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Coalition open to “incremental reform”
Federal shadow attorney general George Brandis says his party will oppose Labor’s draft anti-discrimination bill but still supports federal discrimination protections for gay and gender diverse people.
Last week, the Coalition declared it would reject the draft bill entirely, which included protections for sexuality and gender diversity for the first time at a federal level.
The attorney-general’s department presented four new options to the Senate committee which is reviewing the draft bill and the community’s views on it.
The options addressed concerns over the expansion of terms ‘insults, offends and intimidates’ found in the Racial Discrimination Act.
Brandis told the Star Observer the Coalition had supported federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTI people since the 2010 election.
“The Coalition was always open to incremental reform to anti-discrimination law,” he said.
“We took to the 2010 election a policy that Commonwealth anti-discrimination law should extend to sexuality discrimination which I would define as gay, lesbian, [bisexual], transgender and intersex people.
“That position has not changed, however unfortunately, although a proposal to that effect was included in the new draft bill, the government, and particularly [former attorney general Nicola] Roxon, so badly handled this by overreaching and sheer political incompetence that it managed to build up a significant community resistance to the whole idea of the bill so we will be opposing the bill in its entirety.”
Brandis said he believed the current bill would “collapse under its own weight” before it got to Parliament.
In a 2010 election debate with former attorney general Robert McClelland, Brandis announced that “a Coalition government will legislate to include sexual orientation as a category with Commonwealth anti-discrimination law”.
When asked if the Coalition would introduce protections in the next parliament if elected to government this year, he said “that’s our position”.
“That is our policy and unlike the Labor Party we do keep our promises… all of our policies are promises – as to the sequencing, that’s a different issue,” he said.
“Members of your community should have no doubt as long as I’m the spokesman on these matters I am completely supportive of the reach of anti-discrimination law being extended to it.”
“I think there have been times when the Coalition was slower than it should have been to address issues of discrimination but I’m also bound to point out to you that from the time we lost the 2007 election and Dr Brendan Nelson was elected leader, three consecutive leaders of the Liberal Party, Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, have been strongly supportive of your community.”
The 2008 gay law reforms, where 85 laws were amended to removed discrimination for LGBT people, received bipartisan support.