Federal Labor and the Coalition have again voted down a Greens proposal to appoint an LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The Human Rights Commission is Australia’s top human rights body and investigates discrimination complaints and promotes human rights in Australia and internationally.
On Thursday, the Senate passed a piece of government legislation with measures to strengthen transparency around the appointment processes for commissioners.
But Labor and the Coalition rejected a Greens amendment to the bill that would also establish a dedicated LGBTIQA+ commissioner to sit on the Commission for the first time.
“We have seen in the last few years attack after attack on that community, often coming from the right of politics,” Greens MP David Shoebridge (above, centre) told the Senate.
“These have been ugly, divisive attacks from the right of politics.
“It’s about time that the LGBTIQA+ community had a commissioner on their side. Someone to go to who is unambiguously on their side.
“So that when the next set of attacks come – and they almost certainly will come from some ugly part of the political right in this country – they are guaranteed to have a commissioner on their side who is fully resourced to go in to bat for them.”
The amendment was first introduced by lower house Greens MP Stephen Bates (above right).
Shoebridge pointed out a Commissioner was a Labor commitment ahead of the 2019 federal election.
Labor and Coalition vote down Greens amendment
Speaking on behalf of the government, Assistant Minister for Education Anthony Chisholm said that the government’s bill was “an essential part of the government’s integrity agenda”.
But on the Greens’ amendment, Chisholm said Labor MPs would vote it down as it was “unrelated to the subject matter of this bill”.
“The government recognises that it is important to consider how best the commission can operate to promote and protect the human rights of all members of the Australian community, including LGBTIQA+ people,” he said.
“I acknowledge the work that the commission already undertakes in relation to LGBTIQA+ rights, led by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.
“By way of example, in 2021 the commission reported on the human rights of people born with variations in sex characteristics in the context of medical intervention.
“In addition, the Commission is engaging in the WorldPride [human rights conference] due to take place next year.”
Senator Chisholm added, “There will no doubt be further discussion on the proposal for creation of an LGBTIQA+ commissioner, as well as other opportunities to strengthen the work of the commission in the future.”
‘There is no dedicated Commissioner for LGBTIQA+ human rights’
Just Equal Australia criticised Federal Labor and the Coalition for blocking the appointment of an LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner.
President Brian Greig said, “The AHRC has specific commissioners for Sex, Race, Age, Disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Children and Human Rights.
“But there is no dedicated Commissioner for LGBTIQA+ human rights.
“There is clearly an urgent need for a specific commissioner given the increasing attacks on LGBTIQA+ rights and inclusion.
“Whether it’s trans exclusion in sport, sacking teachers, ending unnecessary surgery on people with innate variations of sex characteristics, gay blood donation, inclusive schools programs or the so-called ‘religious freedom’ debate, our issues need an informed voice.
“Australia needs an articulate, educated, and front-footed LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner to explain the facts, defend human rights principles and help guide government policy.
“The lack of an LGBTIQA+ commissioner sends the message that discrimination against us is less important than against other minorities.”
Grieg said the group would continue to campaign for the appointment of a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Commissioner.
“We will campaign particularly hard if the Albanese Government appoints a religious freedom commissioner as part of its promised Religious Discrimination Bill, but fails to also appoint an LGBTIQA+ Commissioner,” he said.
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