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Thursday 09 April 2009

Vote '08: Meet your LGBT candidates

Posted in: Features
By Matt Akersten - 3rd November 2008

We counted forteen LGBT candidates seeking your votes in this Saturday's General Election. Many of them are already in Parliament, some are hoping for a seat in the Beehive, while others are doing their best just to campaign for a greater Party vote.

This year there are two openly gay male candidates are running against each other in an electorate, as a certain Kermit-coloured minor party is very keen to challenge Labour for our 'pink' votes. This is only the second time this has happened - the first time was in 1999, when Labour's Patrick Hine and the Alliance's Trevor Barnard were competing in Pakuranga.

The candidates are profiled below, with links to articles some of them have written for, and quotes from new candidates who responded to our questions. They are presented in alphabetical order – giving no preference to any particular political banner – although over half of them are from the Labour Party (they have eight LGBT candidates). Then there are three Greens, one each from National and the Progressives, and one independent candidate in the Palmerston North electorate.



Jills Angus Burney

A new Rainbow Labour candidate in the Rangitikei electorate – south of Taupo in the lower half of the North Island – Angus Burney is a member of the Labour Women's Council and Rural Labour. She works for an Affiliated Union as a Lawyer.

"I offer myself as the Labour candidate because I am ready to do the job for constituents and to work for provincial New Zealand," she says. "I believe the time is right to stand tall in a rural electorate for Labour's values and achievements."

Angus Burney has campaigned strongly on rural issues, including climate change, sustainable tourism and agriculture.

Until recently, she held the Women's World Lamb Shearing Record, after shearing 541 lambs in one day, back in January 1989. Her record was broken last November.

In Rangitikei, Angus Burney stands against incumbent National Party MP Simon Power.



Trevor Barnard

Standing in the Manukau East electorate for the Progressive Party, Trevor Barnard is a lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology and is the academic staff rep on the MIT Council.

"My most rewarding experiences are seeing the gains my students make as they study towards gaining the entry qualifications needed for professions in nursing, teaching or the police," he tells

"I'm standing for Parliament for the Progressives because I support a party that can prove it can govern in the best interests of all New Zealanders. I'm proud of the record we have played in the last nine years in government. This has seen economic growth in every region in NZ and as a result we now have the 2nd lowest unemployment rate in the OECD. This is amazing given that 200,000 New Zealanders were unemployed under National. Other gains we have made have been the increase to four weeks' annual leave, increases in the minimum wage, cuts in company tax to be in line with Australia, and increased investment in infrastructure (KiwiRail, Air NZ and motorways). We have also substantially increased spending in health and education."

However, Barnard says there is more to do. "We'd like to extend the health system so that dental care can be free and we'd like to use to profits from the State-owned power companies to give a $200 winter power rebate so that people on fixed incomes can relax about keeping warm in winter.

"My only real message to LGBT voters is that they should be careful and know what they are voting for. Yes the Labour/Progressive government has been there nine years and there are things that can be improved still. A vote for National or Act though would be catastrophic in my view as they will sell assets, cut spending in health and education, slash Kiwisaver, gut ACC and cancel the R and D fund that has been set up to help companies innovate. All this will see increased social division and increased unemployment."

Labour's Ross Robertson won Manukau East comfortably in 2005. Barnard is hoping to secure more Progressive Party votes there this election – he got over 500 last time around.



Chris Carter

An experienced Rainbow Labour MP and cabinet minister, Chris Carter should need no introduction to readers.

He was the very first elected openly-gay MP when first elected back in 1993, and he's currently the Minister of Education, Minister for Ethnic Affairs and Minister responsible for the Education Review Office.

"This year, New Zealanders will go to the polls with a choice of two very different visions for our country," he tells "Labours' includes a clear commitment to extending the freedoms, choices and rights that GLBT New Zealanders now enjoy.

"There is still plenty of work to be done to remove further inequalities and address discrimination that we still face, which is why this year's election is such a critical one for our community."

Carter's electorate is Te Atatu in West Auckland, which is a safe seat for Labour – and also has an openly-gay Green candidate – Xavier Goldie – out to get Party votes there this election.

Read more writing from Chris Carter for here.



Jordan Carter

"I've worked on Labour campaigns since 1999, and was a campaign manager last time," says Jordan Carter in the new Hunua electorate (the large rural region south and east of Auckland).

"I wanted to take a different role this year: to actually engage with voters as someone representing the party, putting myself up to stand publicly for Labour values in a tough election race."

