When it comes to electing the next Mayor of Auckland, the answer for LGBT+ voters has never been clearer writes Levi Joule.
As ballot papers hit letterboxes across Auckland this week, LGBT+ voters will like everybody else have to consider who the best and most competent candidates for local boards, council and Mayor are.
We like every other voter will have to consider the standard local government issues of “rates, roads and rubbish”. We will have to consider who is best to deliver on the public transport that this city so desperately needs, who will protect our unique and precious environment and who has a vision to take us into the next decade and make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.
But there are other questions for the LGBT+ community too.
For the first time since 2010, Auckland looks like it possibly has a real mayoral contest on its hands with incumbent Phil Goff battling to see off the erratic insurgent campaign of John Tamihere.
Just like in 2010 when John Banks sought to become Auckland’s first supercity Mayor, we have a contender with a deeply troubling record on gay rights – his name is John Tamihere.
Tamihere’s views are there for all to see. From labelling gay colleagues’ “queers” (this was not an inclusive term of endearment for Tamihere FYI) to telling conspiracy theorist Ian Wishart in 2005 that he thought “sex with another male is unhealthy and violating. I’ve got a right to think that.”
His voting record is as well. In his time in parliament, Tamihere has the dubious honour of being one of a handful of Labour MPs who voted against their government’s own bill legalising civil unions for same-sex couples in New Zealand.
In his own words, Tamihere told his colleague Chris Carter that he was “standing against that bloody Civil Union Bill mate because you’ve already had enough! I voted for one piece of social engineering and now you’re f**king coming back for another!’ Those two queers never got it right.”
After regretfully being allowed back into the Labour party in 2012, Mr Tamihere appeared to attempt a softer approach saying, “I don’t have a problem with gay people,” he said. “I have a problem with gay marriage.”
Prior to the start of this Mayoral campaign, there was no question how John Tamihere viewed our community.
Perhaps he would use the 2019 campaign to apologise?
I attended the lacklustre Rainbow Auckland Mayoral debate a fortnight ago, unfortunately, the format did not allow an opportunity for questions to be asked and strangely the host didn’t seem to think it pertinent to quiz Tamihere on his homophobic history.
Tamihere didn’t have the initiative either. He could have taken his moment to apologise for past statements, he unsurprisingly failed to deliver.
Whenever he is asked about his past statements by media, he dodges the question and acts as if his past statements are trivial history.
LGBT+ Aucklanders deserved an explanation and an apology. Tamihere may not think so, but his past comments do matter.
LGBT+ Aucklanders deserve to know that they have a leader who is going to support our community, so far Tamihere has shown no commitment to that.
As we saw last week, most of Tamihere’s debate appearances seem to just be sad attempts to troll. The odious combination of far-left Matt McCarten and tory toff Michelle Boag as campaign strategists brings an added element of bizarre to what already was a strange campaign.
I don’t know Phil Goff, but I do know his record. Very few people in New Zealand have voted on every major piece of LGBT+ legalisation as he has, even when he was political career was threatened.
Say what you like about the record of the fourth Labour government but there were brave politicians in that government to do what they did in the face of absolutely vitriolic conservative opposition. Goff has previously spoken of how he was told even by some supporters that he would lose his Mt Roskill electorate over his support for gay rights.
Despite the threats, he voted for homosexual law reform and every piece of gay rights legalisation since.
But Goff knew then as he knows now that Mt Roskill is not homophobic simply because it is multicultural, just like Auckland is a not a homophobic city. Diversity and difference should be celebrated not derided.
Goff stood up for the gay community during the decriminalisation debate during the 1980s, he voted for civil unions while his cabinet colleague John Tamihere was rallying against it.
When our community needed allies, Phil Goff was consistently in our corner.
It is time for us to return the favour, not out of sentimentality or even because we should feel ‘thankful’ but because we deserve a Mayor who supports our community.
Of course, there are fringe candidates that may attract the interest of some, but this election could be very close. We saw what happened in the United States in 2016 when too many cast self-indulgent ‘protest’ votes for no-hopers “to send a message”. Our community cannot run the risk of a John Tamihere regime. The only ‘message’ we should be sending is the one in which we say Auckland should not be led by a homophobe.
We must vote as a block to stop an individual who is unapologetically homophobic.
The only choice for LGBT+ Aucklanders this election is a vote for Phil Goff.