Democrats’ bid for equality

Democrats’ bid for equality

The Australian Democrats have introduced sweeping equality reforms to the Senate that would remove all financial and workplace discrimination for same-sex couples.

Democrats leader Lyn Allison introduced the Same Sex: Same Entitlements Bill on Tuesday, which was closely modelled on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s report of the same name.

The report’s author, Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes, strongly supported the Bill saying it was effectively the omnibus legislation he had recommended.

All political parties have expressed support for removing discrimination against same-sex couples and this Bill does precisely that, Innes said.

But the reforms have little chance of becoming law in their current state, with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock already telling lobbyists that the full implementation of the HREOC recommendations would be unlikely.

A spokeswoman for Allison said the Bill moving to a Senate committee was an opportunity to keep up the debate on the issue.

We want to hear from people who are affected by these laws and we want to know if there are any loopholes in the Bill, so people can’t get around the protections, the spokeswoman said.

Support also came from rights activists, with Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokesman Ghassan Kassisieh saying the Democrats’ move would keep pressure on the Howard Government.

Last week Liberal MP Warren Entsch presented the Prime Minister with a 25,000-strong petition from GetUp calling for the end to discrimination against same-sex couples.

Labor had stated it would introduce its own bill covering all 58 discriminatory laws in the first term if elected later this year.

All four Democrat senators are up for re-election this year, with only Andrew Bartlett and Lyn Allison recontesting.

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