Malcolm Turnbull’s maintaining a sunny disposition on the issue of same-s-x rights.

“As has been previously indicated by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, the Australian Government is committed to removing discrimination from relevant legislation in connection with same-s-x relationships,” he recently wrote in a letter to a constituent.

“Furthermore, you may also be aware that I continue to advocate for such reform in all the available forums. I will be discussing with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General the Australian Government’s response to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s report Same-Sex: Same Entitlements.”

Well, you would say that if your seat was Wentworth, wouldn’t you?

Veteran gay activist Rodney Croome is trying to look on the bright side too, but he ends up seeing red. “Hope is always greater than the obstacles which test it,” he said last week.

“The past couple of days has seen me again seated in the offices of the most senior government officials, again making the case for same-s-x couple entitlements.

“And again the response has been that, because of cost and other implications, the Government will only consider same-s-x entitlements on ‘a case-by-case basis’, and not the thorough-going elimination of discrimination recommended by a recent Human Rights Commission report on the issue.”

Croome declared it wonderful timing when news broke just before his meetings began of a letter to the Government from openly-gay High Court judge Michael Kirby seeking equal spousal entitlements in federal judicial pensions.

“Isn’t the issue of judicial pensions just the kind of single, definable ‘case’ the Government says it will tackle?,” he asked. “Aren’t the budgetary and other impacts easy to assess?”

His grim conclusion is: “It seems not.”

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has declared “I don’t think it would be appropriate to deal just with high-profile High Court officers in isolation from the broader question of (gay law reform)…it is not a matter in which we are going to act in isolation.”

To which Croome responds “Is it any wonder that long-time champions of reform within Government ranks, like Warren Entsch, are fed up”

“They have respected the limits placed on the issue by the Government. They have backed off marriage, civil unions and de facto recognition. They have championed the enfranchisement of same-s-x partners as inter-dependants. They have agreed to a staged, gradual, ‘case-by-case’ approach.

“And still nothing happens because it’s ‘too expensive’, ‘too complex’; because the Government doesn’t want to act on issues ‘in isolation’.”

Still, Croome declares he will keep on going.

Last week, he says, the Prime Minister’s advisors gave a sincere commitment to passing on the issues he raised to their boss.

He says Ruddock gave a commitment to present a submission to Cabinet on the HREOC report before the election.

Significantly, he comments “a small sign of the sincerity of this commitment is that, of all the reports that cross his desk daily, only the HREOC report has found its way into his bag for him to read and digest when he has a quiet moment”.

So his conclusion seems right. “It’s not much, especially when we consider how much needs to happen. But at least the HREOC report is still alive. At least there’s a path forward.”

It’s time to book your next dose of Crikey.

Through the week, news comes at you fast. Every day there’s a new disaster, depressing numbers or a scandal to doom-scroll to. It’s exhausting, and not good for your health.

Book your next dose of Crikey to get on top of it all. Subscribe now and get your first 12 weeks for $12. And you’ll help us too, because every dollar we get helps us dig even deeper.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.