Former Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has contradicted his party on legal recognition for same-sex couples.
The Wentworth MP, while not in favour of same-sex marriage, has thrown his support behind federally recognised civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
His stand comes just days after the Coalition released a GLBTI issues platform in response to an election survey conducted by the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG).
After learning on Monday that every other candidate in Wentworth supported same-sex marriage or civil unions, Turnbull clarified comments he made to Sydney Star Observer in May that he was open to same-sex couples being given a form of recognition under federal law.
A media advisor for Turnbull told Sydney Star Observer, “Mr Turnbull believes that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. However, he supports same-sex civil unions”.
When asked to clarify if this meant civil unions under federal law she said, “Yes”.
In Wentworth the Greens’ Matthew Robertson, Labor’s Steven Lewis, the Secular Party’s John August, the Carers Alliance’s Stuart Neal and independent Pat Shiel all support same-sex marriage, while another independent, Malcolm Duncan, supports civil unions.
Days before, Coalition federal campaign director Brian Loughnane released a statement to the TGLRG ruling out formal recognition of same-sex couples under federal law if the Coalition wins power, mirroring Labor’s policy of leaving it to the states.
“The regulation of same-sex relationships is a matter for the states and territories … In that context, the Coalition has no plans to introduce civil unions or relationship registers for same-sex couples.”
In the same statement, the Coalition condemned “all forms of discrimination”, recognising that “amendments to Commonwealth legislation may be necessary in respect of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” but had no plans for an inquiry that might bring to light deficiencies in that area.
On GLBTI young people in schools, the Coalition touted the National Safe Schools Framework and National Safe Schools Week initiatives introduced while they were in government, but then cited the National School Chaplaincy Program, which sends religious chaplains into state schools, as something that might alleviate bullying of GLBTI youth.
On GLBTI health the Coalition supported a health system that “supports Australians regardless of their economic or social status or their sexuality”, but ruled out the creation of “new national health plans that are tailored to help specific groups”.
On transgender issues the statement says the Coalition will seriously consider the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission on sex and gender identity, while misnaming the report the Commission produced on the subject.
On violence against GLBTI people the Coalition would not fund a national strategy to combat homophobic violence, “because the Labor government has left the budget in a parlous state”.
TGLRG spokesman Rodney Croome said the Coalition’s response was a big disappointment.
“The Coalition has offered few concrete commitments to the GLBTI community and has failed to improve its GLBTI platform since the last election,” Croome said.
The TGLRG hopes to publish platform statements of GLBTI issues in the coming week.