THE Queensland Labor opposition have promised to restore funding to the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC), reintroduce state-sanctioned civil unions, protect existing rights around same-sex surrogacy and implement the Safe Schools Coalition to tackle homophobic bullying if re-elected.
The Opposition Leader has made her pitch to win over LGBTI voters in the state with several commitments announced today by the Labor candidate for Brisbane Central, Grace Grace.
“A Labor government is committed to restoring funding to the Queensland Aids Council,” Grace said.
“We will also restore the repealed Civil Partnership legislation, leave the Surrogacy Act of 2010 as it presently stands, and implement the Safe School project.”
National spokesperson for the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Shelley Argent has been leading a charge for making sure that concerns from the LGBTI community be considered alongside other election issues.
Speaking on behalf of Opposition Leader Annastasia Palaszczuk, Labor’s deputy leader Tim Mulherin spoke to LGBTI issues in a letter addressed to Argent.
“A future Labor government will reassess the allocation of funding to all primary health services providers. In so doing, one of the criteria will be the effectiveness of service delivery. Labor will ensure budget resources are allocated fairly and appropriately,” Mulherin said.
Addressing what he saw as a “prejudicial…breach of trust” with Queensland, Mulherin said that Labor would restore the 2011 civil union legislation that was rolled back by the LNP to a “relationships register”.
“A re-elected Labor Government will amend the civil unions legislation to ensure the provisions removed from the 2011 legislation by the LNP Government are restored.”
Speaking to civil unions, a spokesperson for Grace said that the reintroduction of the legislation is a step in the right direction while the issue undergoes debate on a federal level.
“We are ultimately striving for federal marriage equality, but if we are elected, Labor will reintroduce an important recognition of same-sex relationships, something that was so cruelly watered down,” a spokesperson said.
During the LNP’s term in office, plans to introduce legislation to criminalise altruistic same-sex surrogacy were quietly shelved after it failed to attract support within the party room.
Mulherin said that Labor would end the speculation of a return of the legislation by promising not to amend the existing laws introduced in 2010 to legalise the practice.
On the issue of the “gay panic defence”, Mulherin said Labor would commit to enacting recommendations made in 2012 by an expert committee, which said unwanted sexual advances were not enough to establish a partial defence in court “unless there were exceptional circumstances”.
Progress has started on the issue of expunging convictions for historical gay sex crimes in Queensland, and the deputy-leader said that Labor would continue to show support and “refer the issue to the Queensland Law Reform Commission for its consideration of the appropriateness of making this change to the law and, if so, how it should be effected”.
Queensland is the only state to have a discrepancy in the age of consent between vaginal and anal sex, a difference that Mulherin acknowledges places some younger people at risk of sexual health issues.
“A re-elected Labor Government will establish an expert committee…who will consider the implications of this issue, and make recommendations based on the best available evidence, to promote the health and well-being of sexually active young people.” Mulherin said.
Lastly, Mulherin committed the party to introduce the Safe Schools Coalition — an anti-homophobic bullying initiative that has already been adopted in Victoria and New South Wales.
“A Labor Government will develop a clear policy for school leaders to address issues commonly faced by [LGBTI] students,” Mulherin said.
“Unfortunately the Newman Government is yet to ensure that the [federally funded] project is delivered to Queensland students, thereby failing in their duty to ensure that Queensland schools are safe, supportive and respectful.
“A future Labor government will ensure than an open and transparent tender process is held to select a community-based provider to deliver the federal Safe Schools program in Queensland schools.”
On several other LGBTI issues including state-approval of “gay reparative” therapies, same-sex adoption, support for the Brisbane Pride Festival, the majority closure of the Brisbane Sexual Health Clinic and recognition of overseas same-sex marriages, a spokesperson for the Opposition Leader said that Labor was still reviewing them and was “open” to further progress being made.
The Star Observer has contacted the government for a response on the issues raised in Labor’s LGBTI election platform.
A forum for the LGBTI community in the seat of Brisbane Central is being held tonight and will be attended by all LNP, Labor, Greens and independent candidates.