PEOPLE attempting to “convert” gay people through medical or therapeutic means would be banned in Victoria and may face up to two years in prison if they continue to practice under proposed new legislation.

The Health Complaints Bill 2016 was introduced in state parliament yesterday, with aims to crack down on dangerous and unregistered health practitioners.

The bill would replace the existing Health Services Commissioner with a new watchdog, the Health Complaints Commissioner.

The new commissioner would have greater power to take action against any unethical health providers who aren’t registered under law, such as those providing gay “conversion” therapy.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government has zero tolerance for those trying to “convert” LGBTI community members.

“The government is committed to combating discrimination and homophobia wherever it exists, and I find any discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender abhorrent,” she told the Star Observer.

“We have zero tolerance for any person purporting to be able to ‘convert’ gay people through medical or therapeutic means.

“Any attempts to make people feel uncomfortable with their own sexuality is completely unacceptable.”

Under the proposed new laws, anyone would be able to make a complaint to the commissioner, not just the person who received the health service.

The commissioner would also be able to instigate an investigation even when no complaint has been lodged, and would be able to name and shame providers in the media in order to protect the public.

“The bill will enable a new Health Complaints Commissioner to investigate and crack down on anyone making unproven claims that they can ‘convert’ gay people,” Hennessy said.

“If they are found to be making false claims and to be acting in a manner that puts people’s physical, mental, or psychological health, safety, or welfare at risk, the Commissioner will be able to ban them from providing such services.”

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) co-convenor Rachael Hambleton said welcomed the bill’s introduction.

“The view that your sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed is deeply damaging, and such treatments can cause harm to the individuals health and wellbeing,” she told the Star Observer.

“The criminalising of this practice may only serve to push it further underground, so it is good to see the government adopting a regulatory approach focused on protecting consumers.

“We know that every professional health body in Australia is opposed to conversion therapy including the Australian Psychological Society (APS)… treating same-sex attraction or gender identity as though it is a choice sends negative messages to these people.

“We hope the bill will send a clear message that sexual orientation and gender identity is not a disorder.”

The proposed laws would also prevent healthcare practitioners who aren’t regulated under national health practitioner regulation law and are banned in other states from moving to Victoria and offering their healthcare services here.

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