Wikinews interviews Zahra Stardust about the upcoming by-election in the Bradfield electorate of the Australian parliament

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

With two by-elections coming up in Australia, many minor parties and independents will be looking to gain a seat in the House of Representatives. Zahra Stardust (real name Marianna Leishman) is the candidate for the Australian Sex Party.

Wikinews reporter Patrick Gillett held an exclusive interview with Ms Stardust, candidate for the Bradfield electorate.

“In an area that claims 50 years of conservative representation from white, heterosexual, able-bodied, suited, male protagonists, the Australian Sex Party is excited to a provide modern outward looking female candidate with social justice credentials to restore a historical imbalance in the electorate’s policy focus”, the 26 year old human rights advocate, burlesque dancer and trapeze artist said in a press release.

The electorate was vacated by former opposition leader Brenden Nelson.


((Patrick Gillett)) Why do you want to get into parliament? / Why do you represent your party?

I am delighted and thrilled I am to be representing the Australian Sex Party, whose policies on sex, gender, human rights and equality are very close to my heart. We believe that the personal is political, and we’re serious about sex and the way that it directly affects individuals in areas of health, censorship, discrimination, workplace, education and equality.

Rarely do we hear politicians speaking in positive or open-minded terms about issues relating to sex, sexuality and gender. Much rhetoric in Australian politics in fact uses particularly moralising or religious discourses that are governed by heteronormative, patriarchal and hegemonic ideals. Indeed, our party needed an electoral commission ruling that it s' name was not ‘obscene’. In this climate, we aim to disrupt, expose and eliminate the plethora of taboos and stigmas, shame and isolation around sex, sexuality, and gender, to advocate for wider equality and freedom from harm for all Australians.

((PG)) What would the three main policies you are taking into this by-election be? / How would you address these policies?

We’re proud to announce that the Australian Sex Party has policies in a diverse number of areas. We are concerned about child protection and education- we would like to convene a Royal Commission into child sex abuse in religious institutions, and assist develop global approaches to child pornography, whilst importantly, establishing a national sex education curriculum for children, an internet education scheme for parents, a uniform classification scheme for non-violent erotica, introducing R and X ratings for computer games, and return Internet censorship to parents and individuals.

One of our fundamental concerns is equality – including paid maternity leave, ensuring equal numbers of women in Parliament, legalisation of abortion, enacting more comprehensive federal anti-discrimination laws in line with the Australian Human Rights Commission recommendations, creating total equal rights in all areas of the law for gay, lesbian and transgender people, overturning discriminatory laws in the Northern Territory banning Indigenous people from possessing erotic media, and ensuring the sexual rights of the elderly and people with a disability.

((PG)) Sending asylum seekers to Indonesia: good or bad? / Is the Australian dollar's near parrity with the UD dollar a sign that the Australian economy is healthy, the US economy in chaos or both? / How do you rate the governments economic stimulus package? / Should it be wound back? / Is Kevin Rudd a better Prime Minister than John Howard? / Is the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme an effective solution to climate change? Why? / Is there a better solution?

As a party in its infancy who is not yet in the House of Representatives, we are focusing predominantly on niche issues relating to sex and gender, in which we have expertise. We look forward to formulating policies on wider issues in the public discourse such climate change, the economy and refugee issues if and when the occasion arises. Currently we are seeking to raise awareness of important topics that are remain hidden or absent from the public political agenda.

However, we would make the following comments in response to your questions. For a country that prides itself on multiculturalism, we believe that instead of utilizing law and order rhetoric that stigmatises people who have every right under international law to seek asylum, we should see this instance as an opportunity to welcome the incredible cultural diversity asylum seekers can bring to our country, and to open up discussion about the root causes of refugee and immigration movements, such as climate change, civil war, famine and persecution. Despite being elected largely because of their compassion and empathy towards refugees and asylum seekers, Rudd's 'hard line' approach is reminiscent of John Howard's stance in this area and risks creating a disillusioned public. We urge the Rudd Government to call on Indonesia to sign and ratify the Refugee Convention if it continues to fund detention centres there, and press for asylum seekers to be processed on the mainland with view to Australia being a progressive role model in the international community, as opposed to maintaining its current detention policies which continue to seek attention from human rights bodies worldwide.

((PG)) Why should the electorate vote for you?

There is a lot of lip service paid currently paid by the major political parties to gender equality that is not followed through with substantive policy and law reform. We know that the vast numbers of Australians are tolerant, respectful, celebratory people, with their individual backgrounds, preferences and lives, and we hope to seek resonance with people in Bradfield electorate who care about social justice issues and injustices in areas of health, education, censorship, workplace relations and child protection. We hope to represent people in Bradfield who support the human rights, respect, dignity and equality of all people, no matter what gender, sexual preference, race, class, ability, or any other factor.

I have experience working with the United Nations Population Fund in Eritrea on sexual and reproductive health programs, with UNIFEM Australia on gender, development and discrimination, and with the Kimberley Land Council in the area of Native Title. I have worked at Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and campaigned with Amnesty International, Mahboba’s Promise and Oxfam Australia. I am a proud member of the Gay/Lesbian/Bi-sexual/ TIQ community and believe in equal rights for all members of the community.

We urge people to look at our website, which is absolutely overflowing with fabulous information, news articles, media releases, and videos from around the globe. We look forward to meeting with, hearing from and working with members of the Bradfield electorate about their experiences, desires and priorities in these areas and how we can best help make real political and social change, and provide nuanced representation for a beautifully diverse electorate.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.