Greenwich to contest Sydney by-election
High-profile gay rights advocate Alex Greenwich has announced he will contest the by-election for the state seat of Sydney as an Independent after today receiving the backing of outgoing popular long-serving MP Clover Moore.
The national convener of Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has built a strong media and political profile with his tireless advocacy and lobbying for the introduction of equal marriage laws and will be viewed by many as the favourite to pick up the seat with his greatest rival thought to be the Liberal Party’s openly gay former City of Sydney councillor, Shayne Mallard.
At a press conference outside NSW Parliament, Greenwich said he would focus his campaign on issues such as sustainability, climate change, animal welfare, LGBTI rights and promoting better opportunities for small businesses in a changing digital and retail environment.
“This is not a Liberal seat, this is not a Labor seat, this is not a Greens seat, this is Sydney’s seat and it deserves a strong independent voice and I look forward to the opportunity to be that voice.
“There’s a lot of work to do and I look forward to delivering. From fighting for environmental sustainability to protecting public and low cost housing to being a voice for the important social issues which Clover has championed like animal welfare and gay and lesbian law reform,” he said.
“[NSW Premier] Barry O’Farrell has 69 seats, he doesn’t need another one.”
Greenwich will now stand down from his role with AME and work towards setting up an advisory panel consisting of activists, medical professionals, mental health experts, politicians as well as other high-profile advocates of marriage equality. AME campaign director Rodney Croome will take on the role as the organisation’s national convener.
Greenwich told SX he hoped to provide an independent voice in Parliament at a time when O’Farrell was working with Fred Nile from the Christian Democrats as well as the Shooters and Fishers Party to push through laws in favour of property developers as well as reforms to cut back spending on education and frontline public service staff.
“It’s certainly a risk for NSW to become the next Queensland particularly if Barry’s majority is increased from 69 to 70 seats. That gets us looking more like Queensland than ever before,” Greenwich said.
“Cutting funding to education is really cutting off support for the future of the state. We need educated innovators ... and rather than cutting education we should be doing more work in terms of funding and promoting the arts, languages and also embracing the new digital world we live in.”
Confirmed candidates for the by-election include outgoing City of Sydney Greens councillor Chris Harris, Drew Simmons from the Australian Democrats as well as the Liberals’ Mallard. Labor is yet to announce a candidate but former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has already been forced to deny media rumours she has been approached.
With the strong showing of the Liberal Party at the recent City of Sydney elections, it is likely Greenwich will face stiffest competition from former councillor Mallard, who left Council this year after having served 12 years.
Mallard said that inner city communities deserved an “experienced and balanced voice” at the heart of Government.
“As I door knock homes and meet people at local transport hubs, people are telling me that public transport needs to be improved, we need a stronger police presence in key late night entertainment areas and our local heritage needs to be protected,” he said.
“Living in the inner city continues to grow in popularity.
“It is critical that the key services provided by the State Government match Sydney’s population growth.”
Harris meanwhile will have to contend with strong swings against The Greens at the recent local government elections if his campaign is to get traction.
The Greens candidate told SX he would strongly campaign on environmental and social issues and would push for robust planning laws which would allow local communities to have a say about development in their area.
“We will fight that in the Parliament and more importantly we will organise people in the community to oppose this,” Harris said.
“The Greens were talking about gay and lesbian rights when it wasn’t a sexy topic. We were arguing for the sorts of rights that have become mainstream now 20 years ago.
“I don’t think there’s another party that has the same record as The Greens in terms of gay rights. We have actually surveyed the gay and lesbian community and ... from those surveys we’ve done, we know there is very strong support within the LGBTI community for The Greens.”
Moore, an Independent MP, was forced to resign from the seat this week following her win at the City of Sydney lord mayoral elections earlier this month and the implementation of new laws pushed through by Premier Barry O’Farrell to prevent sitting MPs from concurrently serving as councillors.
Photo: Outgoing Independent Sydney MP Clover Moore with endorsed candidate Alex Greenwich outside NSW Parliament House (Serkan Ozturk)