Danby – principled politician with genuine convictions?

Guest article by Gregory Storer.

Michael Danby MP

Michael Danby MP has let us all know, well before the next election, that he won’t be standing again.

The member for Melbourne Ports has been in the seat since 1998.  That’s twenty years.

While Danby may have enjoyed the support of his Jewish constituency, that can’t be said about other demographics within his electorate.

Letters of congratulations and thanks have been pouring in for him.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issued a glowing summary of Danby’s retirement, saying that it is sad news.  They talk about him being a ‘fearless champion for the arts and for many human rights causes, most especially those which have not been fashionable or popular, or which have attracted the ire of powerful interests.’

They then give two examples, Danby meeting with the Dalai Lama and his ‘passionate advocacy for Israel’.

Danby’s record isn’t so wonderful when it comes to human rights.  Despite his electorate being in the heart of a diverse area with not only a large Jewish population, but also a GLBTIQ cohort, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a supportive role for his ‘gay community’.

When the horrid knife attack at the Jewish Pride March of 2015 happened, the best he could do was like a tweet from Aleph Melbourne.

Michael Danby Twitter favourite re Jerusalem attack

It was a pretty simple ask. However, Danby has always kept his support for all things Jewish separate from his support for the GLBTIQ community.

When it came to the election in 2010 where I stood against him in Melbourne Ports, it soon became apparent that he didn’t want to muddy the waters.  He never addressed Jewish concerns or GLBITQ issues in the one media release. He ensured that his advertising was separate and had different messages for different audiences.  Which in itself may not be a big issue, except that he failed to represent the views of organisations such as Aleph, barely even acknowledging their existence. His main bragging point to the Jewish voters was how much he and the then-Labor Government had spent in the community; he called it “The golden era of Labor and Jewish Schools”.  Never once did he mention anything about gay rights or all the work he purported to do for the GLBTIQ community.

It’s also worth recalling his response to the horrific shooting of two young people in a gay community centre in Tel Aviv in 2009.  He didn’t have one.

When he was busy crowing about how he managed to change moderation policies on crickey.com.au and newmatilda.com.au, which he described as the “Dark and Ugly Recesses of the Internet” he simply ignored a local orthodox Jewish blog that was blatantly homophobic.  He took issue with Crikey and New Matilda for posting comments regarding the holocaust and talks about the anti-Semitism on their sites. He used his position to persuade them to make the changes. However, he couldn’t bring himself to address that hate blog from his own community that was almost daily pumping out the hate towards the GLBTIQ community.

The whole lack of support can be summed up with his approach to marriage equality.  So while he had been busily chasing the ‘gay vote’ for years in his electorate, he didn’t support equality at all in the parliament, despite claiming he was supportive.  I asked him during a candidates debate and he said that the Labor party would address the matter in the next parliament. He never did. When it did come to a vote, he abstained, he left the floor of the house.  He never attended one marriage equality rally to show support. He barely acknowledged the Pride March that went past his office every year.

So, while everyone is saying how much he’ll be missed and what a great supporter of the community he has been, just remember, the man played politics with the lives of those he was supposed to be representing.

He sought the vote of the gay and the Jewish community, but made sure that he never mention it to either community.

He went out of his way to call out human rights transgressions, but never once publicly supported Aleph in their attempts to raise sexuality and gender identity issues in his electorate.

He really hasn’t been a hero of Melbourne Ports.

Even in departing, he can’t even muster a few gay people to stand with him in front of his Yes window like he did on other occasions.

Danby office rainbow yes
Danby office Hands off our ABC
Danby office team

2016 Voters Guide to Marriage Equality in Jewish Melbourne

This guide is aimed to assist voters living in the main Jewish neighbourhoods in Melbourne best select candidates who have comprehensively demonstrated or pledged their full support for marriage equality.

Levels of support for “same-sex marriage” listed for each electorate in this guide are taken from the “News Ltd 2010 Same-Sex Marriage Poll”.  The raw data is available in the resources section below.

MPs re-contesting their seats have an * after their name.

Feedback, corrections and updates are invited via the form below.  Information is provided here in good faith and on the understanding that it is correct.

This page is optimised for viewing on a full-screen browser.

