The Australian Democrats have signalled their intention to proceed with a campaign to pressure the state government on age of consent legislation.
State Democrats leader Arthur Chesterfield-Evans will introduce a private member’s bill calling for an equal age of consent for homosexual men after state parliament resumes on 26 February. This bill will be modelled on a private member’s bill introduced by Labor MLC Jan Burnswoods, which was narrowly defeated in the Legislative Council in 1999.
Democrats councillor on South Sydney City Council, Peter Furness, will also use the annual conference of the Local Government Association as a platform to debate age of consent.
Furness told Sydney Star Observer that the age of consent debate will be on the agenda for the conference, to be held in Broken Hill in October.
The annual conference is made up of 1,000 or so councillors, most of whom belong to major political parties, Fur-ness said. The ALP, Liberals and Nationals caucus prior to the debate. I will be endeavouring both before and during the conference to secure adoption of [my] resolution.
The resolution calls upon the NSW state parliament to amend the Crimes Act 1900 by equalising the age of consent for male homosexual sex.
Furness conceded that the Local Government Associa-tion annual conference had no power to affect change in the age of consent debate, but he said raising the issue in that forum would increase pressure on the state government to act.
After two years of relative quiet on the age of consent campaign, it would seem that this issue will flare in 2002, with the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby set to release a report during Mardi Gras into the harmful effects of a discriminatory age of consent on young gay men.
The campaign may receive support from some unexpected quarters. Last September, Liberal MLC Don Harwin addressed the Legislative Council, stating that there was no good reason for NSW to lag behind other states in age of consent reform.
-¦ It is simply not good enough to put this issue in the -˜too hard’ basket for the balance of the parliamentary cycle, Harwin said. This is an area in which real damage has been caused to young Australians by virtue of parliamentary inaction.