A tripartisan federal parliamentary group established by Coalition MP Warren Entsch to deal with ‘forgotten’ LGBTI issues has been broadly welcomed by the community.
In what’s being hailed as an Australian first, Entsch announced the formation of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for LGBTI Australians (PFLGBTIA), which has the support of Labor MP Graham Perrett and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Entsch, who will chair the group, said the move will offer LGBTI Australians a chance to have a say on issues other than same-sex marriage.
“This has not been set up as a platform to push marriage,” Entsch told the Star Observer.
“It’s all been about gay marriage in recent times. If I just looked in the media, I’d think nothing else happens … but there are serious issues out there that people are actually dying because of.
“There are a lot of people there who have very strong views one way or the other on marriage and I don’t want them to feel by them coming out to support me in removing a whole range of discriminatory areas that I am using that as some covert way of achieving a hidden agenda on marriage.”
Entsch said the group has attracted interest from all sides of politics. Its first gathering at Parliament House will be in September.
Entsch is a longstanding parliamentary ally of the GLBT community, helping to set the wheels in motion for 2008’s same-sex law reforms, ending discrimination for same-sex couples in 85 federal laws.
The Queensland MP refused to be drawn on his position on same-sex marriage but said he supports civil unions and has unfinished business to connect parliamentarians with LGBTI people to put a “human face” to a range of issues.
“I discovered areas that were missing, for example, aged care … gender and identity and the way governments deal with it,” Entsch said.
“These things don’t tend to be spoken about a lot, but I think we need to.” Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) spokeswoman Martine Delaney welcomed the announcement, saying there has been little action for reform for transgender and intersex Australians.
“This will ensure parliamentarians are very much aware of issues facing sex and/or gender diverse Australians,” Delaney said.
ACE spokesman Corey Irlam said the group was an opportunity to deal with other issues which have long been on the agenda such as federal anti-discrimination laws covering sexuality and gender identity.
Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia president Gina Wilson said it was the first parliamentary friends group to be intersex-inclusive.
National LGBTI Health Alliance chair Paul Martin called the group an “important development” to move on LGBTI health issues that have fallen out of the spotlight.
“The health needs of LGBTI people are very broad, and have not received adequate focus to date,” Martin said.
“A multi-partisan group will be a valuable way in which these health issues can be considered.”
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said he was disappointed Entsch had shown support for same-sex civil unions over marriage.