord Mayor Clover Moore at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2022.

Over the past decade, Greenwich has stood up for LGBTQI rights and pushed significant law reforms through NSW Parliament. 

In 2019, he introduced a bill to decriminalise abortion, which was passed by the NSW Parliament the same year. In May 2022, the voluntary assisted dying bill, spearheaded by Greenwich, became law in the state. Both bills had bipartisan support of MPs.

Recently, Greenwich, the only out gay MP in the lower house, threatened to withdraw support to the minority Dominic Perrottet government, after the NSW Premier’s comments against trans kids’ participation in sport. Perrottet then agreed to meet Greenwich and a delegation of trans activists to hear their concerns.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich (second from left) with trans advocates after meeting NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet in April 2022.

I obviously learnt a great deal from the marriage equality campaign, and was able to use those skills of working across party lines to see that the laws were passed,” Greenwich tells Star Observer in a phone interview. 

“For too long these reforms were put in the ‘too hard’ basket, but they are reforms that were strongly supported by the community and really important to people’s life, health and wellbeing. This is something I am truly proud of,” says Greenwich. 

Reviving Oxford Street

Ask him about the low-points, and Greenwich does not hesitate to point to the lockout laws that had a disastrous impact on Sydney’s nightlife, including queer venues on Oxford Street.

With Sydney set to host WorldPride 2023 in a few months, Greenwich says he is open to supporting “large scale strategic visions for Oxford Street”. 

“From the lockouts through to the lock downs,  it has been a really challenging time for Oxford Street. But what I find hugely encouraging is that we now have some changes to planning controls, which the City of Sydney has led, and are seeing greater investments in Oxford Street,” says Greenwich. 

“Oxford Street has the largest LGBTQI population in Australia living around it in a really densely populated area. It’s LGBTQI identity is not only in the bars, clubs and shops, but it’s also in the residents living there and workers in and around Oxford Street,” says the MP, adding, “It is really important to make sure that we are all really focused on not only preserving, but really future-proofing and celebrating Oxford Street’s LGBTQI culture.”

According to Greenwich, WorldPride 2023, and the inflow of over a million visitors for one of the largest Pride events in the Southern hemisphere, will focus much needed attention on Oxford Street. 

Greenwich’s Equality Bill

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich photographed after the announcement of the results of the national Marriage Equality vote in 2017.

Greenwich is presently working on another significant law reform – the omnibus Equality Bill, that proposes to remove all discrimination against LGBTQI people in NSW laws, decriminalise sex work and protect gay and trans students and teachers in religious schools. 

The Bill is presently in the consultation stage, with the MP working to release a draft in February ahead of WorldPride 2023. 

“This legislation would not only get New South Wales up to speed with all the other states and territories, but it would ensure that New South Wales is a gold standard when it comes to LGBTQI law reforms,” says Greenwich. 

The Independent MP hopes for support from the two major parties, but has a back up plan in case that does not work out. “I will make it clear to both the Liberal and the Labor Party that should there be a minority government situation (after the state elections in March 2023), their party’s support for this bill will be a critical factor in me deciding which side to pick if I am required to help them form the next government,” says Greenwich. 

As one of the few out gay MPs in the Parliament, Greenwich says he hopes to see more LGBTQI repreesntation in politics. “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu. And it’s been critically important to make sure that there are strong LGBTQI voices in Parliaments around the world. I know that that’s the role I play, and I’m fortunate to play that in the New South Wales Parliament,” adds Greenwich. 

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