Gay rights groups have welcomed calls to establish an Australian  human rights act, applauding recommendations made in the National Human Rights Consultation report.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland accepted the Consultation Committee’s findings after the committee’s 10-month process collecting views from across the country.
Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam hailed the report, containing 31 recommendations, as a “strong” starting point for discussion with the Federal Government on ways to strengthen the rights of GLBTI Australians.
“I think it’s important to recognise this consultation was more than just about a human rights act,” Irlam said.
“It was about how to strengthen human rights in Australia, and that includes a range of options, starting out with initial conversations, introducing strong and harmonised discrimination laws, as well as a human rights charter or human rights act.”
Despite early opposition to the passage of a human rights act from both sides of politics, McClelland said the Government would consider the report as a whole before issuing a response.
“The report gives us important information about what we do well,” McClelland said. “And it gives us options for addressing the areas where we can do better.”
More than 80 percent of the 35,000 submissions received supported a human rights act. The report also found not enough attention is paid to human rights when federal legislation is formulated and recommended the Government conduct an audit of all legislation, past and present, to comply with Australia’s international human rights obligations.
Australia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which includes non-discriminatory provisions for GLBTI people.
Including sexuality and gender identity in national anti-discrimination laws was also marked as a priority and people in same-sex relationships were described as “struggling under the weight of discrimination”.
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Peter Furness was disappointed the report wasn’t clearer on same-sex marriage.
“Although the report recommends that the right to marry and form a family be included in a human rights act, it fails to say whether that right should be interpreted in the light of international law, which is sometimes construed as excluding same-sex couples,” he said.
“I would have much preferred the Committee to be clear on that point.”
The Greens urged the Government to respond quickly to the report.

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