Australian same-sex marriage activists are poised to use the Rudd Government’s new Human Rights Framework to push forward same-sex marriage rights.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland last week announced the Government would establish a Joint Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and implement a Statement of Compatibility to go with each new bill introduced to Parliament to ensure legislation complies with seven core international human rights treaties which Australia has signed.

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said Australia’s ban on same-sex marriage must be reviewed immediately.

“Courts around the world have found that laws which prohibit marriages between same-sex couples are in breach of fundamental human rights,” he told Southern Star.

“At the earliest opportunity we will ask the new human rights committee to consider these decisions and rule our discriminatory marriage laws to be a human rights violation.”

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam said, coming off the back of disappointing news federal anti-discrimination legislation covering sexual orientation and gender diversity had not been addressed in the framework, the proposed new measures were a positive first step.

“Sunlight’s always the best form of antiseptic so having a forum to be able to identify the issues doesn’t guarantee our rights and doesn’t guarantee the Government won’t say, ‘Thank you, we’re going to do this anyway’, ” he said.

“What it does do, however, is ensure there is a voice for the issues to be raised, there’s an appropriate mechanism for them to be discussed. As to whether it’s going to be a good outcome, we actually need to wait and see what they deliver.”

The parliamentary committee — involving both Houses of Parliament — will have the power to investigate existing laws and bills as well as initiate wider inquiries into human rights.

Australian Human Rights Commission president Catherine Branson said the Attorney-General’s announcement would rightly focus the Government’s attention on Australia’s international human rights obligations.

Branson said she hoped the changes would force Parliament to deal with human rights upfront, rather than in “an ad hoc way after the event”.

“Human rights are not political tools and should be considered in a bipartisan way,” she said.

“We believe a joint committee is one of the most effective mechanisms Parliament can use to achieve this.”
Branson has been appointed to serve on the Administrative Review Council which gives advice to the federal Attorney-General on matters of federal administrative law.

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