Title: A gay PM: Style, substance and LGBTI politics Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 11th September 2013 - 9:17am1378847820 Article: 13929 Rights
Grant Robertson If Grant Robertson wins the current Labour leadership race, what would it concretely mean for LGBT politics? Let's put any such victory in perspective. At the moment, there are a raft of major concerns that face New Zealand LGBT communities, most to do with transgender rights. These include directly adding gender identity to the Human Rights Act, insuring transgender prisoner safety within correctional facilities, defeating attacks on the health and safety of vulnerable Maori/Pacific Island fa'afafine/faikaleite/whakawahine street sex workers and their cisgender sisters in South Auckland and elsewhere, PWA housing needs and WINZ, and the passage of comprehensive LGBTI -inclusive anti-bullying legislation. Nevertheless, I do not expect Grant Robertson to necessarily take a frontline role in advancing such policy and legislative reforms if he becomes Labour leader. For one thing, there are LGBT National, Labour and Green MPs who could do the same thing as well. Added to which, LGBT legislative reforms are not the only issue of concern for our communities, merely core such concerns. Capital gains tax, public service quality and decay, just and equitable housing policies and the preservation of the comprehensive welfare state are all general concerns that many of us share with our fellow straight/cisgender New Zealanders. So, what do the three candidates stand for? Ironically, centre-right Kiwiblog commentator David Farrar (!) has produced and updated an admirably comprehensive list of the rival candidate's substantive policies, even if I don't agree with him that the policies constitute "pork barrelling" in this context.  Cunliffe and Robertson both support a capital gains tax, living wage, raise in the minimum wage, full employment, immediate industrial relations reform, restoration of a Gisborne/Napier rail link and Labour caucus gender equity.  Robertson also supports housing equity, wood processing subsidies, a second US telecommunication cable, changing the Reserve Bank Act focus from inflation to employment, extending the Training Incentive Allowance to beneficiaries, a living allowance for all students and a postgraduate student allowance, repealing the Voluntary Student Unionism legislation and extending the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process to 2020. He opposes a Financial Transactions Tax.  Cunliffe supports increased taxes on trusts, subsidised forest planting, a Northern Auckland rail link, an end to the proposed Kapiti Expressway roading project, de-privatising any sold SOEs and keeping the Superannuation age at 65.  Jones is sparse on details- he'd support a Pacifica-centred television channel, regulate food prices for the benefit of low-income New Zealanders, tax incentives for regional businesses, relocate government services to Dunedin and extend the proposed Labour overseas housing purchasing ban to include Australians who haven't crossed the ditch permanently. Significantly, unlike Cunliffe and Robertson, he opposes a capital gains tax. Undoubtedly, Jones seems to be somewhat more fiscally conservative than his two rival contenders. As the respective campaigns wound to a close, 3 News covered some alleged "mudslinging" and "dogwhistling" accusations from Team Robertson in the general direction of Team Cunliffe.  Clare Curran (a Robertson supporter) has accused former Labour Party President Mike Williams and Standard blogger Jenny Michie, as well as two unnamed union bosses of using Robertson's sexuality to question his suitability for leadership. Commendably, however, David Cunliffe does not seem to share the alleged opinions from this quarter. He responded: "If anyone working for me on the campaign team was to say that, they would be off the campaign team." Given that this is the case, I will still  be maintaining my neutrality insofar as the current Labour leadership race is concerned. It would break a glass ceiling if Robertson became Labour leader and next New Zealand Prime Minister in 2014, but the world wouldn't end if Cunliffe won the Labour leadership race instead. That said, I agree with many other centre-left political commentators that a Cunliffe/Robertson joint ticket is essential after the resolution of this contest. And even if Robertson loses this time, he's still young enough to make a second run for the Labour leadership next year if Cunliffe fails to win the next election as Labour leader.  As I've said beforehand, there's a difference between symbolic and substantive political advances. Like the day when the first openly gay All Black finally runs onto the paddock at a future Rugby World Cup, the election of an out gay man as Labour leader will be an important symbolic advance when and if it happens- but the world won't end if this time, Cunliffe wins the current Labour leadership contest.  Above all, let us not forget we have plenty of remaining substantive LGBT political issues that should also concern us. - Craig Young Strongly Recommended: David Farrar: "Who is promising what": Kiwiblog: 03.09.2013  Patrick Gower: "Camp Cunliffe accused of gay scaremongering" 3 News: 09.09.2013 Craig Young - 11th September 2013    
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