The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recommendations will be debated behind closed doors as the federal cabinet considers which of the 58 areas of same-sex discrimination deserve action.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told gay lobbyists that a submission on the HREOC report into same-sex discrimination was being prepared and will go before cabinet before the election.
However, Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome said they had been given no guarantee on any individual issue, nor provided with a timeframe.
It’s better than no commitment, Croome said. He said the Government would continue its support for interdependency, but it’s very unlikely to include parenting.
Croome said the government had given commitments in the past that were broken, most notably with superannuation, but that didn’t preclude some progress under future Coalition Governments.
Looking at the Government’s record rather than any commitment given before an election, we can expect one or two low-profile reforms in the next term if the Coalition wins, he said.
Previous reforms by the Howard government have been incremental and largely regulatory rather than legislative, in areas like military benefits and public superannuation schemes.
Ruddock told ABC Radio last week that he didn’t want to deal with judicial pensions in isolation following calls from Justice Michael Kirby, which gave hope of broader reforms.
But Croome said support for slow case by case reform was still strong within the party, a stance reiterated by John Howard’s advisers when they met last week.
Ruddock may put forward a strong case for larger reform based on the HREOC recommendations, but it’s clear there will be resistance, Croome said.
The problem with the case by case approach is we have no way of knowing what issues are at the top of their list, or the timeframe.
Liberal MP Warren Entsch is calling on the gay and lesbian community to not give up on the Government now it has moved to consider equality reforms in Cabinet.
I know from discussions that the Attorney-General has agreed to put forward a number of the initiatives, Entsch said.
I don’t know what they are yet, but I’ve already put my list in with superannuation at the top.
Entsch believed the initiatives were not only possible before the election, but would accelerate further progress.
I’m going to launch the HREOC report in Brisbane next week, and will raise the issues in the next sitting of parliament, he said.
Entsch said he was unsure why the gay community had not shown stronger acknowledgement of the Howard Government given the same-sex reforms it has already made, plus the Cabinet submission.
I’ve been speaking out on this for years and never been reprimanded – you couldn’t do that in the Labor Party, he said.
The attacks are always on Howard and Ruddock, never on Rudd.
Croome also called on Labor leader Kevin Rudd to publicly support the HREOC recommendations.
It’s all well and good that [Senator Joe] Ludwig supports reform but, if he becomes attorney-general he’ll just be one man in a Rudd cabinet – like Ruddock is one man in a Howard cabinet, Croome said. I want to hear from Rudd himself.