The honeymoon with Labor is now officially over. Thousands of people thronged the streets of Melbourne calling for equality, but Labor simply applied a thin coat of pinkwash over existing failed policy. No equality from any Rudd government.

We voted them in because anything was an improvement on Howard. We accepted their gay policies were less than perfect, knowing that they didn’t want to frighten the fundies. But we hoped they would cast off those shackles once elected.

Instead they stuck strictly to their policy. Disappointing, but at the party conference, we thought, they’ll commit to something more workable. The omens were good.

After all, the hospital system isn’t working, so Rudd says he’ll take it off the states and deal with it federally. Since it’s clear that his “nationally consistent state-based relationship recognition system” is equally unworkable, the expectation was that he’d step in and fix that too. But he’s refused.

The irony is, Rudd himself made the idea unworkable. He crippled the ACTs Civil Unions legislation, and put his sticky fingers all over the Victorian scheme too, rendering it not very much more than a token gesture.

Victoria passed the legislation anyway because, lacking anything resembling an opposition, Brumby could probably pass a law mandating pink plastic flamingos on everyone’s roof and still get re-elected. But elsewhere Labors grip is weak.

So the other the states decided that if they couldn’t legislate what they judged their voters would wear, they weren’t going to legislate at all. If Rudd was going to foist something on their voters, let him take the heat for it, too. But on Saturday Rudd refused, and community anger ensued.

Before the election we accepted that his policy had to be minimalist, so as not to frighten the fundies, but most of us assumed that once elected, he would do the right thing. Now we’re angry and disappointed because he gave us only what he promised — and made the older and more vulnerable of us pay for it, lest anyone accuse him of “pandering” to the gay movement.

Now they’re angry at us for being ungrateful, and asking why should they bother if we’re not going to stick with them. To which I say, mindless loyalty is for footy teams, not political parties. You’re only as good as your last policy, yours isn’t good enough. So where do we go from here?

First off, demand a conscience vote on Sarah Hanson-Youngs Marriage Equality Amendment Bill in both houses.

Second, if you’re rusted on Labor, or you live in a solid Labor constituency, join the party, join Rainbow Labor and argue from within.

Third, if you live in a seat where the Greens can probably unseat the sitting member — whatever party — join and campaign for them. Give Labor a fright and the Greens the balance of power.

And if you work in retail, join the Shopworkers Union, form a Rainbow Shoppies pressure group, and overturn the leadership, because at every Labor conference in living memory they have voted down every pro-gay measure, and they have the biggest bloc of votes. Plus you get to hook up with all those cute boys from David Jones.

And me? Well I won’t deny I wouldn’t mind being parachuted into a nice safe Senate seat — I could do with a paying gig and a generous pension plan. But for those who want me join Labor, I have two very rude words:

Peter Garrett.

Peter Fray

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