Out Gay Brisbane MP Stephen Bates’ motion asking the federal government to set up an LGBTQI Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission was voted down in Parliament’s House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Labor and Liberal MPs voted against the Greens MP’s amendment to the Australian Human Rights Commission Legislation Amendment (Selection and Appointment) Bill 2022 moved by the Anthony Albanese government. 

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Independent MPs Zoe Daniel, Monique Ryan, Allegra Spender and Zali Steggall voted for the Greens’ amendment to the bill. The motion was defeated 118-11.

Bill To Restore Integrity To Human Rights Commission

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus. Image: Facebook

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said that the purpose of the bill was to “restore integrity to appointments to the Australian Human Rights Commission”, maintain its “international credibility”, and implement Labor’s election commitment for “a merit based and transparent selection process”. 

Dreyfus said that  the effect of Bates’ proposal succeeding would be “to stop these important measures that are contained in this bill from coming into effect.”

“While we of course understand the strong sentiment expressed by members of the community in support of a dedicated LGBTIQA+ commissioner, this bill is not the vehicle to create such a position,” the Attorney General told the House. 

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“The government recognises that it is important to consider how best the commission can operate to promote and protect the human rights of all members of the Australian community, including LGBTIQA+ people. There will no doubt be further discussion on this proposal, as well as, I hope, discussion on other opportunities to strengthen the work of the commission in the future,” added Dreyfus.

Will Keep Fighting, Says Bates

According to Bates, the lack of a dedicated LGBTQI commissioner at the AHRC was an “obvious oversight”. 

“The community is not asking for anything unreasonable. There already exists commissioners for race discrimination, disability discrimination and so many others. It is vitally important that the LGBTQIA+ community have the same protection of our rights afforded to us,” said Bates, while asking members to vote for his proposal. 

“Our communities are already in crisis and suffering at the hands of government inaction. It is fundamental that we examine the impacts of the policy decisions and laws we pass and make in this place on the LGBTIQA+ community,” said Bates. 

After the amendment was defeated, Bates posted on social media that “it was incredibly disappointing to see Labor vote down an amendment which would have made life better for LGBTQIA+ people.”

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“But this is only the beginning. I’ll keep fighting to improve our communities’ lives, and I won’t stop until we get the equal treatment we deserve,”said Bates.

Disappointed With Labor Vote, Says Just.Equal

 

LGBTQI advocacy group Just.Equal said it was “disappointed” that the Labor government had “scuttled” an opportunity to appoint a LGBTQI commissioner. 

“We will write to Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, to clarify that Labor supports the appointment of an LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner and to ask when he intends to introduce relevant legislation,” Just.Equal Australia spokesperson, Brian Greig, said in a statement. 

“If this Bill isn’t the right one, we want to know which will be,” asked Greig.  “At a time when there are increasing attacks on the human rights of LGBTIQA+ Australians it is more important than ever for there to be a Commissioner who has the time, resources and expertise to defend our human rights.”

Just.Equal said it would now lobby for the Bill and the Green’s amendment to be sent to an inquiry that can look at the case for appointing an LGBTQIA+ commissioner. 





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