Carter went to Wellington after university to work for Labour MPs Marian Hobbs and David Cunliffe, both inside parliament and in the constituency office. "There was a real satisfaction in helping people deal with immigration or WINZ services that sometimes seemed to specialise in hurting people instead of helping them. Since 2003 I've worked for InternetNZ, which works in the interests of users of the Internet, keeping it open and uncapturable. Our biggest achievement has been to take a lead role in the changes to telco markets, that have seen broadband prices slashed – especially for home businesses – and quality and speeds on the increase. That's vital for our economic future, and the work we've done has made a real difference."

2008 marks Carter's first time as a candidate – his first step to a career in public life. So why Parliament? "Because all the opportunities I've had over 20 years in this country have come from our communities working together to give me great opportunities - especially in education - to get ahead. I want to spend my energy putting something back in, and making sure our country keeps providing the opportunities people need."

Labour was an easy choice for Carter. "Growing up in south Auckland in the 90s gave me the experience of what happens when the government is run by a party that only cares about the interests of a few people - in that case, the rich and privileged. The whole coming out process and understanding myself as a gay man means that I could only ever be involved in a party that believes in social liberalism and human equality as two of its fundamental principles. So those were baselines that Labour really meets well. In a policy sense, I like my party's careful balancing between building a fairer society, developing the economy, and doing so in a way that preserves the environment for future generations. Labour has been a good fit for me since I joined in 1997."

Carter says Labour's job for LGBT people is not finished. "In law, we made major strides with the tidy up that happened with the Civil Unions legislation in 2004, but more is to be done. One day marriage will be a choice for our communities and that means legal changes. Provocation still needs to be settled in the criminal law. More important, perhaps, is the cultural shift. Most Kiwis now don't accept that homophobia is acceptable, and as people are more and more out and proud in their communities, that homophobic response which remains will ebb away. We need to have figures in public life who confront and reject homophobia, just as they do racism and sexism which is still a problem in some areas. Leading from the front on that, and making sure government supports that liberal, live-and-let-live approach, will only be guaranteed with progressive, Labour-led governments.

"What I'm sure of is that my party is the most likely to deliver that agenda. We believe in that fundamental equality of every person which certainly National and the centre-right parties will never accept, and which other parties on the progressive side of politics are too small to deliver on."



Charles Chauvel

Labour MP Charles Chauvel is campaigning in the Ohariu-Belmont electorate (Peter Dunne's old seat, in northern Wellington).

He is Chair of the Finance & Expenditure Committee, works as a Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General, and is high up on the Labour list so will return to the Beehive if his Party gets over 30%.

A strong voice on the Rainbow Labour caucus, Chauvel has recently spoken to about getting serious with school bullies, homophobia down the National Party list, and the abolition of the Homosexual Panic Defence in murder cases.

"I have never pretended that Labour is perfect in this, or any other, area of endeavour," Chauvel told us recently. "No political party is. But on GLBT issues, we are entitled to be judged by rainbow voters on our record. Our rainbow MPs have worked for years with Helen Clark to make sure that it is a good one. We know that there is a lot more work to do.

"Please use your vote on 8 November wisely. Demonstrate that in contemporary New Zealand, "normal" means tolerant, liberal, diverse and interesting. Show that it does not mean old-fashioned, bigoted, narrow-minded and out-of-touch. And tell your friends and family that you expect them to do the same."

Read more from Charles Chauvel writing for here.



Christopher Finlayson

The National Party's only openly-gay MP, Finlayson was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet following John Key's election as leader, and is placed high up at #14 in the Caucus rankings, so is likely to be an important figure in NZ politics if the National Party gain power this election.

He is National's Spokesperson for Arts Culture and Heritage, as well as Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. He is also currently a Trustee of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Foundation and is well known for his sponsorship of the arts.

An experienced lawyer, Finlayson entered Parliament on the National Party list in 2005, and is now campaigning in the traditionally Labour-led seat of Rongotai – comprising Wellington's southern and eastern suburbs.

Finlayson was quizzed on LGBT issues at a recent meeting of Rainbow Wellington – read our report here.



Xavier Goldie

The Greens' Xavier Goldie is campaigning against Labour's Chris Carter in Auckland's Te Atatu electorate, in what is only the second time in New Zealand that two openly gay candidates have contested the same electorate.

But Goldie says he's under no illusions about his chances of winning in the long-time Labour region – he's standing in an effort to increase Party Votes for the Greens.

"Te Atatu is part of Waitakere City, which is aspiring to become the leading Eco-City in Aotearoa. We have a strong Green Team in the west, including candidates, members and organisers, who are heavily involved in their local communities. I really wanted to be part of that energy."

