Advocates call for reform as Pratt concedes loss of Senate seat
Human rights activists are calling on the Labor Party to reform its preselection practices following Western Australian Labor Senator Louise Pratt’s defeat in that state's historic Senate election re-run.
A long-time advocate for human and LGBTI rights, including same-sex marriage, Pratt today conceded she has lost her place in the Senate after being relegated to number two on the ticket below Labor right-winger Joe Bullock.
"While the count is continuing, it is increasingly clear that the ALP will not hold its second Senate seat here in Western Australia," she announced to the press.
"However, the prospective loss of Labor's second seat at this election is most difficult for those Australians who needed the assurance of a stronger Senate in order to hold back the Abbott Government."
Pratt castigated her running-mate Bullock for his opposition to social reform and his recent claims that even though a Labor Party member, it didn’t necessarily mean he votes Labor.
"It is a blow to progressive voters that I would be replaced in the Senate by someone who I have known for many years to be deeply homophobic, to be anti-choice, and has recently emerged disloyal to the very party he has been elected to represent," Pratt said.
Addressing the Dawson Society, a Christian group, on November 6 last year in Perth, Bullock said he would rather be expelled from the Labor Party than vote in support of issues such as gay marriage and abortion, and described Labor as full of “mad” members and made questionable remarks about Pratt’s sexuality.
“The Labor Party haven’t demonstrated that they are capable of being trusted with looking after the interests of working people and their families,” he said at the time.
Bullock later apologised for the remarks after they were leaked to the national press.
Pratt said she had pointed out on many occasions that Labor was at risk of losing a second Senate seat in WA.
“I am ashamed that a factional power grab was privileged over principles, deeply held by an overwhelming number of party members and indeed Western Australians more broadly,” she said.
"It goes to the heart of the need for reform."
"Over the last few years, we have faced situations in the party where factionalism and the power of factions has ridden roughshod over the party and the leadership's capacity to make the right decisions on pre-selections and, on occasion, on policy,” Pratt continued.
"The exertion of power by too few is eroding public trust in the ALP and in unions.”
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said Bullock had polled fewer below-the-line votes than Pratt, but his comments attacking marriage equality and the party itself had helped lower Labor’s overall vote, costing Pratt her seat.
"The 65 per cent of Australians and 75 per cent of Labor voters who support marriage equality expect the Labor Party to pre-select candidates to winnable positions who also support the reform," Croome said.
"Instead, Labor has failed its principles, its voters and the majority of Australians by allowing a prejudiced and out-of-touch candidate to poach the seat of a hard-working and much-admired marriage equality supporter."
Croome hailed Pratt as a “hard working, intelligent, principled and compassionate politician”.
"I urge her to stand again for elected office and I urge the Labor Party to make good its mistake by giving her the best chance of election," Croome said.