Candidates & Electorates


Goldstein

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 50% | Against: 28% | Don’t Care: 22%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:

  • Tim WILSON (Liberal) (web site | facebook[2]) 

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:


Higgins

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 57% | Against: 27% | Don’t Care: 17%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:


Hotham

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 44% | Against: 32% | Don’t Care: 24%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who do not have a declared position on marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:

  • George HUA (Liberal) (web site | facebook)
    ** Note: this candidate has refused to advise if they would support marriage equality.

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:


Kooyong

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 54% | Against: 29% | Don’t Care: 18%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:


Melbourne Ports

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 61% | Against: 20% | Don’t Care: 19%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

  • Michael DANBY* (ALP) (web site | facebook[9]) ✡
  • Steph HODGINS-MAY (The Greens) (web site | facebook[5])
  • Peter HOLLAND (Independent) (web site | facebook[6])
  • Levi MCKENZIE-KIRKBRIGHT (Drug Law Reform) (web site | email)
  • Robert Millen SMYTH (AJP) (web site)
  • Henry VON DOUSSA (Marriage Equality) (party web site | facebook)

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

  • John B MYERS (Independent) (facebook)

Menzies

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 39% | Against: 41% | Don’t Care: 19%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who do not have a declared their position on marriage equality but belong to a party that is broadly supportive of progressive and/or evidence-based reform:

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:


✡ Candidate has declared a Jewish identity
Candidate has declared a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex identity


Parties

Parties that support marriage equality in their policy platform and require their candidates to vote accordingly:

Parties that support marriage equality in their policy platform but allow their candidates to vote on their conscience:

Parties that don’t currently have a position on marriage equality but are broadly supportive of equality and progressive and/or evidence-based reform:

Parties that are actively obstructing the prompt passage of marriage equality:

Independent candidates may vote for or against marriage equality as they choose.


Resources







    STALE Facebook links

    1. https://www.facebook.com/AJPNarenChellappah
    2. https://www.facebook.com/TimWilsonForGoldstein
    3. https://www.facebook.com/greens.jason
    4. https://www.facebook.com/AJPHiggins
    5. https://www.facebook.com/stephforports
    6. https://www.facebook.com/peterforthepalais
    7. https://www.facebook.com/AdamRundellALP
    8. https://www.facebook.com/TonyHulbertAJP
    9. https://www.facebook.com/michael.danby.39
    10. https://www.facebook.com/PeterVassiliou

    Voters Guide to Marriage Equality in Jewish Melbourne

    This guide is aimed to assist voters living in the main Jewish neighbourhoods in Melbourne best select candidates who have comprehensively demonstrated or pledged their full support for marriage equality.

    Levels of support for “same-sex marriage” listed for each electorate in this guide are taken from the “News Ltd 2010 Same-Sex Marriage Poll”.  The raw data is available in the resources section below.

    Incumbent candidates are listed in capital letters.

    Feedback, corrections and updates are invited via the form below.  Information is provided here in good faith and on the understanding that it is correct.

    This page is optimised for viewing on a full-screen browser.

    Candidates & Electorates


    Higgins

    Support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

    • For: 57%
    • Against: 27%
    • Don’t Care: 17%

    Candidates who fully support marriage equality and are allowed by their party to vote for it:

    Candidates who support marriage equality but are prevented by their party from voting for it:

    Candidates who oppose marriage equality:


    Goldstein

    Support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

    • For: 50%
    • Against: 28%
    • Don’t Care: 22%

    Candidates who fully support marriage equality and are allowed by their party to vote for it:

    Candidates who oppose marriage equality:


    Melbourne Ports

    Support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

    • For: 61%
    • Against: 20%
    • Don’t Care: 19%

    Candidates who support marriage equality and are allowed by their party to vote for it:

    Candidates who support marriage equality but are prevented by their party from voting for it:

    Candidates who oppose marriage equality:


    Hotham

    Support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

    • For: 44%
    • Against: 32%
    • Don’t Care: 24%

    Candidates who fully support marriage equality and are allowed by their party to vote for it:

    Candidates who oppose marriage equality:


    Kooyong

    Support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

    • For: 54%
    • Against: 29%
    • Don’t Care: 18%

    Candidates who fully support marriage equality and are allowed by their party to vote for it:

    Candidates who oppose marriage equality:


    ✡ Candidate has declared a Jewish identity
    Candidate has declared a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex identity


    Parties

    Parties that support marriage equality in their policy platform and require their candidates to vote accordingly:

    Parties that support marriage equality in their policy platform but allow their candidates to vote on their conscience:

    Parties that don’t currently have a position on marriage equality but allow their candidates to vote on their conscience:

    Parties that oppose marriage equality in their policy platform and require their candidates to vote accordingly:

    Independent candidates may vote for or against marriage equality as they choose.