Previously an active member of the Labour Party, Goldie says he joined the Greens because he felt that they were more serious about addressing pressing issues of our time than they were about petty politics and point-scoring.

"We don't engage in character assassination, we don't engage in posturing, because we recognise that the challenges we face require more from our Members of Parliament than that. We believe that there is no point in having this holy grail of economic growth if its based on the idea of being able to take infinite amounts of resources from the planet, or if it leaves our most vulnerable people behind. There are major, global problems around us, and the Greens are the only party that advocate sensible, positive solutions that are kind to the earth and fair for its people."

Goldie says the party has always been supportive of a legislative agenda that restores dignity and rights to the more marginalised members of society, including our Rainbow Community.

"We support equal rights for Rainbow couples in terms of parenting and relationship rights and we seek to protect and nurture our Queer and questioning students in school, to be secure and safe in their identities. We need to dispel this myth that LGBT Kiwis owe some kind of allegiance to the Labour Party because of things like the Civil Union Bill.

"The Green Party has been unanimously behind – and indeed advocating for – human rights for our community. If the protection of rights for queer New Zealanders is a guiding principle in your decision this election, then a Green Party Vote is the only sensible choice," he says.



Kevin Hague

Greymouth resident Kevin Hague is the Green Party's candidate for the West Coast Tasman electorate and says he's honoured and excited to be the seventh ranked candidate on the Green Party list, behind only currently sitting MPs and co-leader Russell Norman.

Current polls have the Green Party on around 10% of the Party Vote, so Hague is very likely to head into Parliament.

"I have a strong personal commitment to the Green Party's principles, including real environmental sustainability with fairness and social justice," he tells "I feel that more than ever New Zealand needs a strong Green Party presence in Parliament to work for these principles, as the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, and the end of cheap oil begin to bite."

Hague is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the West Coast District Health Board, and was previously the Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation from 1998-2003. He was involved in the Homosexual Law Reform campaign in the 1980s but was particularly associated with the fight against HIV/AIDS and the long-running and eventually successful campaign for anti-discrimination legislation and human rights reform.

"It is nonsensical to suggest that these urgent and grave issues can be effectively tackled without making fundamental changes to the way we live, and I'm pleased to say that the Green Party does not shirk from this honest message."

Hague believes the Green Party's commitment to social justice and celebrating diversity should strike the right chords for LGBT communities, who had an intimate understanding of the effects of marginalisation, difference and prejudice.

Read's recent interview with Kevin Hague here.



Linda Persson

The Green Party's out lesbian candidate in the Hamilton East electorate says she's willing to work hard for people and the environment.

Persson says she's pleased the Greens are prepared to go further than any other party to recognise and celebrate LGBT communities, and to eliminate barriers to achieving full participation in society.

"I have a decided to step up to mark and am prepared to be counted on issues that I am passionate about. We need to be prepared to make some good forward thinking, long-term prosperous decisions now and not wait until it is too late. The Green Party is prepared to do this, through practical, positive and principled decision making," she tells

Currently a Waikato University postgraduate student studying political science, Persson has been instrumental in re-establishing a Uni-Green group. She has a long history of owning her own businesses working in the horticulture industry, promoting healthy environmental practices that have positive long term results.

Persson believes the Green Party's principles of ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision making and non-violence, are key to our society's richness and good health. Her goal is to improve her party's vote because "Our social, cultural and sustainable future depends on the partnership decisions we make today".



Grant Robertson

Labour's Grant Robertson is campaigning strongly in the competitive Wellington Central seat.

"I'm running for Parliament because I think it is the best way for me to make a positive difference in the lives of New Zealanders," he tells "I strongly believe in social justice, and the role government can play in working towards it. My vision is for a country where everyone can achieve their potential, no matter who they are or where they are from. I think my background has given me the skills to be a strong advocate for the people of Wellington and the issues and causes I believe in."

Robertson has been a diplomat for New Zealand at the United Nations in New York, and managed our overseas aid programme to Samoa. "I have also worked as an Advisor to Helen Clark and Marian Hobbs at parliament. For the last couple of years I have been working in Wellington for the University of Otago as a research business manager.

"I joined the Labour Party because I closely identify with the core philosophy that puts people first, and that seeks to build strong communities, by the government working alongside individuals and groups. Labour has demonstrated that we can make a practical, positive difference to the quality of life for New Zealanders, and has ensured that New Zealand had stood up for itself on the world stage."

Robertson says Labour has always been the party that has worked with the Rainbow community. "We have delivered in terms of legislation, and in practical policy and advocacy terms. We have a great group of Rainbow MPs who I would be honoured to join. There is still more work to do in areas such as adoption and in ensuring we have safe schools, but we have achieved a lot.

