Labor Leadership Flounders: Starting To Get It But Not Quite There Yet

Bill Shorten, by RubyGoes

There’s a Labor leadership contest going on. And – surprise – the candidates are paying us a little attention.

Bill Shorten floated the idea of a quota of LGBTI MPs: Anthony Albanese (steering clear of the dreaded acronym), touted his opposition to discrimination on the basis of ‘who you love’.

Then former leader Julia Gillard emerged from her self-imposed purdah to say, among other things, that she didn’t support gay marriage because she didn’t support marriage, period, trotting out the standard last-century feminist line about it being a patriarchal institution replete with horrible symbols of women’s subjugation (relax, I’m paraphrasing).

Which makes no sense. If you dislike marriage and don’t want it for yourself, because of it’s hoary old symbols re male ownership of women, virginity etc. etc., that’s fine. But you can’t take that line when for years you’ve been on the stump opposing gay marriage on the totally contradictory grounds that heterosexual marriage is a tradition worth preserving unsullied.

Further, it is utterly nonsensical to say you don’t like marriage because of it’s patriarchal character, and then set your face against the one reform which dilutes, indeed destroys its patriarchal character once and for all. Marriage OF men. Marriage WITHOUT men. Marriage entirely divorced from the notion of gender.

Ms Gillard’s was a clever lawyers argument, but it would never stand up in court.

On to the putative future leaders, and the latest product from the union production line, Bill Shorten. He floated the idea that we should have quotas for LGBTI candidates, the same way Labor has a notional quota for women. This looks so incredibly problematic that I have to think it’s a poison pill. And I think I know who’s feeding it to us.

Firstly, favouring LGBTI candidates doesn’t automatically translate to LGBTI MPs and Senators. To achieve that, you have to put those candidates into winnable seats, and into safe seats, dislodging trade union favourite sons. Good luck with that shitfight.

Secondly, how are you going to pick your LGBTI candidates, and what percentage will you allocate to the L, the G, the B, the T, and the I? Yet another shitfight going nowhere.

Turning us against ourselves in this way is exactly the wedge Shorten’s main backer, Shoppies Union arch-catholic capo Joe De Bruyn, would love. I reckon he’s the author of this nasty dusting of arsenic on the Turkish delight. Quotas for candidates are unworkable. They will only bring a world of pain, and little if any gain.

A quota in the Cabinet and the Ministry is to the point. At least one at the top table, and three or four more in the outer ministry. But above all, and before all else, we need a Minister for LGBTI affairs, on equal footing with the Ministers for Women, Aborigines. When we get them back, that is.

Albanese promised no quotas, in fact, he opposed them. Channelling Obama – difficult for someone whose charisma deficit is only exceeded by that carried by Shorten – he said we shouldn’t be discriminated because of ‘who you love.’

Let me be plain: Albo is a fine politician, and a friend to our community. But his persistent refusal to say any of the LGBTI words out loud, hiding instead behind this warm mould-encrusted dollop of saccharine, is not a good sign.

“Who you love” speaks only to the concerns of lesbians and gays. It does little if anything to address trans or intersex issues. As a specific response to the discrimination we all face regarding marriage, it just about passes muster. But our needs are so much broader.

It’s a nice little piece of marketing speak (the bane of the world), painting over the Christian Lobby’s image of gays as a marauding band of sex-obsessed buggerologists with images of couples in matching cardies bending over their Ikea trollies.

If we have learnt nothing else, we know that we cannot allow ourselves to be painted out of the picture with these bland feelgood cliches. Like “social inclusion”, “sex discrimination”, and “diversity.”

The last couple of governments made a big thing about ‘social inclusion’ of minorities, but somehow omitted to mention us.

The AFL for years trumpeted that we were covered by it’s sex discrimination policy, except that we weren’t.

‘Diversity’ is another pretty rug under which the dust of GLBTI dreams is frequently swept, out of sight, out of mind.


Do not listen to the siren voices that say you can’t say gay if you want to get elected. You not only can. You – and all your party – must.

That, by the way, is known as leadership.

Clearly Labor has a long way to go, but I suspect our community will be spending a lot of our time and effort on preventing them from shifting into reverse. Though they will have to try very hard to travel as far and as fast in that direction as the current mob in Canberra.

PS: Not all Unions are like the Shoppies. AWU leader Paul Howes is calling for marriage equality to be binding Labor policy. And the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has thrown its support behind the equal marriage movement, providing funds for advocates in Canberra amid calls for same-sex marriage legislation.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)