The Greens launched the re-election campaign of NSW senator Kerry Nettle on Friday, pledging to use its numbers to push for a referendum on a Bill of Rights.

The party also promised to use a balance of power leverage to double the budget of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to $30 million.

“We need a Bill of Rights to ensure no longer will future prime ministers be able to cut down basic rights,” Greens leader Bob Brown said.

With both major parties indicating a referendum in the next term, Brown wanted a Bill of Rights included and welcomed further socially progressive moves from the Government.

But Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out a last-minute announcement on same-sex discrimination or de facto recognition.

“Well that is wrong, I’m not about to introduce any legislation on that,” Howard said last Friday.

“Does the Government endorse all the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission on this? No it doesn’t.”

At a Greens forum last week Nettle said the party was committed to full de facto and marriage equality for all people regardless of sexuality or gender as well as federal anti-discrimination protections and parenting rights.

Those policies – and the offer to support any federal civil union legislation – were given “full ticks” by Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokesman Ghassan Kassisieh.

“What the Greens could do is negotiate on key points. Really, we just need to know that law reform for us is a top priority for them as well. And our issues would be put on their leverage agenda,” Kassisieh said.

The forum also introduced local Greens candidates Susan Jarnason in Wentworth, Jenny Leong in Sydney and Saeed Khan in Grayndler, as well as openly gay Ray Goodlass in Riverina.

“The old parties joining to ban gay marriage exemplified attacks against minorities,” Leong said.

“We want to get rid of the Howard Government and send a message to a future Rudd government that you can’t talk about equality with conditions or compromise.”

Green preferences in NSW will place Labor above the Coalition. Labor is yet to announce if it will direct upper house preferences to the Greens.

Campaign officials said Nettle’s re-election would be difficult and the party relied on volunteers since it didn’t accept corporate donations.

 “I’m hoping to lead us toward the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate,” Nettle said.

“I want to be back in the senate after this election so I can sit down and negotiate with the Labor party about what should replace work choices. I’m going to say that I don’t think that any worker in this country should be unfairly dismissed.”

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