The Howard government has confirmed it will reintroduce legislation banning gay couples from adopting children from overseas. However, a spokesperson for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says there is no plan to rush it through.

The law was never off the agenda, the spokesperson told Sydney Star Observer. It’s not listed for introduction in the next parliamentary sitting period and at this stage we have no time frame in mind.

The coalition will probably wait until it gains control of the Senate on 1 July next year before reintroducing the legislation.

They first attempted to ban same-sex couples from overseas adoption in the same bill as the Marriage Act amendment last May. However, when Labor blocked the adoption ban in the Senate and called for an inquiry, Ruddock split the bill in two and the marriage ban was passed.

The government does not wish to leave itself exposed to a
situation where a state or territory, for the purposes of making a political point domestically, would seek to prioritise same-sex couples ahead of heterosexual couples for the purposes of overseas adoption, Ruddock said in a statement to the Star in June.

We don’t believe that would be in Australia’s best interests or the best interests of the child.

He said the government believed it was best for children to have the care and affection of both a mother and a father.

It is important Australians understand the number of children available for adoption here and abroad is very limited. There will always be many more Australian families who seek to adopt children than can ever be accommodated under overseas programs.

In view of the shortage of children available for adoption, the Australian government believes it is not simply a matter of leaving it to the states -“ who have no responsibility relating to immigration -“ to determine which children, and with which parents, will be able to enter Australia under our immigration arrangements.

Shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon told Sydney Star Observer Labor would probably argue against the legislation again but would not make a final judgement before seeing the bill.

Obviously we look at any new legislation as it comes up but I don’t see why there would be any reason for us to change our position on that, Roxon said.

I imagine the government will be pressing ahead with this like it is revisiting its university agenda and other things it couldn’t get through before. So we’ll obviously have to monitor that.

Roxon said she hoped the coalition would take into account the views expressed about adoption in submissions to the Senate inquiry.

The decision by federal health minister Tony Abbott to push for a ban on late-term abortions has also been seen by commentators as a sign of more conservative policies to come.

Gay rights activist Rodney Croome said the government’s motivation for pushing anti-gay adoption through was an ideological commitment to devaluing, degrading and dehumanising same-sex couples and their children.

Croome said even if the passage of this legislation was virtually assured, the process should be used by the LGBT community to highlight the injustice the government was committing. This may make it ever so slightly less likely that the government will move forward with the rest of its anti-gay agenda, he said.

Raise hell. Write to the papers, talk with your friends, organise demos and generally raise the issue whenever and wherever you can.

Asked whether the coalition would use its power in the Senate to override same-sex adoption laws in the ACT -“ which were publicly condemned by Howard this year -“ Ruddock’s spokesperson said she was unsure but didn’t rule it out.

The spokesperson also responded to Croome’s recent allegations the government was planning to wind back federal laws protecting employees from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

To suggest we’re going to repeal this [anti-discrimination] legislation is fairly wide of the mark, the spokesperson said, adding the coalition’s push to make small businesses exempt from unfair dismissal laws had nothing to do with discrimination.

Meanwhile the Labor Party’s Tasmanian branch has called on federal Labor to reverse its opposition to same-sex marriage. The reform was endorsed at the Tasmanian Labor Party state conference in Launceston this week.

The motion was supported almost unanimously by conference delegates, who were critical of Roxon for her opposition to same-sex marriage. Roxon said she had not yet seen the resolution and will not comment before it went through the internal party process.

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