    Resources


    Danby defends silence on gay marriage | Star Observer

    Danby defends silence on gay marriage | Star Observer.

    By on July 31, 2013

    Michael Danby

    Federal Labor MP for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby has justified his decision to abstain from last September’s marriage equality vote and subsequent refusal for more than six months to reiterate his support for the issue as “political gravitas or timing”.

    Danby did not vote at all when Labor’s marriage equality bill was put to the House of Representatives last year despite indicating his support for equality before the 2010 election, angering many in the LGBTI community. Following the vote he was silent about his reasons until later this year, ignoring numerous requests for comment by the Star Observer.

    Danby broke his silence and clarified the issue publicly in an interview on LGBTI radio station JOY 94.9 on May 25. He stated he would support any future marriage equality bills and justified his abstention under the conscience vote granted Labor members, saying that “my assessment was it wasn’t going to get through”.

    The MP has now gone into detail with the Star Observer about his refusal to comment on the abstention for the first time, justifying his actions in terms of the current political climate.

    “It’s the worst political crisis and ugliest Parliament I’ve ever been in, and there are lots of issues that people are involved in…the leadership in particular, and they took priority over some other issues. I can’t apologise for it because that’s just what happened,” Danby said, explaining Labor’s internal leadership struggles prevented him from engaging with the LGBTI community.

    “It’s not that I didn’t have time, I prioritised what I thought was important. Survival of the government was — it was obvious at any minute that we could go under, and I was concentrating on stability inside the government and on other issues, which didn’t give this the priority that people in the LGBTI community wanted.”

    A month prior to his interview on JOY 94.9 Danby sent a letter to a constituent named Tony Pitman explaining he abstained on the basis of “fairness,” not political manoeuvring.

    In the letter dated April 11 he wrote that “I abstained from the vote on that bill because I did not think it fair that half the Parliament — the Labor Party — had a free vote, while the other half — the Coalition parties — were ordered by their Leader Mr Abbott to vote against the bill”.

    Danby told the Star Observer his decision was primarily about politics.

    “You can call it political expediency, I call it political gravitas or timing. You can have people who make their views — it just has to be done now or whatever — as clear as they like…it’s the MPs who understand how Parliament works who are the best judge of that,” Danby said.

    “And I’m not saying we’re any superior breed but you have to make a judgement in our own circumstances and in this parliament, with Tony Abbot breathing down our necks and leadership challenges, I made the judgement that this was not going through.”

    When the Star Observer asked what prompted his eventual decision to comment on the radio, Danby offered the following:

    “When it became clear to me that people in the community were agitated about this…I thought, let’s strike while the iron’s hot. The issue was quiet, over, and it was time to make clear to people where I stood.”

    Marriage equality groups and the Star Observer have lobbied Danby since the vote to comment on his decision. Although the statement on JOY 94.9 came just days after then-backbencher Kevin Rudd announced his support for marriage equality, Danby said his actions were “in spite of” Rudd, not because of him.

    Danby said most of the lobbying on marriage equality in his electorate was in support, but said he was also being lobbied to oppose it by some religious groups, notably the Greek Orthodox community. However, Danby reiterated his support for marriage equality going into this year’s federal election, promising again to vote for future bills. He said he believes Labor would be able to pass marriage equality in the next government if elected.

    “Now the opportunity is for Labor being elected and holding people like me to our pledges, and it’ll happen,” he said.

    Danby is facing openly gay Liberal Party candidate and marriage equality supporter Kevin Ekendahl in the election, who he defeated in 2010 with an increased majority.

    The changing face of marriage | AJN

    The changing face of marriage (1 of 2)The changing face of marriage (2 of 2)

    AME Media Release: Labor MP accused of “Taking orders from Abbott” over Marriage Equality – Michael Danby “Not representing his electorate”

    Michael Danby letter on Marriage Equality - April 11 2013


    Labor MP accused of “Taking orders from Abbott” over Marriage Equality – Michael Danby “Not representing his electorate”

    Australian Marriage Equality
    Media Release
    Tuesday April 16th 2013

    Marriage equality advocates are furious that Melbourne Ports MP, Michael Danby, has again refused to declare unconditional support for the issue.

