LGBTQIA+ reform: Labor ‘must do better’

3 minute read

The queer community is happy with the few things the Labor government has done so far, but the list of needed reforms is long.

One year on from Labor’s ascendancy to federal government, the LGBTQIA+ community has delivered a pointed message to PM Anthony Albanese about his government’s performance in delivering major rights law reforms.

Advocacy group Just Equal Australia released its report card, which shows more in the “to do” than in the “done” column.

Before the May 2022 federal election, Labor committed to countering Scott Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill with a law to “prevent discrimination against people of faith, including anti-vilification protections; act to protect all students from discrimination on any grounds; and protect teachers from discrimination at work, whilst maintaining the right of religious schools to preference people of their faith in the selection of staff”.

That hasn’t happened yet, although consultation is underway about protecting LGBTQIA+ teachers and students in faith-based schools. Staff, clients and volunteers in faith-based social services, including hospitals, are yet to hear any good news.

What’s been done

On 7 December 2022, three new protected attributes were added to the Fair Work Act 2009, providing protection against discrimination – breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status.

During the Sydney World Pride human rights conference in March, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney, announced the establishment of a 10-year national action plan for the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQIA+ community, including $26 million in funding for research into new and improved ways to provide healthcare. An LGBTIQA+ health advisory group will be established to guide the progress of the national plan.

The government set up a dedicated international fund to advocate for LGBTQI+ rights in the Asia-Pacific region. The government also responded to the latest round of Ugandan anti-LGBTQIA+ laws via diplomatic channels but no public statement.

In the Budget, an additional $13.2 million was allocated to eliminate HIV in Australia, and $0.9 million to “address the health disparities experienced by LGBTQIA+ people”.

What’s in progress

Apart from the consultation process around protecting staff and students in faith-based schools, three other topics are on the government’s agenda for public conversations.

  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics sought submissions about inclusions in the 2026 Census, including counting LGBTQIA+ people;
  • Medicare rebates for surrogacy arrangements were part of public submissions for the recent Senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare, which reported yesterday; The committee recommended that “the Australian Government implement the recommendations of the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review regarding removal of the exclusion of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) services for altruistic surrogacy purposes” (recommendation 33);
  • In March, the Australian Human Rights Commission released a position paper on its proposed National Human Rights Act.

What’s still to do

Just Equal has a long list of needed reforms on the LGBTQIA+ community’s wish list, including:

  • Trans, bi, intersex and asexual community education programs;
  • National LGBTQIA+ vilification laws;
  • Removing the ban on blood donation gay and bisexual men, trans women and some non-binary people who have sex with men;
  • A national ban on unnecessary, non-consenting intersex surgeries;
  • Medicare rebates for gender-affirming healthcare;
  • Federal funding for LGBTQIA+-inclusive schools;
  • Establishing permanent LGBTQIA+ advisory groups in relevant federal government agencies;
  • Medicare and PBS rebates for intersex people who have been subjected to non-consenting surgeries now requiring lifelong medical services;
  • Appointing an LGBTQIA+ human rights commissioner;
  • Reinstating the ministerial equality portfolio.

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