The NSW Government took a pounding this weekend, with one seat lost in Ryde and two digit swings away from Labor in Cabramatta and Lakemba. In Port Macquarie, the party didn’t even bother to run a candidate against a popular independent incumbent.
And while the Liberals are celebrating, the Greens can also take heart from the result -” in elections past three of these electorates have recorded some of the lowest Greens votes inside the greater Sydney area. Counting progresses, but in Ryde the Greens are edging towards 12 percent (an increase in their vote by a third). In Lakemba the Greens are verging on 13 with the swing to the party almost equalling that to the Liberals, and in Cabramatta they may break double figures yet.
In Port Macquarie, traditionally a Nationals stronghold, they look to have doubled their vote to five percent.
If this is a representation of voter intentions at the next election, Labor will face obliteration without increasingly vital preferences from the Greens and the prospect of losing seats in the inner suburbs to Green candidates as well.
For Premier Rees to turn things around in just two years would be a Herculean task. At best they might scrape through into minority government in coalition with the Greens, at worst they’ll find themselves a shrunken Opposition competing for relevance with an engorged Green presence.
Neither outcome need be a disaster for gay rights in NSW -” particularly when our current Government has neither the stomach nor inclination to tackle tougher reforms like the removal of anti-discrimination exemptions that allow religious groups to expel gay students and sack gay employees. Coalition with the Greens would force the Government’s hands and finally get the job on GLBTI equality finished in this state.
After Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell’s recent contribution to the debate over Mardi Gras funding, many will look with fear to a Liberal-run NSW, but in general he’s starting to make the right noises and at least seems cognisant of the need to allay these fears in the community.
And while the NSW Liberals are unlikely to put forward gay rights legislation of their own, the Greens could probably deal with O’Farrell to ensure legislation tabled by their MPs was put to a conscience vote where it could pass on the combined votes of moderate Liberals and Labor Left MPs.
Though the Libs still harbour some world class fundie homophobes in their ranks (like controversial Opus Dei fan David Clarke MP), they’re actually likely to take less flak than Labor for letting such legislation through for the simple reason that the social conservative vote has little elsewhere to go in NSW and they’d get most of this back on preferences anyway.