Thursday, March 15, 2007

Edward Mandla on the inner city campaign trail

Electorate of Sydney candidate Edward Mandla may be a heterosexual father of three, but he's also a man for the gay community, he tells Sam Butler.

"Gays don't care about gay and lesbian issues - they care about land tax."

The NSW Liberals did their homework when selecting Edward Mandla as their candidate for the State seat of Sydney: powerfully built, with exfoliated and moisturised skin, distinguished grey hairs and a handsome smile, he's an ideal 'Daddy' fantasy for the otherwise politically-ambivalent 'twinks' residing in and around Stonewall.
Stonewall, in fact, is where Mandla recently launched a fundraiser, without actually addressing any gay and lesbian issues in his speech! He points out, in his defence, that he was there as part of Shadow Mental Health Minister Judy Hopwood's launch of the Opposition's $396 million mental health policy.
Mandla cites Labor's failures in mental health as a prime reason for his decision to throw his hat into the political arena; and becoming Member for Sydney would be a commendable addition to an already impressive resume, including Immediate Past President of the Australian Computer Society (ASC) and current director of Smartforce Solutions.
The father-of-three identifies as a strong family man, but his concept of family is vastly different from that of the Liberal Party's 'family values' proponents. Unlike former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Mandla believes "a man and his dog" does constitute a family, and says the current definition of 'family' pushed by most of his counterparts is in need of a shake-up. To this end, he claims he is the "crusader" needed to challenge homophobic attitudes in a party not renowned for being queer-friendly. In Mandla's view, the Liberal Party is not so much the "broad church" that John Howard describes, but "a high-rise building in the CBD in which every part of society resides" - including, apparently, gay-friendly IT gurus.
So just how gay-friendly is Edward Mandla? "[My] entire campaign team is gay", he says, including his campaign director. He identifies "hundreds" of gay and lesbian friends, including "lonely older gay men" whom he speculates might not be so lonely now if they had the opportunity to commit to one another via civil unions years ago. Consequently, he's strongly in favour of such unions and guarantees to be vocal in his support should he pull off the minor miracle of knocking Clover Moore out of the seat she's held for nearly 20 years.
He claims, however, that his many queer friends aren't talking to him about such issues - "they're talking to me about land tax!" Perhaps this explains why the words 'gay' and 'lesbian' don't appear anywhere in the Liberals' 2007 State election policy platform. Despite this absence, Mandla believes that equality will be achieved for gays and lesbians - in fact, he maintains that it's a done deal, and offers an optimistic time-frame of 'five to ten years' (even under Howard and/or Debnam governments) by which time equality will be achieved. There's even a bold assertion that civil unions will happen under a Liberal government sooner than a Labor government, due to resistance in the latter from old-school Catholic unionists.
Which brings us to the Iemma government. After 12 years of an administration that, even by its own admission, "has more work to do" (a euphemism, perhaps, for wasted opportunities, economic mismanagement and prolonged incompetence) why aren't the Liberals streets ahead in opinion polls? Mandla is actually encouraged by the Liberals' underdog position: "I just love those polls - we're exactly where I want us to be. People are becoming more and more angry that the government could be returned, and increasingly I see people who have never voted Liberal, who may secretly do that for the first time. I love it."
As for his main opponent, Clover Moore, Mandla admits that although he once held this "folk hero" in high esteem as a social champion, he argues that as both the Member for Sydney (formerly Bligh) and the city's Lord Mayor, she simply doesn't have time to "chain herself to trees in Rushcutters Bay"; to represent her constituents as she used to. He believes that Moore has lost hitherto-held respect since taking on two jobs, and claims to be tapping into a well of disgruntled voters who supported her at the last election but now seek a "full-time" member.
Does he believe he can beat Clover? "I'm narrowing the gap. But I have a $50,000 budget - money I raised personally - and I'm up against her 90k-a-month public relations budget. You saw what happened in Mardi Gras, that's what I'm up against. It's hard."
Still, Mandla exudes the confidence one would expect from a successful, self-made businessman, and it's difficult to doubt his conviction that the only way the Liberal Party will improve its generally appalling history on GLBTI rights is for 'new blood' to join up and, over time, chip away at entrenched homophobic policy.
"These things don't happen overnight", he says, which is certainly true. (They also shouldn't take 11 years, which is how long queers have had to wait for their government to address discriminatory Commonwealth legislation.)
With accusations from his staff that the queer media give the Liberal Party 'a rough time', what's the one key, unedited message Edward Mandla wants to get across to SX readers? "Call me!"
It's an open invitation, as the man is keen to consult with his prospective electorate - so go nuts, everyone.
And as a final suggestion: "Don't be afraid to put a 1 in the Liberal box, even if you've never done so before. You don't even have to tell anyone - just make sure you do it."

1 comment:

Houri (Rose) Torossian said...

This article is great! I really like this Edward Mandla guy. My uncle also believes that "a man and his dog" does constitute a family. He treats his dog (named lucky) like a baby *lol*

I also agree strongly with Edward Mandla when he says equality for gays and lesbians will be achieved in 5 to 10 years time. I believe, like him, that the Liberal Party is going to pave the way for equality!

This is fantastic Shayne. I can't wait for it to happen.