Federal Finance Minister and Melbourne MP Lindsay Tanner has offered little in the way of where the Rudd Government intends to improve the rights of gay and lesbian Australians.
Speaking at the launch of the Wear It With Pride campaign in Melbourne last week, Tanner said including sexual orientation and gender identity in federal anti-discrimination laws was an “open question”, however, there are no firm plans to do so.
“In the process of examining the various bits of anti-discrimination legislation which we are seeking to put together into a single framework, this is a question we regard as one that’s legitimate to examine,” he told Southern Star.
“So there’s no specific commitment as such to do anything. We want to examine the current framework, what it covers, what it doesn’t cover, how we can do that with a single overarching piece of legislation.”
Tanner said the Government was committed to pursing a nationally consistent register of same-sex relationships and “bedding down” the 85 changes to federal law recognising gay and lesbian couples.
Gay rights activists have been frustrated by the Rudd Government’s failure to introduce anti-discrimination laws covering homophobic and transphobic discrimination.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Tanner announced earlier this year the Government would streamline the four separate pieces of anti-discrimination legislation into one Act, but no mention has been made of including sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We all know this is not the end of the story, we all know there is more to be done,” Tanner said.
“From time to time we are criticised for not doing more and that’s fair enough. I understand where those criticisms are coming from.”
Tanner offered little in the way of a future commitment to repealing the ban on same-sex marriage.
“As a senior minister I don’t have the luxury of publicly promoting a different position from the Government,” he said.
Under pressure from the Greens in his own seat, Tanner said he didn’t mind being “being under threat politically”.
“This is a challenge I’ve lived with for nearly 10 years. In fact my margin against the Greens is slightly healthier than it was between 2001 and 2004,” he said.
“I’m sure there are people in my electorate for whom [gay marriage] is an important issue and may influence their vote … but I’ve got a simple message for them and that is, for the foreseeable future, whether we like it or not there is only one party that is going to be in a position to produce legislative change.
“However much people might like the idea of having a ‘ginger’ group pushing a hard line in the debate, which is fair enough, that will not produce change.”
Australian Marriage Equality will leaflet Tanner’s seat to push the gay marriage issue during the election campaign.