The federal government has been criticised for failing to respond to a United Nations Human Rights Committee judgment which condemned Australia for discriminating against same-sex couples.

In early August, the Committee handed down its judgment in the Edward Young case, finding that the government had discriminated against Young by refusing him a surviving veteran’s partner pension. The judgment also stated Australia was obliged to ensure such discrimination did not occur in future. The Committee requested that Australia respond to the judgment within 90 days.

Australian Democrats senator Brian Greig said it was imperative the attorney-general respond.

At the very time that the prime minister is in London honouring Australia’s war dead, his government is treating many partners and loved ones of defence force personnel with contempt and indifference, Greig said.

Australian Defence Force troops are increasingly involved in war conflict and peacekeeping missions around the world, so situations similar to that involving Mr Young are likely to be repeated unless equality is provided to all members of the ADF now.

A spokesperson for attorney-general Phillip Ruddock told Sydney Star Observer the government would be responding to the judgment, but stressed the 90-day deadline was a request rather than a stipulation. He also said the government did not receive the judgment documentation until September.

The spokesperson could not say whether Australia would respond to the judgment before the end of the year.

It’s a matter of getting it right, not getting it done quick, the spokesperson said.

But other comments made by the attorney-general’s office on the matter have given gay and lesbian rights activists little cause for hope. The public release of the document was greeted with a dour statement from the attorney-general that the views of the United Nations Human Rights Committee were not binding.

This is just another example of this government disregarding international human rights benchmarks, Greig said. The UN’s decision clearly means that the government’s narrow definition of -˜couple’, which includes only married or heterosexual de facto partners, needs to be updated.

Tasmanian gay activist Rodney Croome told the Star community members ought to make their voice heard on the issue.

The only people who are going to make a fuss about this is us, Croome said. We need to be writing, emailing and faxing Phillip Ruddock and reminding him of this wherever he goes.

Croome stated that it was reasonable for the government to take the 90-day deadline from their receipt of the judgment, but warned against possible implications of the government’s tardiness in responding.

If they say the deadline is not binding, the next step is for them to say the judgment is not binding, he said.

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