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National Enquiry on Entitlements for Same-Gender Relationships

April 3 2006 - The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has announced a National Inquiry into discrimination against same-gender couples when they attempt to access financial and employment-related entitlements.

The National Inquiry will be conducted jointly by John von Doussa, QC (President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) and Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes, AM.

"The right to non-discrimination is one of the most fundamental human rights in international law," said John von Doussa. "Many of Australia 's laws exclude same-sex couples from financial and work-related entitlements and benefits that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples. In 2006, this is simply not acceptable."

Graeme Innes pointed to some positive but piecemeal movement in this area, including amendments to a few Federal laws and some recent changes in State and Territory legislation.

"The nature of your relationship should not determine access to things such as taxation benefits, superannuation and Medicare," he said.

"This is about just treatment for people who live together in a genuine relationship - gay or straight. For a war veteran's partner to get a pension when the veteran dies; for a partner of a person killed at work to get workers' compensation; for a couple to claim tax rebates and the Medicare safety net."

"These basic rights - taken for granted by most heterosexual couples - are denied to many people in de facto same-sex relationships.

The Inquiry will audit Commonwealth, State and Territory laws to identify a comprehensive list of circumstances that prevent same-gender couples and their children from receiving the same financial and/or work-related benefits and entitlements as heterosexual couples enjoy. According to the media release, the Inquiry will also collect individual stories about the impact of these laws on people in same-sex relationships. The deadline for submissions is Friday 2 June 2006.

"The purpose of this Inquiry is to identify discrimination, hear about its impact and make recommendations for change," said John von Doussa.

Legislation to be considered by the National Inquiry will include laws covering:

  1. Workplace leave entitlements
  2. Social security benefits
  3. Tax concessions
  4. Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
  5. Superannuation entitlements
  6. Workers' compensation
  7. Veterans' pensions and entitlements
  8. Parliamentary entitlements
  9. Judicial pensions
  10. Inheritance

After conveninge public forums for community groups and individuals around Australia, and consulting relevant government departments and State and Territory Equal Opportunity Commissions and Anti-Discrimination Boards the Inquiry will report its findings and make recommendations on changes needed to eliminate discrimination to the Federal Attorney- General who will table the report in Federal Parliament.

Further information, including terms of reference and the discussion paper, is available on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's website at:


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