"Although National is now putting forward a friendly face to the community, I invite readers to consider that John Key had the choice to support our community by voting in favour of the Civil Union Bill. He did not make that choice, and it does bring into question the strength of his conviction in supporting our communities into the future," he concludes.



Grant Seton

Broadcasting software developer Grant Seton is running as an independent candidate in Palmerston North.

"The 'Party' thing didn't come through in community discussions in the last days before my nomination, and Parties have their own process which may be quite limiting," he explains. He believes that having two votes under MMP benefits the voter – "and I encourage voters to use that power of two."

Seton has travelled extensively, which he says is always a great wake up call. "I've learned about what is happening elsewhere and comparing those experiences to what is happening in Palmerston North. I guess going to broadcasters far away - in South Africa for example – is a tough assignment in language and politics and the reward was surviving it. I have tended to throw myself in to difficult areas, which is not always the best thing to do to your life! I have been in Government areas, beginning in 1983, and after graduation brought technology and media together – starting media work as soon as I was considered old enough. It's that knowledge of having worked in both Government areas and business areas and that's really invaluable to getting New Zealand political discussion going forward and NZ growing," he says.

So why is he running for Parliament now? "Because you get asked based on your wide experience, and a certain percentage agree with your observations," he replies. "It's a good way to test who's been reading and noting what's up, where we've come from and where we're going to and at what cost.

"The murder of local [gay man] Stanley Waipouri also rings a few bells for me as a good reason to stand and encourage some love."



Maryan Street

A long-time Labour member and past President of the party, at the last election Maryan Street became the first openly lesbian woman elected to our Parliament.

She is currently the Minister of Housing, ACC, Associate Minister for Tertiary Education and Economic Development.

Street sees anti-bullying measures in schools and adoption law reform as important current issues for LGBT voters. "and I think we need to look also at how we deliver services to the LGBTI communities, through government departments, and public services and so on, and even through local government," she tells

"Are there things that our communities are not getting that they should be? Is there a new response that's needed? For example the growing HIV infection numbers, where we thought that this was an argument that was over – an issue that was dealt with years ago, and yet we're now seeing increasing HIV+ diagnoses."

This election, Street is a candidate for Nelson, a National stronghold with Nick Smith as their current MP.'s recent interview with Maryan Street is here.



Farida Sultana

Labour list candidate Farida Sultana is very active among diverse ethnic communities, within the Labour Party and Auckland Northland Regional Council.

She's unique in NZ politics – being both lesbian and Muslim.

"I sincerely believe in the principles of fair social justice," she explains. "My values are the values of a secular society where people irrespective of ethnicity, race, colour, religion, gender, abilities and disabilities are given equal opportunities to represent themselves, grow and thrive. A society with equal rights for all will mean a unique and progressive New Zealand."

Having been a Labour Party member for over 12 years, Sultana says she is passionate about Labour principles and the efforts the Party makes to improve the overall well-being of all New Zealanders. "For the past 9 years, Labour has done unparalleled work for and within the diverse ethnic communities as well as wider New Zealand.

"The Labour policies promote inclusiveness, elimination of poverty, sustainable economy, human rights and international peace. As a candidate, I remain committed to deliver what is promised and be accountable to the people of New Zealand."



Louisa Wall

Labour's newest Rainbow MP entered Parliament in early 2008, but was previously well-known as a netball player, representing New Zealand in the Silver Ferns team.

Wall is very active within Labour's Maori Caucus at Parliament, and is standing in the Maori seat of Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) against the incumbent, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples – but has said she is campaigning for Labour Party votes, not necessary candidate votes.

Bullying of LGBT young people in schools is one important issue for LGBT voters this time around, Wall acknowledges. "Politics for me is about being in a position of power to make informed and principled decisions of benefit to society, and which protect the rights of society's most vulnerable members," she explains.

"Election '08 is Labour's for the winning and as a Rainbow Caucus; we look forward to continuing to work with our Rainbow communities to ensure we keep delivering for our Rainbow peoples.

"We are confident that we have a positive report card to remind the public of and we have a plan for the future. We have the policies and the people and are not afraid of telling people what we would do if we were elected again. There is much trust in our relationship with different communities within New Zealand society because we have told people what we were going to do and have done what we said we would."

A recent column by Louisa Wall is here.



Voting takes place this Saturday 8 November. Are you enrolled? Find all the details you need about New Zealand's General Election here.

Matt Akersten - 3rd November 2008