Judicial discrimination stoush

Judicial discrimination stoush

Wentworth MP Malcolm Turnbull has been accused of hypocrisy after voting with the Government to block the first of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recommendations this week.

Labor frontbencher Nicola Roxon moved to give the same-sex partners of judges equal pension benefits.

But Attorney-General Philip Ruddock claimed the Government had more comprehensive equality reforms in mind for pension rights across Commonwealth professions.

[Labor] wants to deal with one in isolation. In order that those matters can be dealt with in a considered way, the Government rejects the amendment, Ruddock told Parliament.

He revisited cost as a reason for reform delays.

The Judges’ Pensions Act of 1968 was the first of the 58 discriminatory laws to be debated in parliament since the HREOC Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report was released in June.

The push has been referred to as the Kirby Amendment because of the high-profile same-sex relationship of High Court Justice Michael Kirby, who called on Ruddock to fix the discriminatory law last month.

Introducing the amendment, Labor’s Nicola Roxon demanded that Turnbull and other Liberal MPs who claimed to support equality cross the floor over the issue.

There is no logical reason or rationale for continuing to refuse access to these pensions to same-sex de facto couples, Roxon said. The issue of whether homosexuality should be legal is well and truly settled.

A spokesman for Turnbull said the amendment left out the thousands of other Commonwealth servants in same-sex relationships.

Malcolm has been working with the Attorney-General on the issue, the spokesman said. It’s about more than just federal judges.

But his rival for the crucial pink seat of Wentworth, Labor candidate George Newhouse, said the gay community had a right to be outraged by Turnbull’s about face.

It’s hypocrisy -“ they say they’re for gay rights, then they vote against it, Newhouse said. Turnbull should have crossed the floor. The gay community knows action speaks louder than words.

A Labor spokesman said the shadow attorney-general Joe Ludwig would re-introduce the amendment when the Government’s proposed amendment reaches the Senate.

Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey seemed surprised by Labor’s support for same-sex equality, and called for the policy to be put on YouTube or wherever they publicise these things these days so taxpayers would be aware.

I do not think they think that their taxes should be used to pay pensions in this situation, Tuckey said.

The Government will announce its response to the HREOC recommendations before the election.

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