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Will the 'pink vote' finally count?

By Andrew Murray - posted Friday, 9 November 2007

Homophobia is a disease afflicting all sorts of people, not always those you expect. I was recently told of an unmarried man describing homosexuality as an abomination, even though his work requires him to regularly wear a dress and a funny hat and engage in theatrics.

One group of people you would not expect to be homophobic are those who hold to a liberal philosophy. The word liberal means to be tolerant, to be free from prejudice and bigotry. Australia is often described as a liberal democracy, but our federal government still denies some Australian citizens’ basic financial equity because of their sexual preference.

It is said that dozens of Liberals and many members of the Cabinet support an end to homophobic laws governing financial and work-related entitlements. Yet nothing has changed. When asked why, the Liberal fingers point at John Howard.


If the Liberals are not stirred by liberalism, what about votes?  Are there more votes in keeping homophobic laws than in giving gays equal superannuation? It surely doesn’t matter. One would think the Coalition being financially fairer to gays would hardly make any gay-hating bigots and homophobes switch to Labor.

It hasn’t in the past, so will the pink vote really count in any seat at this election? Will the May 2007 report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, entitled Same-Sex: Same Entitlements, finally focus gay strategic voting?

If that was to happen anywhere, you would expect it to happen in Sydney.

This is what HREOC said: At least 20,000 couples in Australia experience systematic discrimination on a daily basis. Same-sex couples and families are denied basic financial and work-related entitlements which opposite-sex couples take for granted.

HREOC also said: The principles of non-discrimination, equality before the law and the best interests of the child are amongst the most fundamental of all human rights principles. Yet there are a raft of [58] federal laws which breach these principles.

Of those 58 federal acts HREOC identified 15 affecting superannuation entitlements. HREOC said the discriminatory laws were easy to amend, and provided precise guidance on how to do that.  The Democrats have been trying to amend federal law for decades to get rid of anti-gay discrimination, but the benefit of the HREOC report was that it provided new authoritative and detailed guidance on the best approach.


The Democrats, Labor and the Greens have now all moved some amendments to address HREOC’s findings, with the Democrats moving amendments to no less than 12 of the 58 Acts mentioned by HREOC, including the income tax assessment acts, and the various superannuation acts.

The Coalition voted against all these amendments from the three non-government parties. The Liberal and National parties both allow conscience votes, but not one person would cross the floor, despite some whispering their support as they assembled to vote. The Coalition produced no amendments of their own.

The Coalition cannot hide behind cost either. For instance the Senate Estimates in May exposed the true cost of funding federal public sector superannuation for same sex and interdependent couples.

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About the Author

Senator Andrew Murray is Taxation and Workplace Relations Spokesperson for the Australian Democrats and a Senator for Western Australia.

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