Enough is enough. There is no place for homophobia or misogyny in our communities.
As civic leaders in this region, we believe it is our responsibility to call out vile, offensive, homophobic and sexist comments in the strongest possible terms and to condemn the behaviour of those who enable and support these attacks.
Repeated homophobic and sexist comments made by Cr Allan Robinson against his council colleagues has demonstrated that his position as an elected councillor is untenable, and demands a response.
The independent code of conduct report and media coverage arising from these events should be shocking to all of us. It is telling that no media outlet is prepared to put in print all the words that Allan Robinson has used in council meetings, during official interviews, and in the published report. These words are too vile for any media outlet to print.
We understand that it might be a little unusual for a joint opinion piece from a Labor and Liberal councillor. This op-ed isn't a political response.
Rather, it is one based on a shared view of mutual respect, decency and the need to stand up for what is right.
Councillor Allan Robinson's homophobic and misogynistic slurs are not appropriate in any forum - public or private. When challenged on his behaviour and asked to retract or apologise for his appalling conduct, not only did Cr Robinson refuse to do so, he 'doubled down' on his comments making them even more disgusting.
Allan Robinson is simply unfit to represent his community as an elected councillor.
We both hope to make a positive difference in our community. We come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, and we certainly don't always agree with one another.
However, as two young, openly gay deputy mayors of the Hunter we have both experienced unnecessary abuse.
To be subjected to this foul behaviour from a fellow councillor within one of our workplaces is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that council staff have to see it and endure it.
Each of us are the youngest councillors elected to represent our respective councils.
We were elected to serve our communities because of our values and our commitment to supporting and improving the lives of all people living and working in our cities.
While holding the privileged position of a councillor, our colleague Allan Robinson has clearly and repeatedly demonstrated his values, or lack thereof, on numerous occasions. We don't believe that these values reflect the community he purports to represent.
Elected councillors should disagree and debate the different ways our communities can be supported and enhanced.
That, after all, is the job. But this debate must be conducted in a way that our community would find acceptable - as a true 'contest of ideas'.
Cr Allan Robinson has failed to live up to that standard, by extending into homophobic and sexist abuse which vilifies both gay people and women.
Allan Robinson didn't attack his fellow councillors on their policies or voting record. He attacked fellow elected officials simply because of who they are.
The vitriol from Cr Allan Robinson in media interviews and official investigations is abhorrent.
We are sadly no strangers to homophobic insults, jokes and slurs - but we stand united to ensure that we speak out against it.
The Hunter has a strong history of supporting diverse communities, including the highest marriage equality Yes vote, an annual Pride Festival (postponed this year due to COVID), and a largely welcoming community.
With local government elections postponed until December 2021, there will be many people across the Hunter thinking of nominating to represent their local community on council.
Being a councillor is an enormously rewarding job and we need to encourage more diverse representation - young and old, gay, women, Aboriginal people, migrants and people of colour - to ensure that local representation looks and feels like the community it is part of. It is absolutely certain that everyone needs to feel welcome and appreciated for the contributions they make to our communities.
People wanting to stand as election candidates to represent their communities shouldn't have to worry about being on the receiving end of disgusting sexist and homophobic behaviour in their workplace. We all deserve to be safe at work. Our workplace just happens to be a council chamber.
The Hunter Region deserves elected representatives who treat their communities and their colleagues with respect. We call on Allan Robinson to reflect on how he would feel if this was said about him or his family, and reflect on the sort of example he wishes to set for leaders of the Hunter. There is no excuse for his conduct. This is not the behaviour of a 'good bloke' or a 'larrikin'. It is vilification.
Newcastle and the wider Hunter deserve better representatives than this. Cr Allan Robinson should do the right thing - apologise and resign.
Declan Clausen (Labor) is the deputy lord mayor of Newcastle and Ben Mitchell (Liberal) is deputy mayor of Maitland
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