The Federal Government committed to public consultation on a charter or bill of rights following governance delegates raising the idea at the 2020 Summit at the weekend.

However, discussions and consensus on the need for same-sex family support and equality did not make it into the summit’s preliminary communiqu?but a human rights bill could get us there anyway, delegates said.

Shelley Argent came away from the weekend talk-fest angry that the Communities and Social Inclusion forum co-chairs dropped civil unions from the top five priority ideas that the group had agreed upon.

We had a discussion around would we put civil unions in or not, because we had six top ideas at that point. The general consensus was yes, we would, Argent said.

What irritated me even more, it wasn’t in the written submission either. So after all the discussion of same-sex issues it was just nothing.

Argent has written to chair Tim Costello and co-chair Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek asking for an explanation.

A spokesman for Plibersek said civil unions would be included in the final report due next month, and there would be a government response to the issue at the end of the year.

The Governance forum expressed strong support for a charter or bill of rights, and the Government has committed to public consultation on the issue.

Delegate David Marr said a charter or bill could allow the courts to strike down gay and lesbian discrimination.

However, a second model suggested during the summit would be an aspirational statement which could be used merely as a guide by governments and institutions.

Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes joined the calls for a statutory charter.

Many of the international human rights standards agreed to by the Australian government have not been incorporated into Australian law. Victims of human rights violations are often left without legal remedies, Innes wrote in a submission to the Summit.

One such case is that of Edward Young who the UN Human Rights Committee ruled was entitled to receive a war widow’s pension after the death of his partner of 38 years, a World War II veteran. But the then Howard government ignored the UN ruling.

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