ELECTION 2016: PARTIES MAKE THEIR PITCHES ON LGBTI ISSUES


Election 2016 Rainbow Votes Graphic

The results of a comprehensive election survey have revealed where political parties stand on key LGBTI issues ahead of the July 2 federal election.

The Rainbow Votes Coalition, made up of LGBTI rights and health organisations from across the country including the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group, surveyed six major and minor political parties on a range of issues affecting the LGBTI community.

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“We hope the provision of clear policy statements from the parties will help individual members of the LGBTI community and our allies in determining who to give their vote to this election,” the Rainbow Votes Coalition said.

Marriage Equality

On marriage equality, the Coalition said: “The Turnbull Government believes that a decision on same-sex marriage should be made by a vote by all Australians via a plebiscite as soon as possible after the election. If the majority of Australians vote ‘yes’ in the plebiscite, the Parliament should respect that decision and legalise same-sex marriage in Australia.”

Labor said: “A vote for Labor is a vote for marriage equality. A Shorten Labor Government will legislate for marriage equality within our first 100 days in office.”

The Greens said: “The Greens have been campaigning for marriage equality for more than a decade. We are the only party that has voted for equality – every bill, every time. Momentum continues to build and the Greens won’t rest until the community achieves marriage equality.”

All the minor parties surveyed – the Australian Sex Party, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Australian Equality Party – also pledged to support marriage equality.

LGBTI Health and HIV Prevention

The Coalition, Labor and the Greens all made detailed commitments to improving the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI people.

“We are delighted to see parties have highlighted the unique health needs of LGBTI people and provided strategies for addressing them. Whatever party forms government, we will work with our community partners to ensure the parties follow through on their commitments to LGBTI health,” Victorian AIDS Council CEO Simon Ruth said.

Among the minor parties, the Sex Party and the Equality Party also gave commitments to LGBTI health.

A separate, HIV-focused survey of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens conducted by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) showed all three parties have pledged to support both the Seventh National HIV Strategy, finishing in 2017, and the Eighth National HIV Strategy, set to commence in 2018.

All three parties committed to following the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Advisory Committee on increasing accessibility to HIV prevention medication PrEP, a.k.a. Truvada, by listing it on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The committee will meet in July.

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LGBTI Youth and Safe Schools

On the issue of the Safe Schools program, the Coalition, Labor and the Greens all pledged broad support for the national rollout of the program.

Labor said they “strongly support the Safe Schools Program as a vital tool to combat schoolyard bullying. Labor believes that all students have a right to be safe and secure at school regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Labor funded the national roll-out of Safe Schools and we will continue to tackle bullying and discrimination.”

The Coalition said they believe “no one should feel unsafe at school” and Safe Schools “has two worthy objectives. First, to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools and promote an inclusive learning environment. Second, to support students who face personal issues in terms of their gender identity and sexual orientation.” They defended the Turnbull Government’s controversial review of the program earlier this year, saying its purpose “was, in part, to give confidence” to parents and schools, and they hoped the changes made “will encourage schools who have not yet signed on to the program to consider joining the coalition of safe schools, confident in the appropriateness of the resources.”

Neither of the parties committed to additional funding for the program after its funding contract ends in 2017, but the Greens promised to expand its current funding from $2 million annually, to $8 million annually. “The Greens believe that the education of our young people on respect, inclusion and celebrating diversity is incredibly important,” they said.

The Sex Party and the Equality Party said they will both continue to advocate for the program.

LGBTI Representation in Government

In response to the issue of a government spokesperson and commissioner for LGBTI affairs, the Coalition said issues relating to LGBTI equality “generally fall within the Attorney-General’s portfolio. If re-elected, the Coalition will continue to consult with the LGBTI organisations across the broad range of policy issues affecting LGBTI Australians.” The Coalition also said the Human Rights Commission’s full-time commissioner would be tasked with LGBTI advocacy.

Labor didn’t commit to a party spokesperson for LGBTI affairs, instead pointing to their proposal for a full-time LGBTI Discrimination Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission.

“We’re pleased that a Coalition Attorney General will have responsibility for LGBTI equality, ensuring that our issues are heard at the Cabinet table. We’re disappointed that Labor has not committed to a party spokesperson for LGBTI affairs. The Greens and the Victorian Labor Party have long had an LGBTI spokesperson; it’s time federal Labor followed their lead,” Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s Sean Mulcahy said.

The Greens said they have two spokespeople dedicated to LGBTI equality, Senator Robert Simms and Senator Janet Rice. Both the Greens and the Sex Party support the creation of a dedicated Commonwealth commissioner for LGBTI equality and also an LGBTI ministerial advisory group within government.

Transgender and Gender Diverse People

The parties were surveyed on specific issues facing transgender, gender diverse and intersex people. All parties made broad commitments to support their health and wellbeing.

Transgender children under 18 can’t access “stage 2” hormone treatments without the approval of the Family Court, a lengthy and costly process.

In response, the Coalition said: “Access to stage 2 hormone treatment is currently available on the PBS under certain conditions. The Coalition has no plans to amend the PBS availability of testosterone where the use is medically indicated.”

Labor said: “The court process creates difficulty for transgender children and their parents. A Shorten Labor Government will examine this issue and work towards a more streamlined approach to access to Stage 2 hormone treatment.”

The Greens said: “Young transgender people shouldn’t have to go through this expensive and time consuming legal processes. There’s no reason that we should continue subjecting young people to this cruel bureaucratic process.”

When asked about publicly funding transgender people’s surgeries, Labor pointed to their national platform, stating: “Cost should not be a barrier to accessing these services and/or surgery, and Labor commits to removing, wherever possible, out-of-pocket health expenses for transgender people incurred in relation to their gender identity.”

The Coalition did not provide a specific response.

The Greens said: “These procedures are often prohibitively expensive or categorised as cosmetic procedures, and we want to see those barriers removed in order to ensure accessible and affordable treatment and surgeries, no matter what a person’s income may be.”

LGBTI Aging and Aged Care

Neither the Coalition nor Labor made a solid commitment to renew the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy until a review of the strategy is completed in June next year.

“The Government has established a Departmental working group to guide the implementation of the Strategy,” the Coalition said, pointing to $7.1 million allocated over 5 years to give LGBTI sensitivity training to aged care workers.

Labor said they’re committed to the strategy, including “the annual reporting, review and consultation to set priorities for future work.” The previous Labor government spent $2.5 million on sensitivity training, they said.

The Greens said they support the ongoing delivery of the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy, support the provision of sensitivity training and supported the development of a new five-year strategy addressing the needs of older LGBTI people.

Read the major and minor parties’ full survey responses to these issues and more at the Rainbow Votes website here.