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Federal

Jun 18, 2013

Coalition split on gay exemption aged-care providers don't want

UPDATED: The Coalition wants to ensure church-run aged care providers can deny beds to gay people. But the organisations tell Crikey they don't discriminate -- and don't want the protection to do it.

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At least one Coalition member will cross the floor in protest as the federal opposition doubles down to protect the right of church-run care providers to deny beds to elderly homosexual, transgender and intersex people – a right religious providers say they don’t even want.

Senator Sue Boyce, speaking on amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to protect LGBTI people from unfair discrimination, said religious organisations can’t have it both ways; claiming to not discriminate yet keeping the right to do so in taxpayer-funded aged care services:

“Why should we allow aged-care institutions that are funded by the federal government to decide who the residents of those aged-care facilities will be based on the sexual orientation or the sexual status of the people involved? I do not think it is reasonable for that to be the right of the organisations.”

Religious aged-care providers contacted by Crikey yesterday — including Catholic Health Australia, Anglicare Australia, UnitingCare Australia and Mission Australia — agree with Boyce. They overwhelmingly support the removal of the exemption.

WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith, who is gay, will abstain. The remainder of the Coalition will vote against reforms as a whole if religious exemptions in public-funded aged care were removed, shadow attorney-general George Brandis told the Senate last night.

Despairing that a bipartisan agreement to pass the first federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTI people has been undone by the religious aged care amendment, Brandis accused Labor of betraying the gay community through a “deliberate and cynical act” with their tactics.

However, Crikey understands the Coalition decision was a rushed response to appear united after Senator Gary Humphries unilaterally took up the issue in his committee minority report on the bill. Humphries cited submissions from the Australian Christian Lobby and the Catholic’s Women’s League Australia — both ideological lobby groups and not aged care providers — and mischaracterised the view of Catholic Health Australia, which has said it does not oppose exemption removal.

Last week, the reform had bipartisan support after months of negotiations between Brandis, church-owned providers and human rights advocates.

UnitingCare Australia national director Lin Hatfield-Dodds says the Uniting Church is “strongly supportive” of the reforms and the removal of the religious exemption. “It’s about the dignity of every person in need. We respect and celebrate everybody in our care,” she said.

Mission Australia CEO Toby Hall says its services are offered “without judgement”, regardless of belief, background or sexual orientation. “We do not consider such an exemption should apply to the provision of goods and services such as residential aged care, which may otherwise be used to discriminate … in the provision of these services,” he said.

Anglicare Australia cited its mission of dignity, respect and care in its support of the reforms, and Catholic Health Australia also questioned the need for the exemptions. CHA’s CEO Martin Laverty says the very existence of the exemption would come as a surprise to many Catholic health sector workers.

Laverty, writing in CHA’s Health Matters, identified scope for further reform:

“Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby has asked why the legislation can’t be expanded beyond its current remit to also require religious schools and hospitals to lose their right to discriminate in who they provide services to. Justice Kirby’s question about hospitals is a good one. Catholic hospitals don’t discriminate in either employment practice or service delivery, so why is the current exemption still necessary?”

Abbott’s office responded to questions by pointing to Brandis’ speech last night.

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15 comments

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15 thoughts on “Coalition split on gay exemption aged-care providers don’t want

  1. Callie G

    Well Really, so are they also going to refuse beds to Peadophiles, flashers, rapists, racists, armed robbers, perpetrators of domestic violence, drunk drivers, drug addicts, con artists, flim flam artists, grifters, or other assorted convicted criminals? perhaps atheists, agnostics or any other non believers? Seriously, SERIOUSLY, WTF They cannot be selective about who is protected by anti-discrimination laws. They apply to all or none.
    What are the managers supposed to do, stand at the door and question everyone about their sexual preference and genital status?

    Yet another LNP Policy to kick the disadvantaged while they are down.
    Shame on you Mr Humphries, Shame on you.

    BTW according to the bible it is not a sin to BE homosexual, Lesbian, Transexual, or Intersex.

  2. Liamj

    Prediction: Abbott govt tweaks funding rules to preference homophobic facilities.

  3. Person Ordinary

    Abbott will find a way to pretend he does not share such profound ignorance, and the media will let him get away with it. For now …

  4. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    Outsource aged care to religeous organisations and this is what you get.

  5. The Pav

    So here is a chance for Abbott to show real leaderhip and prove that his right wing religous beliefs will not impede his ability to govern fairly for all Australians and what does he do.

    HE CHICKENS OUT…….Typical behaviour of a school yard bully. No character and no guts.

    Look carefully people of Australia at the type of leader you will be getting

  6. Kieren Ash

    Typical Brandis, driving a wedge where none is needed. I see no reason for religious groups to deny services to gay people. That is not what loving religious organisations are about. I say this as a Christian and a lefty.

  7. Holden Back

    ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

    “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Mathew 25: 35-46

    ACL & CWL where do you see yourselves in this? And this ain’t St. Paul, this is Himself.

  8. Mark from Melbourne

    Just another occasion where I fail to understand Australian politics…

  9. The Pav

    Dear M o M @8

    Politics are currently being driven by the extremism of Abbott.

    Such extremism is irrational and illogical and thus beyond reasoned comprehension hence your inability to understand.

    Does that help?

  10. klewso

    Prediction :- After Abbott wins such politicking to which he lowers himself now, will be branded “un-Australian”?

  11. klewso

    And good on Dean Smith, for the courage of his convictions – after his politics?

  12. Harry Rogers

    Religions have never discriminated against the sick and the needy so what the point of this story. Just another beat up from a prodigious group of spin merchants.

  13. Malcolm Street

    Garry gutless wonder Humphries goes down even further in my estimation.

  14. Person Ordinary

    “Just another occasion where I fail to understand Australian politics…”

    The media strips all positive messages and positive emotions from its political reporting. (It saves positive messages for its advertising and shallow content, to serve its main business.)

  15. Stephen

    Say, let’s apply the Gonski principle.

    Let them discriminate to billy-o in staffing and admissions, but give them the same base grant.

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