Australian Labor Party appoints first shadow equality minister

The Australian Labor Party’s new shadow cabinet will include a shadow minister for equality for the first time.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has been appointing his top team in the wake of the Australian federal election, which saw his party make large gains but fail to overcome the right-wing Coalition government.

As part of his new team, the party leader has appointed Terri Butler as the party’s first Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality – with responsibility for LGBTI issues.

She told the Star Observer: “I’m proud that for the first time the nation’s alternative government has a role focused on addressing discrimination and disadvantage for LGBTI people.

“I hope that one of the consequences of having a role like this in the nation’s shadow executive will be to reduce marginalisation and disadvantage, and for the LGBTI community’s needs to be considered in the course of lawmaking and government.”

The government is set to push ahead with a planned public vote on same-sex marriage; a measure previously opposed by Labor, who want to bring about marriage equality sooner by a simple vote in Parliament.

Ms Butler did not appear to shift from that position, telling the outlet: “Obviously I’d like to see marriage equality become a reality in this country.

“If parliamentarians were allowed to do their job and legislate we could get this done before the end of the year.

“Beyond that, there are so many priorities if as a nation we want to stop discrimination and vilification, and build a society which is inclusive and safe.”

Australian Marriage Equality National Spokesperson Shirleene Robinson said: “We welcome the appointment of Terri Butler who has been appointed in the new role of Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality.

“The newly appointed Assistant Minister Terri Butler has been a strong supporter of marriage equality having co-sponsored a cross party marriage Bill from Labor, Liberals, Greens and Independents in the last parliament.

“For more than a decade, Australian Marriage Equality has been working to deliver marriage equality for every Australian and the appointment of a Shadow Minister for Equality reflects how our parliamentarians are committed to supporting equality for all.

“Australian Marriage Equality is committed to achieving marriage equality in this parliament. We have more supporters of marriage equality than ever before with true champions of reform across every political party.

“It’s important that the cross party support that now exists transcends party politics and is harnessed to achieve this reform.

“We believe marriage equality can be achieved through a simple vote in the parliament, however if a plebiscite is imposed upon us, we need to work together to run a positive, inclusive and respectful campaign that unites Australians from all walks of life.

“We also welcome the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s intention to meet with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discuss the path to marriage equality as a sign that cross party cooperation is starting.

“Marriage equality is a simple issue of fairness for all. All Australians should be treated equally under the law and that includes being able to marry the person they love.

“This issue is about members of our families, our friends, neighbours and workmates. They should be able to have the same aspirations and opportunities in life as everyone else.”

In the UK, former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband introduced a dedicated shadow equalities role in 2013.

But the role was scrapped by current leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier this month as he struggled to fill his top team following a wave of resignations.

Mr Corbyn handed responsibility for equalities issues to Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner.