Federal Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has walked away from government’s controversial reforms to consolidate five discrimination acts into one but will continue to introduce sexuality and gender diversity protections in national law.
Dreyfus announced the government will push ahead on protections for LGBTI people by amending the Sex Discrimination Act, taking on the Coalition’s suggested policy since the last election.
However, the future of the proposed removal of religious exemptions for aged care services has come into question since they were attached to the consolidation bill.
Today, Dreyfus said he would introduce the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender, Identity and Intersex Status) into Parliament this week and urged all MPs to pass it.
“It will ensure gay, lesbian, and transgender, and intersex Australians are afforded the same protections under Australian law as all other Australians,” he said.
“This reform is long overdue and much too important to be delayed any longer. The new sexual orientation protection honours a long standing Labor commitment.”
He said it built on some 85 gay reforms introduced by the Labor government in 2008.
Dreyfus said the Coalition had indicated it would vote for the new amendment bill when it was introduced into Parliament.
Under the draft Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, five discrimination acts would be consolidated into one with the new protections added for the LGBTI community.
Dreyfus said he would not put a time limit on when a consolidation bill be sent to Parliament which included the clause to remove religious exemptions on aged care service providers.
Part of the draft bill proposed the removal of religious exemptions in aged care services so older queer people would have equal access to aged care services regardless of its provider.
Many aged care services in Australia are affiliated with religious bodies such as Anglicare Sydney who opposed the change during the public consultation.
On religious exemptions, Dreyfus said: “We haven’t proposed a change to the exemptions in there for religious organisations for many years other than and I’d stress this, the removal of the exemption for aged care services.”
“That’s government policy, that’s something clearly set out in the bill, we drew attention to it.
“We’d be proposing to go forward with that, not least because there was little, little criticism, very few of the hundreds of submissions raised any objection at all.
“But clearly this is an area of which there are people are interested in reform, this is an area in where there are people interested in continually pressing for change.”
He said it was an area that needed “very detailed consideration” for future changes in the law.
Gay and lesbian advocates largely welcomed the draft exposure bill when it was introduced by former attorney general Nicola Roxon last November, however transgender and intersex advocates shared concerns over unclear language used for definitions.