Grant Robertson addresses LGBT+ issues, if he wants to be leader with UK magazine

  • 18/11/2022
Is a future tilt at the leadership on the cards?
Is a future tilt at the leadership on the cards? Photo credit: Getty Images.

Grant Robertson has spoken to a British magazine about New Zealand's achievements in LGBT+ rights and responded to questions over whether he wants to be Aotearoa's first openly gay Prime Minister.

During an interview with Attitude, a British gay lifestyle magazine, the current deputy Prime Minister was asked if he had any response to the statement, "You could be the first out gay Prime Minister of New Zealand". 

Robertson, who entered into a civil union with his partner in 2009, responded by noting that he has previously campaigned to be the leader of the Labour Party. 

"With Jacinda, I have no desire to… she's brilliant, and I want to keep supporting her," he's quoted by the magazine as saying.

"But [being gay] is part of who I am: it's helped me understand what marginalisation and discrimination is. I haven't experienced as much of that as people of colour may have, or trans people, but it's given me some understanding. 

"What's important, when thinking who might lead the country, is what they will do for all people, and especially those who get left out of the system."

Pushed on whether he would be open to being Prime Minister, Robertson said, "it's not on the cards". 

"But as I say, I put myself forward for it previously. Jacinda's doing a great job and it's my job to support her. That's what a deputy does!"

He says he fully backs Jacinda Ardern.
He says he fully backs Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Robertson ran in the 2013 Labour leadership campaign, losing to David Cunliffe, and again in 2014, when Andrew Little succeeded. During both contests, Robertson won support from among his caucus colleagues, but failed to get the necessary backing of party affiliates, like some unions. 

He told Attitude that when he ran to be leader, there was a focus on sexuality

"There was this 'Is New Zealand ready for a gay Prime Minister?' I don’t know what that means!"

Little never contested an election as leader, stepping down ahead of the 2017 election and paving way for Ardern to take the top role. Labour ended up getting enough seats to go into a coalition with New Zealand First with confidence and supply from the Greens.

Robertson was appointed Finance Minister following that election and has held on to the role since. After the 2020 election, when then-deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was dumped from Parliament, Robertson went on to take that job as well.

After he became deputy Prime Minister, he's reported to have said: "I still get a lot of emails and messages from young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who look towards us to provide that kind of role-modeling." 

"I’ll keep doing my job the way that I’ve been doing it, but I’m very proud to have the role."

Robertson is the current Minister of Finance.
Robertson is the current Minister of Finance. Photo credit: Newshub.

He met with Attitude while in London earlier this year, though the interview hasn't been published until the magazine's latest edition. Robertson was in Europe in July for a number of engagements, including to support New Zealand's athletes at the Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom.

According to the magazine, Robertson approached Attitude for an interview after he was named as one of its most influential LGBT+ figures in 2020.

"Rare is the politician who takes the initiative in engaging with the queer press," the magazine said. 

Robertson wouldn't say who he was backing during the Conservative Party leadership contest happening at the time (Liz Truss would win, but then only last as Prime Minister for a little over a month), but did say it is important for any politician to stand up for LGBT+ rights. 

He went on to discuss New Zealand's achievements on LGBT+ rights - including the recent ban on conversion therapy - as well as the need for further progress. 

"As Minister of Finance, we had some money to expand health services available to the trans community and our intersex community, who are often overlooked," he told Attitude.

"We've got to keep making sure that, in an environment where, you know… I'm hearing some of the language being used about the trans community that's very familiar; an echo of what the gay community dealt with some decades ago."

Robertson also described Ardern as having an "exceptional" commitment to LGBT+ issues. 

"A tremendous ally. I mean, she's my friend as well as being PM. She's been absolutely consistent, a stalwart. Her personal story is kind of intertwined with the community as well: she was raised Mormon, and one of the reasons that she walked away was because of their stance on civil unions. 

"At a personal level, she's always been extremely supportive of me. But at a political level, she's always supported change. 'Conversion practices' are a good example. She really took on that issue during the election."

The full interview can be read here.