AG John Quigley refuses to give timeline on gender board reforms

Questions are being asked about why the long-promised reforms to Western Australia’s laws regarding gender affirmation are not progressing.

In parliament on Tuesday, Greens MLC Dr Brad Pettit asked the government for an update on the long overdue reforms. Dr Pettit asked if the proposed legislation had been drafted and when the government planned to introduce it.

Responding on behalf of the Attorney General John Quigley (pictured) Mathew Swinbourn, the parliamentary secretary to the Attorney General said the planned reform of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 and the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 was “complex”.

“The Cook government remains committed to reform of the Equal Opportunity Act and the Gender Reassignment Act and implementing the recommendations of the inquiry into the Esther Foundation, which included banning conversion practices and establishing a civil response scheme with supports for survivors. These complex reforms are under development.” Swinbourn said.

No timeline for the introduction of the new legislation was given, and Swinbourn did not answer Pettit’s question about whether or not legislation had been drafted yet.

It’s over a year since the government received a review from the WA Law Reform Commission that recommended a significant overhaul of the state’s Equal Opportunity laws.

The 2022 review of the Western Australia’s Equal Opportunity Act additionally highlighted the need for the existence of the Gender Reassignment Board to be reviewed. The board considers around 60 applications each year.

The Labor party committed to abolishing the body at its state conference in 2017, but despite being in government for six and half years has yet to take any significant action on the matter.

Over the years the Attorney General has given a variety of reasons why a timeline on reform in this area could not be provided including the cabinet deliberations, the Morrison federal government’s proposed religious discrimination laws, and more recently the outcomes of the parliamentary inquiry into the Esther Foundation.

In 2022 the board ceased operating for a period of time after it’s chair resigned. The government subsequently appointed Grantham Kitto to head the body.

In his annual reports to the government the former President of the Board regularly highlighted that the former Liberal government had also introduced legislation to abolish the board in 2015. The High Court ruled in 2011 that the board could not insist that people had surgery in order for them to be able to change their gender identification.

In it’s most recent report the WA Gender Reassignment Board reported that in the 2022-23 period it received 80 new applications, alongside 6 applications carried over from the previous year. A total of 79 of those were approved, and seven remain pending. No applications were rejected.

Of the approved applications 56 approved people to legally change their gender to female, and 30 to male. There were no applications to be formally assigned non-binary status.

Last week Premier Roger Cook met with representatives of LGBTIQA+ rights groups where he reassured them law reform remained a part of his government’s agenda.

Graeme Watson 

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