The federal government has banned its departments from making submissions to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry into financial discrimination experienced by same-sex couples.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Philip Ruddock told The Australian Financial Review government ministers had discussed the inquiry and agreed to instruct their departments not to make submission.

They argued the inquiry should be left to HREOC to do, rather than their departments.

The decision has outraged gay rights activists who say it directly contradicts the prime minister’s recent statements that he supports removing discrimination against same-sex couples in financial areas.

They make noises that they want to remove discrimination, but act in a deceitful way to hinder investigations into the extent of that very discrimination, Rod Swift, from Coalition for Equality, said.

Government departments and agencies are acutely aware of the hundreds of laws and regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples. The Howard Government clearly does not want the embarrassment of the exposure of this endemic discrimination.

Shadow Attorney General Nicola Roxon said Howard had once again been caught out saying one thing to the public and another thing to public servants.

The pigheaded and unreasonable directive not to co-operate with HREOC shows Mr Howard’s true colours. He talks the talk on discrimination, but he walks in the opposite direction, she said.

In December 2005 the prime minister said that while he was opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions, he was strongly in favour -¦ of removing any property and other discrimination that exists against people who have same-sex relationships, Sydney Star Observer reported.

In January this year Ruddock said that while the government was against gay marriage, it was concerned that people should not be disadvantaged in their other arrangements, whether they’re matters relating to superannuation benefits or employment, a range of other factors where we seek to ensure that people are not discriminated against or disadvantaged.

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