If you are, or were, a Commonwealth employee looking forward to having the security of equal superannuation rights by June then you could be disappointed. It has been reported in some newspapers that the federal Opposition has plans to send the Government’s Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws -” Superannuation) Bill 2008 to a Senate Committee for review. This would delay the possible implementation of this legislation until after the new financial year and the Senate changeover in July.

At this stage, the GLRL is unsure of the Coalition’s reasons for wanting to refer the Bill to a Senate Committee. If it is because they want the Bill to recognise same-sex relationships on the basis of interdependency, then the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has already clearly articulated the inadequacy of this approach.

Not only would interdependency cost the government millions more than already estimated, but it does not recognise the nature of our relationships as equal to that of our heterosexual counterparts. Recognising carer and sibling relationships in the same category as lesbian and gay relationships, is insulting to our community and does not equate to equality. Moreover, an interdependent relationship is harder to prove, mischaracterises the nature of our relationships, has unclear boundaries -” i.e. it is not clear who it applies to -” and is inconsistent with state and territory legislation.

If, however, there are reasons other than interdependency for the delay, then the Coalition needs to make these reasons public. Our community deserves to know why it should continue to be discriminated against. Throwing in another stumbling block to these reforms means that tens of thousands of same-sex couples across the country continue to be denied equality in this most basic area of financial stability. Given that Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has previously announced his party’s support for financial equality for same-sex couples, this move is perplexing at best and contradictory at worst.

The vast majority of Australians now support de facto equality for same-sex couples. We can see no reason to delay these reforms and would be sorely disappointed if retirees miss out due to unnecessary delay. If the Coalition has genuine concerns about the wording or definitions in the legislation then they need to make them public so that we can work towards a solution and ensure that equality is delivered as soon as possible.

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