The combined support of Labor, Greens and Democrats senators was not enough to stop the government from junking amendments to a superannuation bill this week which would have given equality in superannuation legislation to same-sex couples.
The support of independent senators Meg Lees, Brian Harradine, Len Harris and Shayne Murphy enabled the government to push through the legislation -“ the Superannuation (Government Co-Contribution For Low Income Earners) (Consequential Amendments) Bill -“ without the same-sex super amendments.
But if the same amendments are moved to forthcoming government superannuation bills, and if they receive a similar level of tri-partite support, the government may find it much tougher to get its bills passed. Labor has already given a commitment to support same-sex super amendments to the government’s super choice bill, and it is likely that same-sex super amendments will also be attached to Revenue minister Helen Coonan’s forthcoming income splitting bill. Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett said his party would insist on such amendments to remove discrimination against same-sex couples in all relevant future bills.
At least one of the independent senators who voted with the government this week, Meg Lees, has indicated that she will be less pliable on the same-sex issue when it comes to the super choice bill.
My strong commitment to removing discrimination from same-sex couples has not, in any way, decreased, Lees claimed. I will continue to support efforts in parliament to remove discrimination against same-sex couples.
The -˜superannuation choice’ legislation has now been held up for four years due to this issue and the government’s refusal to concede on it. So Australians still don’t have the right to choose where their super is invested because this government will not remove discrimination against same-sex couples, Lees said.
Activists are also hopeful that Tasmanian independent senator Shayne Murphy will hold ground on future parliamentary initiatives to end discrimination against same-sex couples.
Tasmanian activist Rodney Croome said he and other activists would soon be meeting with Senator Murphy.
Senator Murphy has given us his in-principle support for same-sex couple equality and we will meet with him soon to discuss what this means in practice for upcoming super legislation relating to income-splitting and super choice, Croome said.
The defeat of the same-sex super amendments in the Senate this week also revealed the need for independent pro-gay lobbyists in Canberra, Croome added.
The actions of the independent senators raised the ire of supporters of the same-sex super amendments.
Greens leader Bob Brown said, The independents have sold out gay and lesbian Australians as well as many other people in dependent relationships.
The intransigence of the government and the failure of the independents to stand up for the rights of all Australians and insist on the -¦ amendments passed by the Senate mean the discriminatory superannuation laws will remain, Brown said.
Democrats senator Brian Greig said the voting intentions of the independent senators only became clear at the last minute.
It is a great shame the opportunity to bring about human rights reform in this area was scuttled by four politically disparate senators who united on this issue for their own purposes, Greig said.
Others reserved their wrath for the government.
Labor lower house frontbencher Anthony Albanese slammed the government for their record on gay and lesbian issues.
It is disgraceful that the Howard government was more interested in delivering tax cuts to Australia’s wealthiest individuals than fairness to individuals in same-sex relationships, Albanese said. It is now blatantly obvious that only the election of a Labor government will end this legislative discrimination against same-sex relationships. The current Liberal government under the leadership of John Howard has consistently rejected the rights of gays and lesbians to be treated fairly.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby also condemned the government.
The Howard government has once again clearly demonstrated their recalcitrant attitude when it comes to lesbian and gay equality, Lobby co-convenor Rob McGrory said. We condemn the government for allowing blatant discrimination to continue under federal superannuation laws.
Fellow Lobby co-convenor Somali Cerise said, It is absolutely unacceptable that gay men and lesbians are expected by law to make superannuation contributions, but then are denied the right to decide where it can go.
The Lobby is urging community members to write to their federal MP and to members of the Senate to keep the issue on the agenda.