Australian Senator: There’s too much homophobia and racism for me to be leader
Out Australian Senator Penny Wong has said she couldn’t face being her party’s leader – because of the bigotry she would have to suffer.
Ms Wong has represented South Australia in the Senate since 2002, and is currently heads the opposition Labor party in the Upper House.
However, in an interview with Buzzfeed, the Senator said she couldn’t stomach being the overall Leader of the Labor Party – because of the intolerance in society.
She said: “There’s too much sexism and homophobia and racism in our society for me to want to expose myself to that, and my family.”
Referring to her preselection for the Senate via a group voting ticket – the electorate generally votes for a party and not a specific Senator – she adds it would have been “inconceivable” for her to win a seat in the directly-elected House of Representatives.
She said: “When I was touted for preselection, how many people who were a, female, b, Asian and c, gay, were being pre-selected for a party of government?
“It would have been inconceivable for me that I could have run for the house.”
She also spoke about how hard it is for her to separate her own personal life – she has two children with partner Sophie Allouache – and the increasingly bitter divisions in Australian politics over same-sex marriage.
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Her own party struggled on the issue until recently, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott has threatened to sack any ministers who rebel and vote for equality.
She said: “I don’t always [separate the politics]… I think about young people all over this country, or older people who are still coming to terms with their sexuality, and how this debate lands in them. How they hear it. That’s one of the saddest things.”
Referring to a failed attempt to introduce equality in 2012, which was resoundingly rejected by 98-42, she said: “It’s very hard, isn’t it? It’s very hard to not feel affected by it.
“I often say that I think the way in which this debate can affect people is just ignored by too many politicians.
“I have all of these years of political experience, all of this practice at political argument. I have a wonderful family, a rock-solid relationship, and I’m used to being in the public eye.
“And I still feel it. How is it for so many people?”