The Federal Government has said it is more probable than not that anti-discrimination reforms covering sexuality and gender identity will commence before the next election.
Speaking to gay and lesbian radio station JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne’s Rainbow Report last Thursday, Attorney-General Robert McClelland gave the first clear indication the Government intends to fulfill all of its GLBT policies in its first term.
It is certainly our platform and it is our intention to do that. We would like to do that on a nationally consistent basis, so that’s our intention and we’ll be working towards that, McClelland said.
He gave no set timeframe and did not clarify if the reforms would include a new federal law, similar to the federal sex and race discrimination acts, or convincing state governments to improve their protections.
More probable than not [this term] is the best way of putting it. We do want to get it right.
The comments come as government agencies prepare to start three separate public consultations on human rights and equality that McClelland said would be useful gauges of gay and lesbian and broader community opinion.
The National Human Rights Consultation, launched in December, is due to report by the end of July. Separately, the Australian Human Rights Commission has been tasked by a Senate committee to consider a new federal equality act and report by 2011 -” after the next federal election.
It follows new efforts by state and territory attorneys-general to make their equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws more consistent, but that project is expected to take many years.
Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam cautiously welcomed McClelland’s comments, saying he was pleased the Government had not yet finished with same-sex reforms.
He gave himself enough out to not do it, so I wouldn’t say it’s a firm indication but its a good indication, he said.
It’s a positive step along a long journey, but come July when that [human rights consultation] report actually comes out, it’ll be up to the Government to actually deliver on that indication and their party policy to introduce it before the end of the term.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convenor Emily Gray said it was important the reforms include federal legislation so the protections could be administered by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Sexuality discrimination is a big enough issue in Australia for it to be handled at a federal level, like sex and race discrimination, she said.
Current federal equal opportunity laws limit the Commission to only consider sexuality discrimination in employment, and state and territory protections are patchy.
In the Attorney-General’s first inter-view with the gay and lesbian press since the passage of the 58’08 reforms, McClelland also hit back at criticism the Government had not enacted a grandfather clause with its Centrelink changes, and again ruled out extending the July 1 deadline for those receiving social security.
The situation I think was ripe for creating a whole lot of anomalies, confusion and I think the way that it has been implemented is in accordance with policy, he said.
The direction of the changes was announced in April of last year, so we would like to think that people were on notice about adjusting to the changes.