Labor Finance Minister Senator Penny Wong took to the floor of the South Australian Labor Party convention on Saturday to advocate for gay marriage (a motion passed to push the issue at next year’s national conference). Her speech follows in full…
I believe the ALP National Conference should change our platform and I will be advocating with many people for that change.
I will be advocating for our party to support equality including in relation to marriage for same-sex couples. And I do so because I have a deeply held commitment to equality as many in this room do too. A principle in which our party believes, and a principle on which our party has delivered.
Delegates, I came to this country in the 1970s and like many in this room I do know what it like to be the subject of prejudice. Like many in this room, my personal politics have been cast by the experience of discrimination and a deep belief in the principle of fairness. Like many in this room I have worked with for the trade union movement. I have had the privilege of representing working people and like all of us, I chose to give expression to these beliefs by joining the Australian Labor Party.
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In the ALP, I saw the capacity to turn principle into action. I was not interested in simply criticising. I was not interested in simply talking about change. I wanted to be part of delivering it. And delegates, our party has a proud history of delivering change. A proud history of giving effect to the principle of equality.
Remember it was Labor governments which did things such as the abolition of the White Australia Policy, the introduction of the first land rights legislation, the introduction of the Racial Discrimination Act, the enactment of Sex Discrimination Act, the recognition of native title through the Mabo legislation, the repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving in our armed forces and the Disability Discrimination Act just to mention a few.
And delegates I was also at the first National Conference which put discrimination on the basis of sexuality into our National Platform and that was quite some time ago. It was amended by members of this party, members from the Left, and adopted by the National Conference.
And since that time, I think almost a decade or more ago, there has been continued and persistent advocacy for change both within our party and outside our party.
Persistent advocacy from Labor Party members, from members of Parliament and senators, and I particularly want to acknowledge the work federally of my colleagues Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek and in this state Ian Hunter and also Matthew Loader. I also welcome the recent indication that there are others of my colleagues who too are now ready to support equality.
It took a Labor government as a result of this work, and the work of others, it took a Labor government to recognise same-sex relationships and remove discrimination in over 80 Commonwealth laws.
It took a Labor Government to eliminate the discrimination against gays and lesbians and their children in areas such as social security, workers compensation, superannuation, child support and Medicare. Same-sex couples and their kids are recognised as a family for the purposes of the Medicare safety net. A Labor reform delivered by a Labor government because Labor people argued for it in these party forums and outside.
Delegates, there has been some commentary which has confused my position of not commenting publicly on this issue with my position on the actual issue itself.
I have the privilege and honour of not only being a member of our party, but an elected member of the federal parliament and of the gederal Labor cabinet.
I have had the opportunity to advocate for equality at the highest level of our party and within our party’s processes as I do today. And I will do so again at the next National Conference.
Delegates, talking about change is not the same as delivering it. And delivering change is not the same thing as seeking headlines.
There are some, including in the Greens political party, who would have Australians believe that the only test of one’s commitment to equality is how loudly you criticise and how much you shout. Commitment to equality is also present when you deliver change as part of a party of government.
Commitment to equality is also present when you advocate inside your party for change. And commitment to equality is also there when you seek to persuade and not only to condemn.
And the commitment to equality does not recede because so many of us respect the principles of solidarity — the same principles which have helped deliver so much change over so many years. Labor governments have delivered that change.
It has taken Labor governments to deliver that change and much has been done but much more is needed.
Delegates, there are some who say this Convention should not express a view. Well I say this: this branch, this state was the first state in this nation to decriminalise homosexuality. Why would we now resile from expressing our view, our support for the principle of equality here today?