With a sweeping victory handed to a Rudd Labor government, the new parliament promises great opportunities for advancing same-sex equality in Australia.
Despite the popularity of individual candidates, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s election survey showed that pink voters went into this election with a stark difference between the major parties on gay and lesbian equality. The ALP came out particularly stronger than the Coalition on relationship and family recognition, addressing homophobia in education and consultation with our community.
On the issue of relationship recognition, the Coalition promised only superannuation death entitlements for same-sex partners of Commonwealth employees. In contrast, Labor promised comprehensive de facto equality for all same-sex couples and their children across superannuation, taxation, immigration, health and family law. Our job is now to ensure Labor delivers on this promise.
Whilst the major parties were agreed on opposing marriage equality, in the election survey the Coalition claimed that current definition of marriage was “not an expression of discrimination … [but] about the special status of marriage.” A ‘special status’ it seems, that gays and lesbians will have to fight hard with both parties to win in future terms. The community will now wait to see how Labor’s plans for a nationally-consistent state-based relationship register will play out in the face of more conservative state governments, such as the NSW state government.
In the lower house, we look to have key allies. Outspoken supporters Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese were easily returned, and there were key victories for moderates and progressives in both parties including Janelle Saffin (Page), Bob Debus (Macquarie), Russell Broadbent (McMillan) and Malcolm Turnbull (Wentworth) who all recorded impressive swings.
This election was also a first for women. Julia Gillard takes the mantle as the first female Deputy Prime Minister, and Louise Pratt joins Penny Wong in the Senate as the second openly lesbian member of federal parliament. Pratt’s past experience includes the convenorship of Gay and Lesbian Equality (WA), in which she played an instrumental role in delivering same-sex relationship and parenting equality to Western Australia.
Bob Brown led The Greens to pick up seats in South Australia and Western Australia, bringing their total to five seats in the Senate. The election saw the loss of NSW Greens’ Senator Kerry Nettle to a progressive Liberal Senator Marise Payne.
Overall the election results point to a substantially more pink-friendly parliament, with the Senate – although unclear – looking very promising. The new government looks likely to need to convince The Greens, independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon and either Family First’s Steve Fielding or a Coalition Senator to pass legislation without Coalition support. Xenophon, a lawyer and popular anti-gambling campaigner from South Australia, has voted to support same-sex equality in South Australia and is on the record for being a moderate on gay and lesbian and other issues.
The next three years presents a golden opportunity to achieve real progress for gay and lesbian rights in Australia. Now a pinker house has been built, it is all our responsibility to give our community rights organisations the resources they need to push the government to deliver for lesbians and gay men. If you are not already a member, it’s time to join your local gay and lesbian rights organisation. Or, log onto our website to see how else you can show your support: www.glrl.org.au.