Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Snaps for Carol

So finally - finally - one of the 30-odd new House of Reps and Senators post-2004 election has made reference to same-sex couples in her opening speech. Disappointingly, it wasn't one of the two new Green senators; rather, one of the new ALP folk from Tasmania, Senator Carol Brown.

Admittedly, it's only a fleeting reference - "(Tasmania) is also socially progressive, with some of the most far-reaching laws in the world governing same-sex and significant relationships and a strong legal reform program" - but it's better than nothing, which has literally been the alternative.

With Brian Greig now gone, we are left with Bob Brown and Penny Wong as our only openly queer federal parliamentarians.

Greig copped a lot of flack during his time as senator, particularly from the more militant Labor-aligned queer activists. The word "token" came up a lot, as did patronising dismissal of the Democrats as useless, only providing lip service etc.

While the Democrats deserve condemnation for making a preference deal with Family Fist, I believe Greig's contribution to queer politics is underrated. He was an unapologetic queer agitator who never ceased introducing a queer angle/perspective to many different pieces of legislation when nobody else would, and re-inforcing the message of discrimination as suffered by same-sex couples in the context of federal legislation. Yes, he had the luxury of being in a party that would never form government, but so what?

Wong is testament to the reality that queer politicians are under no obligation other than their own consciences to further a queer agenda during their time in parliament, particularly if it's not a major feature of the party platform. And while I accept that there are many other issues according to which a senator may determine their political actions and speeches, at least a passing reference from Wong every now and then to our community and its issues would be appreciated. Last year Wong offered a fairly scathing indictment of the same-sex marriage ban when it arrived at the Senate, but as with so many ALP members, her words rang hollow when, at the end of her speech, she still voted in favour of the Bill.

Brown is better than Wong in this regard, but not much. His voting record at least demonstrates he has the courage of his convictions, and unlike Wong he will occasionally speak candidly about his relationship and partner.

It's disappointing that only one new parliamentarian has used that dreaded hyphenated term "same-sex", and even more disappointing that she did not use it while discussing how same-sex couples are almost completely ignored at the federal level. But with the political landscape containing newbies like Michael Ferguson, David Fawcett and Steve Fielding among others, a new ally like Carol Brown is greatly needed.


At 15/9/05 8:06 am, Anonymous homo au go-go said...

Spot on, Queer Penguin.

It appears the new received wisdom Canberra is that its the religious vote that must now be chased (particularly Family First preferences); leaving LGBTs and our issues out in the cold. This will not be an easy situation to reverse.

Also, LaborQueers' criticisms of Brian Greig should be dismissed as utter ninsense. As you say, Greig constantly pointed out the depth of discrimination against LGBTs to his fellow Senators and MPs. By comparison, on our own issues at least, other Queer MPs have been utterly useless.

At 15/9/05 11:52 am, Blogger Sam said...

So many uses of the word "queer"...

At 16/9/05 9:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Briag Greig wasn't all sweetness and light. He was a politician who regularly used the fact that he was gay to try to exploit the "pink vote". He also unfairly and regularly attacked our elected community representatives when it suited his political purposes. He often failed to consult with those same community organisations, instead thinking that just because he was gay he knew what was best for our community. To dismiss his critics as simply being Labor aligned is unjustified - many had no affilitation whatsoever with Labor. But that was a common tactic of Greig's - anyone who disagreed with him was labelled as a Labor supporter acting in a self interested manner. That was, of course, incredibly hypocritical given Greig's obvious political pursuasion.

At 16/9/05 10:01 am, Blogger Sam said...

I of course never said he was "all sweetness and light". I was pointing out that he was the only queer MP explicitly drawing attention regularly to queer issues when precious few others do, including Wong, Brown and our hetero "supporters" Plibersek, Albanese etc.

In terms of community consultation, yes he probably could have done more, but I've seen from personal experience how difficult it is to consult with some queer lobby groups, eg the NSW GLRL and ACON, who can be so aggressive and belligerent towards activists and people generally who don't subscribe to their own political (ie ALP) biases.

At 18/9/05 3:23 pm, Anonymous homo au go-go said...

Anon, It's extremely cynical to dismiss Greig as merely 'a politician seeking pink votes'.

For the best part of a decade he had already served as a leading LGBT activist as a member and co-convenor of both GALE (WA) and the ACLGR (nationally).

In fact, less outspoken but out MPs would probably argue Greig's gay activism limited his electoral appeal, particularly in as conservative a state as WA.

Yet, far from being alienated from the LGBTQ grass roots, Greig's time as convenor of GALE and ACLGR ensured he posessed a grasp of the issues concerning grass roots gays and lesbians that was just about second to none.

Despite the fact that almost all throughout his Senate term there was no national LGBT group to consult with, he continued to liaise with activists around the country.

Ultimately, he was the most effective out MP ever to push our issues at the national level.

Either give credit where it's due or get yourself elected and try to do better.

At 19/9/05 10:07 am, Blogger Brownie said...

A big advance on the days I recall when Tassie was the Worst Place for a non-hetero person to be.
I am against the 2-Party political system and against the 'Only 2-Sexes' system too; and fk Family Fist.

At 23/9/05 10:43 pm, Anonymous susoz said...

I didn't even know Penny Wong was a lesbian. Oh, someone did recently mention to me that there was a lesbian Labor MP but couldn't remember who it was. So it's her. I think of myself as a reasonably politically informed lesbian and I'd read no mention of this. (Which maybe indicates how little I read of the gay press any more.)


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