National LGBTIQ advocacy group Equality Australia has released responses from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens on more than a dozen policy areas affecting the LGBTIQ community ahead of the upcoming federal election.
The parties’ responses have all been published on the Equality Australia website, and cover 18 different areas including discrimination, health, education, intersex issues, transgender health, family law and LGBTIQ refugees.
On the issue of discrimination in religious schools, the Coalition said they had ordered an Australian Law Reform Commission review into religious exemptions in discrimination law, which currently allow discrimination against staff and students based on sexuality and gender identity in most states.
“The ALRC inquiry is designed to ensure that legislative exemptions to discrimination based on a person’s identity are limited or removed, while also protecting the right of religious institutions to conduct their affairs in a way consistent with their religious ethos,” the Coalition said in its response.
In its response, Labor committed to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to remove the exemptions that permit religious schools to discriminate against both students and staff, but argued the party “[does] not believe freedom from discrimination and religious freedom are mutually exclusive.”
Labor also committed to scrapping discriminatory clauses in federal laws such as the Fair Work Act that affect transgender and intersex people, as did the Greens in their response.
If elected, Labor said it will appoint the first federal Equality Minister to cabinet “to lead the development of policies and programs for LGBTIQ people and their families,” as well as appoint a dedicated LGBTIQ human rights commissioner and establish an LGBTIQ ministerial advisory council. The three commitments were matched by the Greens.
On LGBTIQ health, the Coalition this week promised an extra $2 million in funding to the National LGBTI Health Alliance over two years to fund national counselling and peer support service QLife, and $4 million to the National LGBTI Health Alliance over three years to provide LGBTIQ+ Awareness Training to ageing and aged care providers and workers.
The Coalition said its $1.45 billion investment over three years for nationwide mental health services would address anxiety and depression experienced by LGBTIQ Australians.
Labor pledged to deliver a National LGBTIQ Health and Inclusion Strategy in collaboration with LGBTIQ organisations aimed at addressing a range of health issues including mental health; trans and gender diverse people’s health; and smoking, alcohol and drug use.
Labor committed $10 million annually in funding for HIV and $3 million a year in HIV funding to reach “hidden” populations including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Labor said it would provide $3 million in grants funding to LGBTIQ organisations, as well as $10 million for Victoria’s Pride Centre.
The Greens pledged to establish a $70 million grants scheme for LGBTIQ+ community organisations to self organise and advocate for LGBTIQ issues, and promised to establish a national LGBTIQ+ health strategy to ensure access to “holistic and comprehensive health services regardless of whether they live in a capital city or a rural town.”
On Medicare access to gender affirmation treatment for transgender and gender diverse people, Labor said they “will ensure that Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme continue to implement anti-discriminatory policies for LGBTIQ Australians and that same sex couples and their families are not discriminated against in their access to or use of Medicare or the PBS.”
The Coalition said it would takes the advice of the Medical Services Advisory Committee regarding what medical treatments are listed under Medicare.
The Greens will invest $1.7 million in the LGBTI Health Alliance and its partner organisations to facilitate health programs and initiatives that will benefit trans and gender diverse people in Australia.
On school LGBTIQ inclusion programs, Labor pledged to “properly resource” inclusion and anti-bullying programs and resources for teachers.
The Coalition made no commitment and said states and territories are responsible for programs such as Safe Schools.
The Greens promised to abolish the school chaplains program and invest the money in “secular, unbiased and inclusive support for students through counsellors and anti-bullying initiatives such as the Safe Schools program.”
Asked about involuntary surgery on intersex children, Labor said it would prohibit modifications to sex characteristics undertaken for social rationales without informed consent and ensure intersex people’s right not to undergo sex assignment treatment is respected.
The Coalition said it would respond after considering the report from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s current inquiry into the issue, due to report later this year.
The Greens said they would ensure that the rights of intersex people are protected in law by requiring fully informed personal consent before any deferrable medical interventions are performed and support a formal apology and establish a national redress scheme.
On Tuesday evening, Equality Australia hosted a web seminar during which Coalition Senate candidate Andrew Bragg, Labor Senator Louise Pratt and Greens Senator Janet Rice fielded questions on issues affecting the LGBTIQ community including health, discrimination, foreign policy and intersex rights.
You can read the three parties’ responses in full at the Equality Australia website and watch the livestream in full below:
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