“Now there’s two of us,” declared Alex Greenwich, after he won the NSW seat of Sydney in the October 27 by-election. Greenwich received just under 65% of the two-party preferred vote: a 12% swing to Clover Moore's independents.
The by-election was held because of the NSW government’s “Get Clover Bill,” which banned MPs from sitting on local council. Sydney mayor Clover Moore then had to resign from her seat in state parliament.
In his victory speech, Greenwich stood with Moore and spoke of how the attempt to rob Sydney of its independent voice had backfired on the government.
The Liberal government tried to get rid of Clover, but as Hercules once learned, surface level attacks often strengthen your opponent, and when you cut off a hydra’s head, two grow back in its place.
But what a waste of half-a-million dollars of public money.
Speaking to City News, Greenwich outlined a vision for his time in office that continues the priorities of Moore. “I also want to start a plan to revive Oxford St and will be meeting with local business leaders to formulate that plan ... and I will commence a campaign to strongly oppose the planned second Sydney casino at Barangaroo.”
The vision of a flourishing and commercialised gay night-club district proved highly appealing to the pink-dollar demographic in the inner city and eastern suburbs, where professional gay men and lesbians are able to easily build prosperous lives.
The Liberal party candidate, former board member of Aids Council of NSW and vice-president of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Shayne Mallard, also tried to appeal to this support base.
Mallard's gay activist credentials are solid, but his support of the same Liberal party that enacted and upholds the marriage ban in 2004, must surely raise questions about just how reliable this “conserva-gay” leader could be for the broader interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people (LGBTI).
The reality is that neither the Liberal party nor Team Clover would have a hope in the Sydney seat without the choice of tokenistic gay candidates, Mallard and Greenwich, who have appealed to the substantial LGBTI demographic in the home of the Sydney Mardi Gras.
Team Clover could not have won this crucial gay vote without matching Mallard’s appeal to the LGBTI community. Moore’s own status as a gay icon is unquestioned, promoted by her Andy Warhol style poster campaigns and brightly coloured “Vote Clover” Mardi Gras floats.
So it is natural that she should choose another prominent queer rights campaigner as her successor. Greenwich cut his political teeth by campaigning for marriage equality as the spokesperson of Australian Marriage Equality (AME).
Moore’s answer to Liberal tokenism is a pink-wash. It puts forward a gay celebrity who will represent the political will of only the most privileged members of this oppressed minority.
This tendency has been problematic throughout AME’s campaign. It has no democratic structure, and no public meetings. Its members are self-appointed. It has lobbied hard for equal marriage in parliament, but it has never had time for political action on the streets, or time to co-operate and talk with democratically run grassroots organisations like Equal Love or Community Action Against Homophobia.
Their marriage equality platform also suffered from a complete lack of concern for transgender rights, or the needs of Aboriginal and homeless LGBTI people. Such a platform results from the profile of person repeatedly chosen for leadership in the group: predominantly rich, white (or European) gay men.
Greenwich’s entrance to parliament on Clover’s ticket is a continuation of this style of politics. Like AME, Moore capitalises on the appropriation of queer culture while remaining unmoved by the most significant needs of the LGBTI community.
Forty percent of homeless youth are LGBTI, but Moore’s vision for the city of Sydney is to reduce public housing dwellings from 10.4% (2006) to 7.5% total public housing by 2030.
It’s hard to see how a revitalisation of Sydney’s night-club district helps the poor and desperate layers of the LGBTI community in the context of such an attack on their basic wellbeing.