The real sordid scandal in New South Wales Labor politics is not transport minister David Campbell’s visit to a gay Kensington bathhouse or Channel 7’s secret videoing of it — it’s the homophobic bigotry that continues in Premier Kristina Keneally’s government.
If Campbell had left his ministerial position because of Sydney’s public transport mess, rather than being caught at Ken’s of Kensington, it would have been justified.
Keneally first decided Campbell’s visit to a gay sauna was “unforgivable”. A few days later — once her antennae had picked up the widespread public outrage at Channel 7 — she backtracked.
She said she was “shocked, saddened, distressed” and that it was “unacceptable to lie but it is equally unacceptable to live in a community where your sexuality is not accepted”.
There’s hypocrisy for you! Labor governments around Australia have capitulated to homophobia to varying degrees, retaining a raft of discriminatory laws. But NSW Labor — still influenced by the Catholic right — remains the worst of the lot.
It’s a measure of its primitive homophobic backwardness that at a time when politicians, judges, police and footballers are openly gay, Campbell felt he had to lead the double life that set him up for political destruction at the hands of Channel 7.
It was this entrenched prejudice that kept this ambitious politician in the closet for 25 years. Does anyone believe he would have been able to follow the standard path of ALP advancement from Mayor of Wollongong to state government minister if he had come out?
Campbell is just one more victim of the homophobic bigotry his party perpetuates. This virulent social disease kills people — queer youth in Australia are up to six times more likely to kill themselves than their straight counterparts.
Campbell’s career seems ruined, but in his hour of misery he should remember there is redemption for the worst of “sinners”.
If, at next year’s NSW ALP state conference, he were to move a motion requiring NSW Labor to remove all laws discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from the statute book and commit to full equality for queers — including same-sex marriage — he would achieve more popularity in one day than in all his years of Labor careerism.
[Rachel Evans is a NSW Socialist Alliance Senate candidate and queer rights activist. She has been campaigning for same-sex marriage rights since the ban was introduced in 2004.]