Rights groups will push for sexuality and gender identity to be included in a new anti-discrimination act proposed by the federal Government in response to the National Human Rights Consultation.
ACON, Australian Coalition for Equality, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and the Australian Human Rights Commission have all called for reform after the Government rejected a national human rights charter.
ACON president Mark Orr said, without this being dealt with, the Government’s plans to take health and aging responsibilities from the states could leave GLBTI people exposed to discrimination without redress.
“This is particularly concerning given the federal Government is now poised to take over the funding of hospitals and the management of primary health and aged care services across Australia,” he said.
“This is clearly a matter which needs to be addressed as soon as possible, as it has the potential to undermine the equitable provision of health services to hundreds of thousands of GLBT taxpayers. Federal anti-discrimination laws should be amended immediately to protect the rights of GLBT Australians.”
GLRL policy and development coordinator Senthorun Raj said extending anti-discrimination protection to sex and gender minorities was needed to bring Australia in line with its international obligations.
“This would be an essential step forward in endorsing our international obligations under Article 26 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that entitles all people to equality and anti-discrimination protection in the law,” he said.
Australian Human Rights Commission president Cathy Branson QC said the commission would “advocate for the expansion of the grounds of discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as the review progresses”.
“Sexuality is covered as a ground in some state anti-discrimination laws and the Commission is of the view that there should be consistent coverage between the federal and state and territory levels,” she said.
Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam said a failure to commit to anti-discrimination protection for sex and gender minorities was a slap in the face.
“We are outraged by the clear message the Rudd Government is sending the Australian community — that protecting LGBTI human rights is not a priority for the ALP,” he said. “McClelland has not directly addressed the failure of federal law to protect LGBTI people from discrimination … today’s announcement is a joke.”
A spokesperson for federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland told Sydney Star Observer that omissions from current protections would be considered for discussion.
“As part of the project to harmonise and consolidate federal anti-discrimination laws, there will be an opportunity to examine gaps in our laws and the effectiveness of remedies.”