The results are in!
Being queer doesn’t define who I am or how I vote, but as members of the LGBTI community we have a strong interest in knowing where the major parties stand on issues affecting us. And yes, that’s everything from schools to aged care – as well as the big-ticket item – marriage equality.
That’s why the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has partnered with LGBTI organisations around Australia to conduct a survey of the major political parties and their policies and positions on a range of issues affecting LGBTI people. The results are in and I’m pleased to say that all parties gave us largely positive responses. This is a big improvement on previous years and shows us how far we’ve come as a movement in a relatively short space of time.
Pleasingly, all three parties showed support for LGBTI health and well being, improved data collection, recognising and supporting LGBTI families and active engagement on human rights abuses against LGBTI people internationally. But the results bear closer examination.
The Coalition’s response, while largely positive, contained significant gaps on important questions.
Currently there is a big question mark over whether the Coalition will treat LGBTI families equally under their proposed paid parental leave scheme. The Coalition also needs to commit to ensuring they will not roll back achievements like the national LGBTI ageing and aged care strategy or making LGBTI rights a core part of Australian foreign policy.
Promisingly, the Coalition has said it will retain the Federal Government’s new ‘Sex and Gender Recognition Guidelines’. These guidelines ensure transgender, intersex and gender diverse people are treated respectfully and sensitively by government departments.
The ALP has gone further to say it will take a “strong” leadership role to encourage states and territories to reform laws and policies on documentation including birth certificates.
The ALP has also committed to taking a leadership role on adoption reform at the State and Territory level. This would be a very welcome step for Victoria where our current adoption laws explicitly discriminate against same-sex couples.
There was a pleasing level of cross-party support for anti-discrimination protections but, not surprisingly, the Greens went further to support the removal of blanket exemptions that permit religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Greens were also the only party to support much needed funding for the Australian Human Rights Commission and a Commissioner to promote LGBTI rights.
The disparity between the way our community’s needs are addressed by Government compared to other population groups never ceases to amaze me. We lack a responsible Minister, government infrastructure and dedicated funding for LGBTI advocacy groups. On these questions, most interestingly, the ALP have said it will consult with the community about the need for a “Ministerial Advisory Council” and potential spokesperson on LGBTI issues, flagging a move to the Victorian Labor approach - Martin Foley MP was recently appointed as shadow parliamentary secretary for LGBTI issues in Victoria.
Whatever the result this federal election, you can be assured that your Lobby and other volunteer groups will continue to speak as loudly as we can to make sure the needs of our community are considered on an equal footing to others.
Read the complete responses from the parties and our assessment at vglrl.org.au/lgbti2013 and make you vote an informed one this federal election.