VICTORIAN Parliament’s Legislative Assembly has debated and passed the historical gay sex convictions expungement bill, incorporating last-minute amendments by the opposition, including allowances for posthumous expungements.

Labor’s amendments also included a provision to amend the state’s Equal Opportunity Act to make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of an expunged gay sex conviction, and an additional purpose in the bill to recognise that the convictions in question should never have been considered criminal matters.

Prahran state Liberal MP and the government’s chief advocate for the bill Clem Newton-Brown addressed the amendments, specifically querying the proposed amendment to allow posthumous expungements.

He argued that without more time to seek departmental advice, there were concerns about the possibility of disputes between family members over whether or not to apply for expungement.

The Star Observer understands a deal was reached to agree on a further amendment by the government to Labor’s amendment on posthumous expungement, adopting a next-of-kin definition consistent with the Coroner’s Act that would help prevent such disputes.

Debate in both chambers saw MPs from all major parties speak on the bill, drawing in a whole range of issues related to the LGBTI community including exemptions in anti-discrimination law, marriage equality and bullying in schools.

Newton-Brown acknowledged the role of LGBTI advocates in developing the bill, speaking to the importance of expungement to many in the community.

“The laws to criminalise gay people, gay men, struck at the very core of their makeup,” Newton-Brown said.

Speaking for the opposition and addressing Labor’s amendments, Albert Park state Labor MP Martin Foley argued the changes proposed by the opposition would allow for the next parliament to issue a formal apology over the fact that the convictions in question should never have been considered offences.

Newton-Brown, Foley and other MPs acknowledged the work of the LGBTI community in getting the bill up, with particular praise given to long-serving human rights activist Jamie Gardiner, who has been instrumental in pushing for reform on this issue.

They also acknowledged the presence of gay men affected by historical gay sex offences in the public gallery, including Tom Anderson, Peter McEwan and Noel Tovey, whose story originally prompted Newton-Brown to investigate developing legislation on this issue.

Both Premier Denis Napthine and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews spoke in support of the bill.

“No Victorian, no person should, be subjected to unjust discrimination on account of their sexuality,” Napthine said.

“It will right a wrong for affected people, and it’s about time that wrong was righted.”

Andrews took the opportunity to criticise the government for its rollback of Victorian anti-discrimination legislation, but acknowledged the significance of the current reform.

“Perhaps too rarely, but every now and then we in this great chamber and in this parliament get an opportunity to right a wrong,” he said.

Other speakers on the bill included Coalition MP Georgie Crozier, Labor MPs Jaala Pulford and Martin Pakula, Greens MP Sue Pennicuik and Attoney-General Robert Clark.

The expungement scheme for historical gay sex convictions will come into effect next year.

UPDATE: The bill had passed the upper house (Legislative Council), too.

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