The Gillard Government will introduce legislation this week to protect Australians against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.
“This reform is long overdue and too important to be delayed any further. The Government will proceed immediately with the new protection while detailed work continues on consolidating Australia’s anti-discrimination laws,” said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC.
“This new protection against discrimination for LGBTIQ Australians is an important next step to ensure equality for all Australians, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity,” said Senator Penny Wong.
“This legislation honours a long-standing Labor commitment and I am proud that the Gillard Government is introducing this Bill.”
“I urge the Parliament to debate and pass the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill to ensure gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are afforded the same protections as everyone else under Commonwealth law,” said Mr Dreyfus.
The new sexual orientation protection will build on the Labor Government’s reforms to 85 Commonwealth Acts which removed discrimination against same-sex couples and their children.
Those changes ensure that same-sex relationships are now treated in the same way as other de facto relationships for the purposes of Commonwealth entitlements and programs, including taxation, superannuation, health, aged care, immigration, child support and family law.
The Attorney-General also thanked the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for its report on the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill.
“The Committee’s inquiry into the draft Bill recommended significant policy, definitional and technical amendments which go well beyond the scope of the intended project. Nearly 100 recommendations were identified and will require deeper consideration in the process of consolidating five anti-discrimination acts into one piece of legislation,” said Mr Dreyfus.
“Meticulous attention must be applied to striking the appropriate balance between the right to freedom of speech and the right to be protected from discrimination. This is fundamental to our democracy. As recommended by the Senate Committee, the Attorney-General’s department will continue working on this project
“The Opposition’s only notable contribution to the anti-discrimination discussion has been its ugly threat to strip away protection against racial vilification, otherwise known as hate speech.
“Hate speech has no place in modern Australia. Tony Abbott and Senator Brandis should be condemned for this incredibly irresponsible attack on laws that have worked effectively for nearly 20 years,” said Mr Dreyfus.
“Section 18C has been used successfully in court action involving serious cases of racial abuse and intimidation, including cases where it had been asserted that the Holocaust never happened or that Indigenous people ‘faked’ their Indigenous heritage to gain beneficial outcomes.
“Cynically promoting themselves as heroes of free speech, do Mr Abbott and Senator Brandis really believe there is any context in which Australians should be free to publicly racially vilify others?
“Anyone who thinks there should be no boundary to keep hate speech out of our democracy is leading our nation down a very ugly and misguided path.
“Labor would never support the repeal of laws protecting Australians from hate speech and persecution.”