labor2013Both men vying to become the Labor Party’s new leader have spoken about their commitment to equality and LGBTI legal reform, with Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten answering questions from the ALP’s internal LGBTI advocacy group Rainbow Labor last week.

In a first for the party, following changes instituted by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the new Labor leader will be chosen by a vote weighted 50 percent federal caucus members and 50 percent from its membership base, believed to total around 43,000. The process has been touted as more democratic.

In a survey of five questions sent out by Rainbow Labor, both candidates indicated they will strongly advocate for marriage equality and to combat discrimination LGBTI people may continue to face.

“I have consistently spoken and voted in favour of extending to LGBTI Australians rights previously denied to them, including when it comes to being able to marry the one they love,” Albanese said.

“In fact in 1998, I introduced into the National Parliament the first ever legislation that sought to remove discrimination against same sex couples, namely in the area of superannuation.

“Ever since I became politically aware and active I have been a strong advocate against intolerance, injustice and discrimination within our community.”

Shorten said he continued to support marriage equality and believed that religious institutions in receipt of public funding to deliver services to the community should not be able to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality in the delivery of those services.

“I want to continue to fight for those who do not have full equality in society. This includes not only victims of domestic violence and those on the Disability Support Pension but members of the Australian LGBTI community,” Shorten said.

“If elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party I would like to strengthen the ties between the labour movement and LGBTI community. I think one way for us to do this is to hold regular and meaningful policy forums with LGBTI community organisations and believe it is critical to consult with the community broadly in order to craft the most relevant, and progressive policies.”

Only Shorten, however, went on record to say he would consider creating a Shadow Ministry or Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Equality position.

“I will actively consider the creation of portfolio responsibilities within my team if I have the privilege of leading the Labor party,” he said.

Shorten, a former secretary for the Australian Workers Union and from the party’s Victorian Right faction, has been in Parliament since 2007 after being elected as MP for Maribyrnong. Of the NSW Left faction, Albanese has been in federal parliament since 1996, having previously served as an adviser to former NSW Premier Bob Carr.

When the leadership aspirants were interviewed separately by Leigh Sales on ABC TV’s 7.30 program last week, it was only Albanese who made mention of gay people or the discrimination LGBTI people face.

“We need to make sure that we reach out, that we’re continually talking about the future agenda. It is only Labor that’s ever been concerned about the big ideas and the future agenda, whether it be the National Broadband Network, sustainability by taking action on climate change, moving forward as a nation by removing discrimination against same-sex couples and other people in society,” Albanese told Sales on Wednesday night.

“We have to always be putting ourselves in a position whereby we’re talking about people’s concerns, not just today, but the concerns that we’ll look after their kids and their grandkids as well.”

Early last week Albanese was attacked by both former Labor leader Mark Latham for being an “intellectual lightweight” and powerful right-wing union powerbroker Joe de Bruyn over what the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association boss said was the Grayndler MP’s “rabid” support for marriage equality.

“The choices we have are Anthony Albanese, who is a rabid gay marriage supporter, and Bill Shorten who supports it, but I don’t think he has the enthusiasm that Anthony Albanese has – I think he is a more measured person,” de Bruyn told The Australian.

“You’ve got to remember that the Labor Party’s policy now for nearly two years has been to support gay marriage, but I think that Anthony Albanese would be out there actively promoting it whereas I think that Bill Shorten would see that this is not an issue of interest to the vast majority of Australians and he is more likely to focus on what sort of things that Labor supporters in particular believe to be areas of primary concern, like the cost of living and lots of other things like that.”

Albanese later responded via Twitter, posting: “So Joe de Bruyn thinks I’m “rabid” on sexuality issues and Mark Latham thinks I don’t have Leadership skills ……..”

The ballot of members will close on October 9 with caucus then to vote on October 10, without being aware of the other result. The final result is expected to be announced on October 13.

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