|Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council (New South Wales)|
|Assumed office |
8 June 2021
|Preceded by||Adam Searle|
|Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council (New South Wales)|
2 July 2019 – 14 May 2021
|Preceded by||Walt Secord|
|Succeeded by||John Graham|
|Leader of the Opposition |
in New South Wales
25 March 2019 – 29 June 2019
|Preceded by||Michael Daley|
|Succeeded by||Jodi McKay|
|Deputy Leader of the Opposition|
in New South Wales
10 November 2018 – 29 June 2019
|Preceded by||Michael Daley|
|Succeeded by||Yasmin Catley|
|Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council|
|Assumed office |
6 May 2015
11 October 2005 – 5 March 2015
|Preceded by||Carmel Tebbutt|
|Councillor of Marrickville Council|
for West Ward
23 March 2004 – 13 September 2008
|Born||22 October 1970|
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
|Alma mater||University of New South Wales|
Penelope Gail Sharpe (born 22 October 1970) is an Australian politician. She has served as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council since 2005, representing the Labor Party. Since June 2021, Sharpe is the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council.
In the Labor Party leadership contest in November 2018, Sharpe was elected Deputy Leader under Michael Daley. After Daley's resignation in the aftermath of the March 2019 state election, Sharpe became interim Leader, serving until the June leadership election, which she did not contest. She was succeeded as leader by Jodi McKay and as deputy leader by Yasmin Catley.
Sharpe was briefly absent from the Legislative Council in 2015 when she resigned to contest the Legislative Assembly seat of Newtown at the 2015 state election. Newtown was a new seat partially replacing Carmel Tebbutt's abolished seat of Marrickville, which had been left open by Tebbutt's retirement. Sharpe was defeated in Newtown by Greens candidate Jenny Leong, and was subsequently re-appointed to the Legislative Council to fill her own vacancy.
Sharpe was born in Canberra, but later moved to Sydney. She studied food technology at the University of New South Wales, where she became involved in student politics. She was elected president of the University of New South Wales Student Guild in 1993, the same year that she met her long-term partner, Jo Tilly. Sharpe rose to national prominence the following year when she became president of the National Union of Students. As president, she was involved in a national campaign against the Keating Labor government's higher education reforms, as well as in the partially successful Victorian battle against attempts by its Liberal government to introduce voluntary student unionism there.
Sharpe was a co editor of Party Girls: Labor Women, a book about the role of women in politics. She was a Marrickville Council councillor from 2004 to 2008. At the March 2004 local government elections, Sharpe was elected as a Councillor for West Ward of Marrickville Council, serving a single term until September 2008.
Member of the Legislative Council (2005–2015)
Sharpe's official appointment to the Legislative Council was announced in late September 2005, which immediately caused substantial media attention due to her status as a lesbian mother—particularly as she would now be sitting alongside the likes of conservative Liberal David Clarke and Christian Democratic Party firebrand Fred Nile. She largely refused to comment on her private life in the subsequent fracas, but announced her policy goals as improving access to education and eliminating discrimination against gay parents. She has also made clear her intention to confront Clarke and Nile on gay rights issues; a stance that was heavily reflected in her maiden speech to parliament.
2015 state election
In March 2015, Sharpe resigned from the Legislative Council to contest the lower house seat of Newtown at the 2015 state election. She was unsuccessful, with Jenny Leong of the Greens winning the seat, and subsequently announced her intention to contest preselection to be re-appointed to the vacancy caused by her own resignation.
Member of the Legislative Council (2015–present)
Sharpe played an instrumental role in achieving marriage equality for LGBTI Australians. She was a leading figure in the internal Labor Party push to shift the ALP's position to one of supporting marriage equality. As a member of the NSW Legislative Council, she moved motions and put state-based bills to the NSW Parliament. Sharpe was active in the ultimate Australian Marriage Law Survey and subsequent parliamentary reform process, campaigning publicly and has been noted as a key supporter and adviser to the likes of Campaign Director, Tim Gartrell and Labor Senate Leader, Senator Penny Wong. Senator Wong has said of the achievement of marriage equality in Australia that "change happened because of champions like Penny Sharpe, who has worked to build momentum for change in our party."
In 2018, Sharpe successfully led a cross-party process to amend the Public Health Act to legislate for 'safe-access zones', making the practice of harassing women entering clinics and hospitals providing terminations illegal. Some commentary noted that this was the first time a Bill introduced by a Labor MP had successfully passed the NSW Parliament since the ALP had lost government seven years earlier.
After the resignation of NSW Labor leader Luke Foley over sexual assault allegations, and the election of Michael Daley as his successor, Sharpe was unanimously elected Deputy Leader of the party on 10 November 2018., despite being a member of the upper house and was not a candidate for the lower house in the 2019 election. As Deputy Opposition Leader, Sharpe was the alternative Deputy Premier and the Deputy Premier has conventionally been a member of the lower house. In addition to carrying out her duties as Deputy Leader, Sharpe campaigned strongly on environmental issues during the 2019 New South Wales state election. She talked of building on the environmental reforms of the Wran and Carr governments, claiming, when she launched Labor's environment policy manifesto, that "NSW doesn't have another four years to waste to take real action on climate change and to arrest the biodiversity crisis in the state".
After Labor's defeat in the election, Daley announced his resignation. Sharpe succeeded him as interim leader. The leadership vote was scheduled for after the 2019 federal election so as not to conflict with Labor's federal campaign. It was ultimately held in June, with Jodi McKay defeating Chris Minns to win the leadership. Sharpe was set to recontest the deputy leadership, challenged by McKay's ally Yasmin Catley, but agreed to step aside and was appointed deputy leader in the Legislative Council. She was given the portfolios of Shadow Minister for Family & Community Services and Shadow Minister for Disability Inclusion in the McKay shadow cabinet.
Sharpe resigned from her portfolios on 14 May 2021 over disagreements with the party's position on the Mandatory Disease Testing Bill. The bill would require blood testing of people who might have posed a risk of bodily fluid contact with frontline workers, such as first responders who have been spat on or scratched. According to Sharpe, the bill would represent "a major departure from a scientific and medical approach to managing the communicable risk of HIV or hepatitis". Sharpe abstained from voting before her resignation, which she claimed was not related to McKay's leadership. McKay would later be forced to resign as party leader two weeks later over the party's defeat at the Upper Hunter by-election.
On 8 June 2021, Sharpe became the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council.
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