Statement on the passing of Paul O'Grady

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I was very saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Paul O’Grady.

Paul was a tenacious and respected activist and leader with true Labor values and a person I often turned to for advice.

He served as a Labor MLC in the Legislative Council between 1988 and 1996 – and took the courageous step of disclosing his sexuality in 1990, a first for the NSW Parliament at that time.

Our Parliaments should aspire to reflect the full diversity of people across our community – and Paul was a trailblazer simply by his presence.

My hope is that the example of Paul – and all who have come after him – will inspire gay and lesbian Australians to be excited by the possibilities of the political process.

During his career in public life, Paul was a passionate fighter against all forms of discrimination – particularly affecting people with HIV/AIDS.

He was a formidable political strategist who played a crucial role in Labor’s 1991 and 1995 election campaigns. In the latter years of the former Labor government he was a key advisor to Environment Minister Frank Sartor.

Paul’s powerful evidence to the 2013 NSW Parliamentary inquiry into medicinal cannabis informs current Labor policy to allow its use to alleviate the suffering of people with terminal conditions.

While the news of Paul’s death is devastating, the truth is that when he left the Parliament in 1996 he never thought he’d live to 2015.

All who knew him were grateful that we were able to share many more years with him as a friend and confidante.

His funeral will be a celebration as well as an occasion to mourn his passing.

On behalf of NSW Labor, I offer my deepest condolences to Paul’s family and friends at this time.