An Australian Democrat’s attempt to include same-sex couples in superannuation reforms in federal legislation failed this week, with the Labor and Liberal parties voting it down.

Senator Brian Greig moved an amendment on Monday to proposed superannuation re-forms which would have changed the definitions of de facto partner to include people in same-sex relationships, and dependant to include same-sex partners and their children.

Senator Greig called the failed amendment (which was opposed 41 votes to nine) a lost opportunity to bring the commonwealth up to date with reforms already made in state parliaments.

Regrettably, now that the opposition has voted with the government to prevent reform in this area, the discrimination will continue and same-sex couples will continue to be treated differently to married and de facto couples, he said.

Greig told the Senate the current laws meant same-sex partners had to pay up to 35 percent tax on receipt of their dead partner’s superannuation, while people in straight relationships did not have to.

Queensland ALP senator Joe Ludwig said while the Labor Party supported same-sex superannuation rights the federal Labor senators did not want to deal with the reforms in a piecemeal fashion.

Minister for Revenue and assistant treasurer Helen Coonan said she had not received any complaints from same-sex couples about current superannuation laws.

I would say without fear of contradiction that the government’s superannuation legislation does not discriminate in its operation against same-sex couples, Coonan told the Senate.

Greig called her statements absolute rubbish.

Also in the Senate this week, minister for Health Senator Kay Patterson avoided questions about when the government would release a report into the review of the National HIV/AIDS strategy.

South Australian senator Penny Wong asked Senator Patterson whether the government was aware of recent rises in new HIV infections across three states, and whether the report would be released before Patterson was shuffled out of the Health Department.

Patterson told parliament the report was commissioned to assist with planning a new national HIV/AIDS strategy, to be implemented in mid-2004.

Of course we are concerned about increases in HIV, Patterson said. And my officers have been working on it in the state particularly where it has increased and in the Northern Territory.

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