The Coalition gained support from the minor parties to backdate the same-sex superannuation equality bill to the beginning of the current financial year.
The move was one of a small number of minor disagreements between the Government and the Opposition in a debate that showed how far parliament has come in attitudes to same-sex discrimination
But time is running out for politicians to pass the remaining equality reforms in 2008 with just two sitting weeks left this year.
It is of vital importance that Parliament passes these Bills before the end of the year. Every day that this legislation is delayed, lesbians and gay men all across Australia continue to be discriminated against financially and have their rights ignored simply because of their sexuality, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokesman Peter Johnson said.
The move to backdate the reforms was welcomed by the Lobby, who urged the Government to support it when the amendment goes to the House of Representatives next week.
When this legislation passes, the Attorney-General [Robert McClelland], along with all those who have pushed for and supported these reforms, will be responsible for a new age of equality for lesbians and gay men in Australia, Johnson said.
The Greens also praised McClelland for the historic undertaking of human rights reform, even though they didn’t get their wishlist of private superannuation funds, same-sex marriages and overseas registered relationships included.
Continuing the spirit of magnanimity, the Government’s two lesbian senators, Louise Pratt and Penny Wong, praised the Human Rights Commission for its inquiry and report into same-sex discrimination that preceded the new climate of equality.
Liberal senator George Brandis praised members from his own party’s more conservative faction, including Guy Barnett, Kevin Andrews and Scott Morrison, for coming on board during party room discussions despite being ideologically opposed to recognition of same-sex couples.
There is no point in introducing law reform designed to heal wounds and to bind society together if you do it in a divisive way. That means that you have to bring people with you, Senator Brandis told Parliament.
It has been a great achievement for the Liberal and National parties to have achieved consensus and unity on this issue in which the more liberal and the more conservative elements of those parties have been able to accommodate one another’s agendas, concerns, aspirations and scepticism and nevertheless reach a position where the opposition will unitedly be able to support these measures in their amended form.