The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recommendations on same-s-x discrimination will be discussed by Cabinet before the next election, the Sydney Star Observer reports.
However, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has refused to outline which of the 58 recommended areas for action may be tackled.
“Previous reforms by the Howard government have been incremental and largely regulatory rather than legislative, in areas like military benefits and public superannuation schemes,” the SSO observes.
“Ruddock may put forward a strong case for larger reform based on the HREOC recommendations, but it’s clear there will be resistance,” the paper quotes activist Rodney Croome as saying.
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“The problem with the case by case approach is we have no way of knowing what issues are at the top of their list, or the timeframe.”
Liberal MP Warren Entsch says “I know from discussions that the Attorney-General has agreed to put forward a number of the initiatives. I don’t know what they are yet, but I’ve already put my list in with superannuation at the top.”
Pressure on the federal government for action will increase with the publication of a report by the ANU’s Democratic Audit of Australia which finds the commonwealth is lagging behind the states in removing discrimination against gay Australians.
The report, prepared by Sarah Maddison of the University of New South Wales and Emma Partridge from the University of Technology, Sydney, examines the impact of legislative and policy frameworks as well as social attitudes that affect the rights of gay, lesbian, transs-xual and inter-s-x Australians.
“Being openly gay is no longer an automatic barrier to a successful public life, and same-s-x families are becoming increasingly accepted,” Maddison says.
“We have seen significant legislative and policy change by state and territory governments but we haven’t seen concurrent change at a federal level, leaving Australia lagging behind comparable countries, especially in the area of relationship recognition.”
Human Rights commissioner Graeme Innes says the report provided further evidence of the need to change legislation which discriminated against people because they love a person of the same s-x.
“HREOC’s recently released report, Same S-x: Same Entitlements, reveals that 58 federal laws deny same-s-x couples and families basic financial and work-related entitlements which opposite-s-x couples and their families take for granted,” Mr Innes says.
“Those laws cover a wide range of fundamental entitlements, including carer’s leave to look after a sick partner, access to the Medicare and PBS Safety Nets and superannuation and workers’ compensation death benefits for the same-s-x partners of federal government employees.
“These discriminatory laws breach human rights.”