    In a letter to constituents Mr Danby – a Labor MP who has a conscience vote on the issue – has said he will not vote for same-sex marriage until the Coalition allows a conscience vote.

    Spokesperson for Melbourne Ports for Marriage Equality, Tony Pitman, said Mr Danby’s position is absurd.

    “Michael Danby’s decision not to vote for marriage equality until Coalition members are given a free vote means he’s effectively taking orders from Tony Abbott.”

    “Melbourne Ports voters should be very angry that their local MP is showing no leadership on this issue and is again side-stepping it.”

    “Quite simply, he’s not representing the views of the vast majority of his electorate.”

    Mr Danby was absent from the parliamentary vote on marriage equality in August last year, something which it has taken him almost nine months to explain despite repeated requests to do so from constituents.

    Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said Mr Danby is playing politics with an issue that is about people’s lives.

    “Mr Danby should not be playing political games with an issue that directly affects many families in Melbourne Ports.”

    “Making his vote conditional on something another party does shows a deep deficit of moral courage and leadership.”

    “Either he is prepared to vote for marriage equality when it is next proposed or he is not.”

    Mr Danby’s Liberal challenger in Melbourne Ports is Kevin Eckendahl who is a supporter of both marriage equality and a Liberal conscience vote on the issue.

    In his letter to constituents Mr Danby wrote,

    “I abstained from the vote on that bill (in August last year) because I did not think it fair that half the Parliament – the Labor Party – had a a free vote, while the other half – the Coalition parties – were ordered by the Leader Mr Abbott to vote against the bill. My position is that when the Parliament has a genuine free vote on a marriage equality bill…I will support such a bill.”

    For more information contact Tony Pitman on 0431 150 788 or Rodney Croome on 0409 010 668.

    Community anger over abstained vote | Star Observer

    Community anger over abstained vote | Star Observer

    Posted on 11 January 2013

    Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby (pictured) continues to come under fire from marriage equality advocates and constituents for abstaining on last year’s gay marriage vote in the federal Parliament.

    The Melbourne Ports electorate includes the suburbs of Southbank, South Melbourne, Albert Park, Balaclava, parts of Caulfield and St Kilda, where the annual Pride March is held.

    The Labor MP was one of 10 Lower House members who did not vote on September 19. The marriage equality bill, introduced by Labor MP Stephen Jones, was voted down 98 to 42. Melbourne Ports resident Darren Tyrrell told the Star Observer he and his partner were very disappointed in Danby’s decision.

    “I don’t think he wants to stick his neck out on it,” he said.

    When Tyrrell met with Danby to discuss gay marriage last year, he said the MP was sympathetic but non-committal.

    “He told us the Catholic Church had been lobbying him really hard, probably more than anyone else,” Tyrrell said.

    “I’m disappointed because I always thought he was a politician who stood up for human rights, he stands up for people’s human rights overseas but he doesn’t do it in his own electorate.

    “I think it’s a bit gutless to be honest.”

    A spokesman for the Australian Marriage Equality Victorian branch said they would be working with Melbourne Ports residents to highlight Danby’s decision.

    “Michael Danby has betrayed the voters of Melbourne Ports by saying he supports marriage equality but then not voting for it when he had the chance,” he said.

    “Worse still, Danby’s abstention sends a negative message to other MPs who will look at him and think ‘if he can get away with not voting for this in such a progressive electorate then so can I’.” Some residents have taken to social media to highlight Danby’s move

    Melbourne Ports resident Tony Pitman started a Facebook page called ‘Melbourne Ports residents for marriage equality’ late last year, hoping to stir some change.

    “I think most people in the electorate had the impression that Michael Danby was a supporter of LGBT rights, so when he chose to abstain on the marriage equality vote, there was a lot of disappointment and anger,” Pitman said.

    “Through the Facebook page, we hope to funnel that frustration into something constructive; organising campaigns to convince Michael Danby to vote yes next time around.”

    Danby’s office did not comment in time for publication.

    INFO: melbourneportsmarriage@gmail.com


    This post was written by:

    – who has written 134 posts on Star Observer.