|Senator for Western Australia|
1 July 2008 – 30 June 2014
18 April 1972 |
|Political party||Australian Labor Party|
|Domestic partner||Aram Hosie|
Louise Clare Pratt (born 18 April 1972) is a former Australian politician. She was a Labor member of the Australian Senate from July 2008 until June 2014, representing the state of Western Australia. She had been assured of election at the 2007 federal election after winning the first position on the Labor ticket, defeating incumbent Senator Ruth Webber in a preselection contest. Pratt previously served as a member of the Western Australian Legislative Council from 2001 to 2007. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the Legislative Council at the time of her election, the second open lesbian to be elected to an Australian parliament, and the first to have a transsexual man as a partner.
Pratt was born in Kalgoorlie, and grew up in the outer hills suburbs of Perth, where she attended Eastern Hills Senior High School. She studied arts at the University of Western Australia, where she became involved in student politics. After taking on a number of positions at her campus, she was elected as the state education officer for the National Union of Students, as well as a member of its national executive, in 1994.
After university, Pratt became involved in gay rights activism, serving as a regular spokesperson for Gay and Lesbian Equality, a prominent advocacy group in the state. This saw her addressing issues such as discrimination, unequal age of consent laws, homophobia in schools and property rights, and frequently saw her clash with the conservative Liberal Party of Australia government of Richard Court. It also saw Pratt working in concert with fellow activist Brian Greig, who later went on to become an Australian Democrats Senator.
Pratt remained active in the Labor Party outside of student politics, and was the Labor candidate in the then-safe Liberal state seat of Alfred Cove at the 1996 state election. She worked at various times for former MLA Megan Anwyl, Jim McGinty, Geoff Gallop, and federal MP Carmen Lawrence. It was while working as electorate officer for Lawrence that Pratt won the third position on the Labor ticket for the East Metropolitan Region at the 2001 state election. Labor won the election against expectations, and Pratt scraped into the final seat in the region, becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the Legislative Council.
Pratt took her seat with the new term of the Legislative Council in May 2001. Her maiden speech was notable for the suggestion that the voting age in the state should be dropped to 16, but her first major contribution came in July, when she was appointed to a Ministerial committee on gay and lesbian law reform with a wide mandate to make recommendations regarding the elimination of discrimination in state law. Pratt, along with lesbian Green MP Giz Watson, played a major role in the committee, which ultimately made a wide range of recommendations, and which was tabled in the Western Australian parliament on 2 August 2001. The committee's recommendations were largely taken into law with the 2002 passage of the Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay Law Reform) Act 2002. Amongst the reforms included in the act were a complete ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the granting of the right for same-sex couples to adopt children, a lowering of the age of consent from 21 to 16, the right for same-sex couples to inherit from a deceased partner, and the repeal of legislation which had made it an offence to promote homosexuality in schools.
After the conclusion of the law reform debate, Pratt became relatively less vocal in the media and received some criticism in the state media for making only 24 speeches in her first 15 months in parliament. However, she was no less active in her role - taking up the issue of greenhouse emissions through her position on the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs, and advocating for midwife led models of care in maternity services. She was comfortably re-elected at the 2005 state election, and was promoted to chair of the Environment and Public Affairs committee after the election. She also continued to pursue her interests in midwifery services through her role as a member of the Public Obstetric Services Select Committee, and served as Chair of the State Government Adoption Legislation Review Committee. Pratt made some headlines again in December 2005, arguing for the introduction of civil union legislation in the state, but has so far been unsuccessful in this endeavour.
Pratt began campaigning for Labor preselection for a Senate seat for the 2007 federal election in mid-2006. She received wide cross-factional support, and achieved a shock victory in October, topping the poll to win first position on the Labor ticket ahead of incumbent Senators Mark Bishop and Ruth Webber. This resulted in Webber's subsequent defeat at the general election after being dropped to the only marginally winnable third position. Pratt subsequently resigned from her Legislative Council seat in October 2007, and as the highest-placed Labor candidate, was easily elected to the Senate in November. Batong Pham, a former political staffer, was appointed to Pratt's former Legislative Council seat on 26 November 2007.
In The Senate, Pratt was made a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, the Standing Committee on Economics, and the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts. She made her first speech on 27 August 2008, in which she mentioned a range of policy issues with which was concerned: sexuality, the environment, foreign aid, immigration, social inclusion and workforce participation.
In September 2012 Pratt, along with three other Labor Senators co-sponsored a Bill to amend the Marriage Act (1961) and enable same-sex marriages to be recognised. The Bill was ultimately defeated, however Pratt's impassioned speech in support of the Bill received widespread national and international attention. In December 2013, Pratt, along with Senators Sue Boyce (LNP) and Sarah Hanson-Young (The Greens) established a cross-party working group on marriage equality.
- Member - Hon. Louise Clare Pratt - 01/11/2007
- Karvelas, Patricia (29 August 2008), "Labor's new gay senator Louise Pratt calls for same-sex marriage", The Australian, retrieved 2008-09-10
- Senator Louise Pratt, first speech, Senate Debates, 27 August 2008.
- 'Aram Hosie named 2008 Pride Patron', Out in Perth News, 22 July 2008.
- Mr McGinty, Western Australia Legislative Assembly, Debates, 2 August 2001
- Australian Parliamentary website, Biography of Senator Louise Pratt, accessed 28 August 2008
- Same-sex couples wait on High Court ruling, Herald Sun, 11 December 2013