With the Nats wooing country gays and the ALP jumping on the religious right bandwagon, who is the gay community supposed to vote for? The Sydney Star Observer has compiled an incomplete list of pollies with the best and worst attitudes to gay and lesbian issues:

THE BEST

1. The Greens: The Greens politicians would take up too much of the top ten if we listed them individually. In terms of party attitude and campaigning for gay and lesbian rights, the Greens are clear leaders. The party’s only failing is in convincing other politicians to support its policies.

2. ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope: Stanhope’s attempts to get Australia’s first full-strength civil union laws (Tasmania already has a watered down version) into effect were criticised as a distraction from his poor economic record. But his civil unions bill was also the most proactive legislation for same-s-x couples Australia has seen in years.

3. Independent Member for Bligh, Clover Moore: A long time supporter of her many gay and lesbian constituents in Bligh, Moore is not just a regular face in the Mardi Gras parade.

4. Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch: Much has been written about why the former farmer from north Queensland has become an unlikely champion for gay rights. His non-gay, non “small l” liberal background makes him an effective campaigner and advocate.

5 and 6. Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese: Labor’s Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek share a boundary in Sydney?s inner west, and represent ethically diverse and very gay communities. They are known to campaign for gay and lesbian rights in the party room.

7. Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull: Turnbull has, this week, announced his support for reforming laws affecting same-s-x couples, a small step considering the make-up of his electorate. But he gets extra points for his history of charitable works for the AIDS Trust.

8. Penny Sharpe MLC (NSW ALP): Sharpe is also still earning her stripes, but as a lesbian mother of two the community has high expectations.

9. Democrats Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja: The Democrats may be a flailing political force, but Stott-Despoja has always been good for a fiery message of support when needed.

10. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone: Vanstone showed her powers of political persuasion at a function for Sydney’s gay and lesbian business community in 2004, just after her government introduced a national ban on same-s-x marriage. The ban meant “nothing”, she told the all-gay crowd. Not exactly an advocate – her refusal to change discriminatory immigration rules is one example of this – Vanstone was, at least, prepared to face the music.

THE WORST

1. Prime Minister John Howard: While he has taken time to stress his party’s lack of pro-gay reform is not based on homophobia, by pushing “family values” at every available opportunity John Howard has aligned himself and his supporters to the religious right. He has tried to ban IVF for lesbians, said he would be disappointed if his child was gay, overturned the ACT’s civil union laws and banned same-s-x marriage on the basis of “survival of the species”.

2. Liberal Senator Guy Barnett: The man who takes credit for his party’s same-s-x marriage ban in 2004, Tasmania’s Guy Barnett is one of the quiet achievers in the far right’s fight against gays.

3. SA Premier Mike Rann: South Australia is now the worst state in Australia when it comes to basic rights for same-s-x couples. An election has come and gone, and a long-awaited bill to reword some outdated legislation gathers dust. Meanwhile, a Liberal and a Democrat push for reform and, we imagine, Don Dunstan turns in his grave.

4. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock: Like John Howard, Ruddock made of point of stressing the government’s condemnation of discrimination in a letter to activists earlier this year. But, he added, the government did not believe same-s-x relationships were equal to marriages. And, he finished, current laws were adequate, so no further reforms were necessary.

5. Family First Senator Steve Fielding: The face of the new religious right, Fielding told parliament legalising civil unions in Canberra would lead to “laws banning the words ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ from school textbooks” and the banishment of the words “mother” and “father” from television.

6. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley: Currently courting the religious right. Supported the 2004 ban on same-s-x marriage and later told the Australian Christian Lobby the Labor party would not change its position.

7. NSW Leader of the Nationals Andrew Stoner: Told the ABC earlier this year a Day Care Centre reading a book about a lesbian-parented family was “left wing social engineering” and told people with concerns about discrimination to “protest in the proper way” – march in the Mardi Gras.

8. Health Minister Tony Abbott: The Federal health minister believes in the superiority of the Christian family – in which a man and a woman marry for life and have children. He has also spoken against equal superannuation rights for same-s-x couples.

9. NSW Senator Bill Heffernan: Famously used parliamentary privilege to falsely “out” Justice Michael Kirby as a client of underage male prostitutes.

10. Fred Nile: Once considered such a serious threat to gay rights reform the Mardi Gras parade featured his giant head on a plate. He’d like to be higher on the list, but he no longer commands an audience.

Peter Fray

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