Australian equality act inquiry could be delayed until 2011

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

An Australian Senate committee has recommended an inquiry into the need for an equality act banning homophobic or transphobic discrimination, following complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The AHRC is currently unable to protect the LGBT community fully as federal protections do not cover homophobia in the media or commercial services as other forms of discrimination are.

This inquiry, however, would not report its findings until after the next federal election in 2011, if it takes place at all.

It has also been opposed by the Opposition party, throwing its likelihood of taking place into further doubt.

Andrew James, who found that federal regulatory authorities would take his homophobic discrimination case seriously as he had not lost his job, told the Sydney Star Observer:

“At present, you have more chance of receiving [the Commission’s] help if you’ve been discriminated against because you’re married, than you do if you’re gay.

“Has anyone stopped to think about just how absurd that is?

“Equality means everyone, you don’t get to pick and choose which minority groups are worthy of protection and which are not.

“To put sexual preference in the same category as criminal history, religious and union affiliation is the Government’s way of saying, ‘Being homosexual is within your control and therefore we will only protect you if you get fired from your job — for anything else, you’re on your own’.”

At present, cases involving racial or disability discrimination, ageism, or sexism do not require the complainant to have been fired from their job.

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby are also pressing for more protection for the gay community by the authorities.

Spokesman Peter Johnson said:

“There is no place for discrimination against GLBT people in Australia in 2008.

“The need for comprehensive discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should be a top priority for the Government.

“With increasing interactions between the GLBT community and federal service providers following the recent same-sex reforms, the need for federal discrimination protection is more pressing than ever.”

The Opposition party, the Liberals, rejected the idea of the inquiry into an equality act, stating its belief that “the lack of any compelling evidence of deficiencies in the existing legislative scheme” means that “there is no evidentiary basis for this recommendation.”