More action needed on LGBT+ rights - Speech, Federation Chamber

FEDERATION CHAMBER, 15 OCTOBER 2018

As a high schooler of the 1980s, I remember repeated taunts about anyone who seemed to be the slightest bit gay or lesbian. The idea of being homosexual was thought of as abhorrent and was used to attack students and teachers alike. It is a mark of how far we've come today that both sides of politics are now united in the view that exemptions allowing religious schools to discriminate against children on the basis of their sexuality should be removed.

I'm enough of a believer in Burkean representative democracy that I don't need polls to tell me what to do, but I still can't help noticing today's Fairfax-Ipsos survey showing that three-quarters of voters oppose laws allowing religious schools to select students and teachers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status. That majority also holds among Coalition supporters, Labor voters, Greens voters and One Nation voters.

It is a significant shift for the Prime Minister, who just a few days ago, after the Ruddock review was handed down, was stating that it is existing law and that the coalition was not proposing to change those arrangements.

Labor believes we can use this goodwill to go further and remove the exemption that would allow a teacher or a school staff member to be sacked or refused employment because of their sexual orientation. This is, in our view, something that puts this parliament in step with the broader community and recognises how far Australia has come on LGBT+ rights.

In the ACT we have an openly gay Chief Minister and, when it came to marriage equality, 74 per cent of Canberrans voted yes. Canberra hosted Australia's first same-sex marriages five years ago when the Legislative Assembly voted to legalise marriage equality in a brief window before those marriages were overturned by the High Court.

Yet Senator Seselja failed to vote for marriage equality, despite the overwhelming support for that measure from Canberrans. In a jurisdiction which is clearly very progressive on the issue of discrimination against openly gay teachers and students, I say to Senator Seselja: what will you do on these measures? Will you stand with your community in opposing discrimination against gay teachers and students?

ENDS

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra


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