Wednesday November 23rd 2022
Government's excuse for no LGBTIQA+ Commissioner debunked in hearings
- Human Rights Commission LGBTIQA+ adviser axed in June
- No LGBTIQA+ projects for over a year
Just.Equal Australia (JEA) has renewed its call for a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Commissioner to be appointed to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
The lobby group says the Government's rationale for not appointing a Commissioner was debunked in recent Senate hearings.
During debate on appointing a Commissioner in September, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said that LGBTIQA+ human rights work was "led by" Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.
However, earlier this month under questioning from Senator David Shoebridge (Greens, NSW), Commissioner Jenkins confirmed that downsizing and redundancies saw her specialist LGBTIQA+ adviser axed in June.
Spokesperson for Just.Equal Australia, Brian Greig, said this meant there is no employee at the AHRC with a focus on LGBTIQA+ human rights for the first time in years.
“Just.Equal has written to Mr Dreyfus explaining that the Australian Human Rights Commisison has virtually no capacity to deal with LGBTIQA+ human rights. We have urged him to appoint a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner immediately."
“The AHRC has commissioners for Sex, Race, Disability, Age, Children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples."
“Yet despite the increasing attacks on LGBTIQA+ people across a range of fronts, the AHRC has no LGBTIQA+ Commissioner and has now revealed almost no capacity to deal with these issues at all."
"This is an embarrassing and untenable situation in a country which sees itself as a champion of human rights internationally.
"It means LGBTIQA+ Australians who suffer human rights abuses do not have the ally they should in the AHRC."
During recent Senate Estimates Hearings in Canberra, Senator Shoebridge asked Commissioner Jenkins:
“It’s almost as though there should be a stand-alone LGBTIQA+ Commissioner, isn’t it? Because you can’t do it all, can you?
Commissioner Jenkins replied:
“I would confirm that to do the work properly and well we need to be resourced for it. At the moment we are not resourced for it... there’s no project work ongoing.”
Senator Shoebridge then asked AHRC President, Prof Rosalind Croucher, if she found it troubling given the human rights issues the LGBTIQA+ community faces, particularly in the last five years, that there’s not a single identified staff member for this community at the commission?
Prof. Croucher replied:
“We’d love to have the capacity to be able to give more focus to work that is of such importance across the whole spectrum....We would dearly like to be able to put such a specialist role back in, because it is an area of great concern to us, it does cross the whole range of portfolios.”
The AHRC confirmed that it had not undertaken an LGBTIQA+ project in over a year. Its website reveals it has no current LGBTIQA+ projects and has issued no relevant news items for eleven months.
Mr Greig said that until 2018, it was Labor Party policy to appoint a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Commissioner.
“Just.Equal urges the Albanese Government to revisit this sensible policy objective,” he said.
Full transcript of Legal and Constitutional Senate Estimates hearings
Canberra, 7 November 2022 – pages 120-121, read here.
For a copy of this statement on the web, click here
Contact Brian Greig (WA) 040 777 6961