A Response To Luke Mansillo: Why Labor Can't Represent Queer Australia


Last week, Luke Mansillo composed a heartfelt piece of propaganda on why progressives should abandon the Greens, join the Labor party, and fight off the ever-growing (and ever more conservative) Labor Right to change the party from within.

Mansillo was a former member of the Greens, and now a member of Labor. But the piece misunderstands the facts. The Labor party, no matter how progressive it gets, can never possibly hope to represent all of the Left, exactly because of its potential to lead.

Not all of us hold dear political ideas that we’d want a majority of the country to hold – and this is why we need minority parties.

Those with minority views deserve their voices heard. We might not be looking to change anything; we might just want to be heard. And being drowned out by a sea of mainstream voices in a mainstream party isn’t exactly the megaphone we’d hope to be holding.

I’m queer. For some, queer is an umbrella term to use in place of the complicated alphabet soup LGBTQIA acronym that lumps a whole bunch of identities together, which probably shouldn’t, as well as forgetting a few that probably would do well to be included. For me, queer is not only my sexuality, but my political position. It arose as such in the 90s as queer theory, an academic concept with the explicit intention of questioning the pervasiveness of established social and cultural norms.

Marriage is an established social norm. Questioning why we’d want to be tied to one other person ‘til death to us part’ in front of the State is queer. Demanding to be included in such a pervasive norm isn’t. Sure, we could argue that including same-sex attracted people in a traditionally heterosexual institution is queering the entire act of getting married, but when the vast majority of people hope to do it one day, it’s pretty hard to ignore the normalness of it all. That Mansillo thinks helping change Labor’s position on something that is essentially a conservative issue (David Cameron’s support is indicative) will rally queers behind the Labor party is laughable at best.

When the Victorian Greens advertised for the recent state election on Grindr (a queer dating site) in the seat of Prahran, they publicly acknowledged, and aligned themselves with, the tendency for gay men to have multiple, casual sexual partners. In our highly monogamous (or so we’re told) world, this is a queer act of solidarity. And while it won’t bring around change in a large way in parliament, the fact that the Greens candidate, Sam Hibbins, was elected shows that the community appreciates being heard on their terms.

The Labor party, as a party with potential to lead the country (and don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer a Labor prime minister to a Liberal one any day of the week, month, or year) will never represent my views. They represent the norms that my views are questioning. I don’t want to be part of a leading party, because I don’t want to be part of the norm. And this is why minority parties are crucial. Though parties like the Greens will never lead the country, they exist to represent those who sit in opposition to mainstream views. They are not splintering the Left, as Mansillo would attest, but rather, providing a voice to those drowned out by the louder majority.

When Mansillo suggests that the Greens are taking the Left’s “scarce resources” by fighting Labor in seats like Melbourne and Grayndler, he forgets that when Greens candidates are elected in these seats, like Adam Bandt in 2010, they form government with the ALP. That’s a Left in solidarity against conservatism. Minority parties strengthen Labor’s ability to lead, by keeping them to account for all progressive Australians, not just those with ALP memberships.

So I have a suggestion for Mansillo and the rest of the Labor party: stop using your scarce resources to fight progressive seats. Use them in those marginal seats you suggested. Let the minority parties have those progressive seats, allow those voices to be heard, and keep the government progressive for all on the Left, and not just the Labor party. 

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