Labor Campaign in Newtown A Write-off

With the NSW State election looming in a matter of weeks (28th March 2015), many eyes are focused on the newly created seat of Newtown, in Sydney’s populous inner-west.

Last week, Luke Foley was elected unopposed as Labor leader, following the resignation of John Robertson from the position in December.

Foley’s election, it seems has thrown a spanner into the campaign of his colleague Penny Sharpe, an elected member of the NSW Legislative Council (Upper House), who recently stood down from her position in the LC to run as a candidate in the Legislative Assembly (Lower House).

Last year, Sharpe felt assured of a good run in Newtown. Known as one of the strongest voices in the Labor party on GLBTQI issues, this out and proud lesbian politician sought and won Labor preselection for Newtown and kept GLBTQI issues squarely in the forefront of their minds as campaign material rolls out.

What she wasn’t banking on was a change in her party’s leadership.

Robertson was an avid supporter of marriage equality, as was the previous Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

Unfortunately in the space of a year, NSW now have marriage equality spoilers as leaders of the two old parties, with both the Liberal Premier Mike Baird and Labor Leader Luke Foley against any move to challenge the Federal marriage laws.

Thats not good news for Sharpe, as Labor continues to show at best a mixed moral fortitude in the marriage equality space.

For too long Labor has sent out mixed messages on the issue.

Labor had to be coaxed into the space by campaigners, then hearts and minds had to be changed. In what seemed like a breakthrough moment for Labor and the marriage equality movement, Labor’s National Conference in December 2011 agreed to make marriage equality their policy platform.

Then Labor’s Right (the ‘faceless men’) and our atheist Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (who opposed marriage equality because she still believed in the “traditional” meaning – huh!?), ensured at that same conference, that any vote in Parliament on the matter would be a conscience vote.

Nasty, stifling work indeed.

If Labor had voted as usual on policy position at that time, marriage equality would have been legislated, and no longer an issue.

However it remains an issue, not only because of the constant swinging positions we get from Labor politicians, but also because the issue is so prominent in the minds of the electorates around the country.

And so on the first day of Foley’s ascention to party leadership, his position on marriage equality was one of the labels that defined his biography in the media.

It was from that moment that he struck the first, and in my opinion, deadly blow to Sharpe’s campaign.

He has since tried to mention that he has an “open mind” on the issue, but we have heard that before..

Remember City of Sydney Councillor Christine Forster, PM Abbott’s sister, who suggested that the PM’s views were “shifting” on marriage equality?

We all remember what happened to the ACT same-sex marriages that took place last year – Abbott gleefully voided them.

It is certainly true that in the end, the only test of a politician’s word is in how they vote.

Until Foley himself vote’s for marriage equality, he will not be seen as a leader that is a friend of the progressive constituents of Newtown, much less the GLBTQI community.

Sorry Penny, with colleagues like yours in Labor, you should have joined the Greens.