Christian Kerr wrote in yesterday’s Crikey about the gayification of Wentworth. Another big topic for political junkies to discuss has been the selection of a “real National” NSW Senate candidate in place of Sandy Macdonald. A photo taken at the Queensland tally room might provide an unlikely connection between these two stories.

Passes to the tally room are allocated to political parties, as well as the media. They’re hot property. It was fascinating, then, that Big Brother’s gay farmer housemate, David Graham, was an unexpected guest of the Nationals. Graham, a former Young National, had quipped to Gretel Killeen on the night of his evictions that his very public coming out had killed his hopes of a political career.

His wooing by the Nationals machine suggests otherwise.

If a gay former reality TV B list celebrity is the future of the Nats, you’d have to overturn a lot of conventional assumptions about Australian politics. But Graham might be considered a good candidate by some Nationals, or at any rate, the more progressive among them (who do exist – former Queensland leader Lawrence Springborg is one). The Nats can no longer rely on a solid constituency, and many of their regional and coastal seats are increasingly the preserve of formerly urban seachange and treechange voters.

But Graham would have to be preselected first. As a first step, he has nominated for State Secretary of the Young Nationals. His candidacy hasn’t been universally well received.

In 2004, the Liberals ran a high profile lesbian doctor, Ingrid Tall, for Arch Bevis’s seat of Brisbane. Brisbane is home to a vibrant gay community.

Unusually, the Nats ran a candidate, former Army officer Nick Withycombe. Withycombe’s campaign material highlighted “family values” and noted that Arch Bevis was a “good family man”. Although the Nats’ how to vote card preferenced Tall, 27% of National voters placed Bevis above her on their ballot.

Withycombe was seen to be part of the Barnaby faction. Barnaby ran heavily during the same election on “social issues” such as abortion. Barnaby and his troops also have connections with conservative Catholic groups formerly associated with BA Santamaria’s NCC.

If the Nats want to appeal to the socially liberal voters moving into their electorates, they might be facing a very interesting identity crisis sometime soon.

Peter Fray

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